Carmen Reategui

Visual Artist

Crime, ornament, history


That broken mosaic hits our gaze like shrapnel from our shredded history. A decorative fragment of broken-down memories, a piece of ground precariously exposed vertically upon the uncertain wall of the heroic and extremely poor Museum of Punchauca: that precarious structure of straw mats and old wood, erected by hand over the wasteland of the new shanty-town that begins to insinuate itself among the once magnificent fields…

“The ornament is crime” proclaimed from Vienna architect Adolf Loos in 1908. They were the initial delusions of an anti-aestheticism deeply rooted in morals that was thus laying the dogmatic foundations of the later so-called International Style. Almost a puritanism, in which the explicit recognition of the erotic tension after any artistic gesture is accompanied by the dispossession of any and all ornamentation in life itself –and in its utensils and in its households.

And on their skins: it turns out to be symptomatic that for Loos the tattoo is used as an exemplary demonstration of degeneration and barbarism. The blazoned body stigmatizes with its sexual branding the sensoriality contained in the architectonic ornamentation. The immediate reference for this founding text was the refined libidinal overflow of what in other parts would be known as Art Nouveau, but its scope comprises all of the turn-of-the-century tradition of the arts called decorative.

Among those practices denounced, the semi-industrial handicraft stands out, which had an outstanding development in the Balearic Islands. And in the Casa Rosselló one of its main cultists. The transfer to Lima of that tradition and family towards 1870 allowed them a different survival andevelopment, articulating among us the aristocratic luxury with the new bourgeois taste, to which even certain middle classes have access. The eclectic result defeats, without combatting it, a modernism that in Peru never quite managed to settle in.

It is also that cultural exception the one that breaks up vis-à-vis the reform of the decade of the 1970’s –and with them the manufacturing that expresses it.But the pictorial recovery tried now by Carmen Reátegui Rosselló places itself in a more strictly sensitive registry. It is a link of memory and bloodline, which relates her to those delectable and delinquent geometries, loading with intimate senses of their own their apparent abstraction.

Perhaps the decisive piece of the ensemble is that which moisturizes the pure architectonic form with the shapeless tint of menstrual reds. However, the fertility that is thus interrupted and renovated, breathes a religious air that is social at the same time. The symmetry in the design of the mosaics organizes and recomposes a chaos, says Reátegui. Placing the ground on the wall, taking those floors to the frame, is also a way of elevating the personal memory to the ample history and to other skies. Among the ornamental labyrinths of these tiles, the hidden inscription of a mantra or some mandala is insinuated. As well as an allegorical response to the tragedies of our cut-short community. As in other works of the same artist. As in the broken mosaic of the Punchauca Museum.

Gustavo Buntinx