Eugenio Dittborn

Eugenio Dittborn Santa Cruz (born Santiago de Chile, 1943) is a Chilean visual artist. Winner of the National Prize of Plastic Arts in 2005.

Son of Eugenio Dittborn Pinto, lawyer and Director of the Rehearsal Theater of the Catholic University of Chile, brother in turn of the engineer Carlos Dittborn Pinto, one of the organizers of the World Cup of Soccer of 1962.

Dittborn enters to study to the school of fine arts of the University of Chile where he studies drawing, painting and engraving between the years 1961 and 1965. In 1966 he moved to Madrid, where he entered the School of Photomechanics to study lithography, studies that He then continued in Berlin at the University of the Arts in Berlin between 1967 and 1969. In the meantime he also took courses in painting at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. 1985 received a grant from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Once back in Chile, during the decade of the 80 (during the Military Regime) he began to stand out for his work. It is part of the School of Santiago, name with which a group of artists appeared in some samples. Next to Dittborn in this group were Gonzalo Diaz Cuevas, Juan Domingo Dávila and Arturo Duclos. It is also part of the so-called Scene of Advanced, which is the name proposed by the theoretical Nelly Richard for the artistic scene in Santiago de Chile during the Military Regime, and which carries out a reflective work on the political conditions of artistic production.

For his work in the decade of the ’80s Dittborn became a reference for the Chilean art scene, both the decade of the 90’s and that of the beginning of the 21st century. In 2002 he received the Konex Mercosur Award from Argentina as the best artist of the region of the decade.

Among his most striking and well-known works are his Pinturas Aeropostales (1984), a series of works, including paintings and photographs on paper, which were folded, stored in envelopes and sent by post to different places. After arriving, the works were exhibited, displaying the traces of the transfer, as the marks of the folds and the envelopes in which they were kept.

Eugenio Dittborn’s airmail paintings began to circulate in 1983 and were originally a way for the artist to relate with artistic contexts outside his own country, Chile, then isolated by the military dictatorship (1973–1990).

These works are generally made by the techniques of painting, collage, sewing and printing on a canvas of cheap material, which is folded, placed in an envelope and sent by airmail to the given exhibition venue. La VI Historia del Rostro (El Rojo Camino Negro) (1989) has traveled for more than 20 years, on a path that began in Santiago and which includes Berlin, Manchester, Banff, Boston, London, Rotterdam, Wellington, Guanghzou, Porto and, finally, Brumadinho, to where the set was mailed in 2005.

The images amalgamated in this work include faces extracted from different sources: Indians from Tierra del Fuego portrayed in a book on anthropology by anthropologist Martin Gusinde in the 1920s, composite sketches made by the Chilean police, graffiti works found on bathroom doors and telephone booths, and pictures from drawing manuals. The pink faces were made by the artist’s daughter, then seven years old. All of the images were photographically processed and printed by silkscreen. Although they were made using methods of reproduction, the artist insists on claiming the status of painting for these works.

Oscillating between the documentary and the scientific, between the temporal and the performative, Dittborn’s paintings have been described as Zen-like by English critic Guy Brett in light of the economy of their making and their open relationship with time and travel, which also relates them to the postal ar t of the 1960s and ’70s.