by Rachel Heidenry
He is the best contemporary artist in El Salvador. And he is barely known outside Central America. Walterio Iraheta is an artist who takes the mundane and imbues it with an essential danger. His works are marked by scale, repetition, gradation, linearity – but also by history, war, social wrongs, fear. His brilliance is the ability to present the complex minimally – to translate the complicated into subtle statements – to extract and extract and extract until left with the essential.
Scale of Values, a 2012 exhibition at El Museo del Arte in El Salvador (MARTE), is a show that still lingers. And it should. Viewers walk under hundreds of dangling knives – butter knives, have you – but knives. Despite the minimal elegance and muted calm, Scale of Values was a show about threat, about surveillance, about constant danger. Reflecting the daily life in El Salvador, but really the fleetingness of life itself, household items become agents for statistics: Knives, casualties; matches, deforestation; detergent, censorship. Presented in precise, ordered rows, the system took center stage.
If there is any contemporary artist to watch from Central America – from the world – it is Iraheta.