Leopoldo Maler, currently head of The Parsons School of Design Affiliation in the Dominican Republic, prefers to work conceptually and purposely refrains from and display of traditional artistic skills. His works serve as symbols that spark what he calls the viewer’s “creative power of contemplation;” one is completely free to apply one’s own experience and understand to his pieces.
Homage has a great deal of personal meaning for Maler himself, however. His uncle, a well-known Argentinean journalist, was killed for the inflammatory content of his political essays. The old Underwood Typewriter that now emits flames in the place of words is of the same style that Maler’s uncle used during his esteemed career.
The development of the piece stems from my concern with the ephemeral quality of my work by then: performances, choreographies, happenings, etc., I tried to develop a way to build a piece which would be part permanent – (sculptural aspect) and part ephemeral (performance part). So, I resorted originally to fire and water to complement a solid piece. These were my ideas floating around my head, when my uncle David Kraiselburd, then editor of a major news-paper in Argentina and President of the Inter American Press Association was kidnapped and ultimately executed by his captors as the police arrived very conspicuously ( obviously to hasten his killing). It was during his funeral that I glimpsed at his typewriter and immediately saw it: a sheet of flame to replace the sheet of paper. Soon after I was invited to participate at the very first exhibition of Latin American art ever in London, at the Contemporary Arts Institute. So I prepared a typewriter similar to my uncle’s and replaced the roller with an oven’s roller. It hit immediately the public’s imagination, and the literary critic from the London Times asked his visual arts colleague to allow him to review the piece!
As to my uncle he, was a very private man with an incredible capability to listen. Still in his teens [he] convinced his father that the newspaper (where he worked since a child) [send] him to report on the Spanish Civil War, while in earnest he fought for the Republicans. Back home he became a lawyer while continuing his career as a journalist. During Peron’s first government, in the 50’s the owner of the paper had to flee the country and my uncle stayed holding the shares from the company owning the newspaper. As the Peronists wanted the journal very badly – as it was totally against Peron’s regime, they threatened my uncle with killing his family. We all helped him to flee to Uruguay. When Peron was overthrown he returned as a total victor and was asked to head the paper. When the Peronists returned in 1972 I advised him to leave the country but he was confident that things had changed by then. But within the Peronism there was a faction of very dangerous extremist terrorists [known as the Monteros] who kidnapped and killed. So my uncle one morning was kidnapped by them, and as the police approached the hiding place, a young woman (student of “Humanities”) shot him in the head three times. Suspiciously, they all escaped. Later it was found out that one of the members of the gang was the son of the then Chief of Police. At present [my uncle’s] son, my cousin Raul Kraiselburd is editor in Chief of the newspaper called El Día.
Marta Traba, who was the foremost art critic and theorist for Latin American Art, wrote before her death that my typewriter is the ultimate symbol of Latin America Art.
-Leopoldo Maler, 2005