Laura Márquez (Paraguayan, 1929-2021)
Laura Márquez was an influential South American artist who was at the center of the experimental art world that emerged in the 1960s. She is considered a pioneer of modern Paraguayan art.
Márquez was born in Asunción. She was eighteen years old when she moved to Argentina to study art and entered the Academia de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires in 1950. Buenos Aires was one of the main experimental, avant-garde centers in Latin America.
In 1955 she took part in the student movement to reform the Academia de Bellas Artes. Márquez emerged as a leader, representing the student body as a member of the Advisory Council of the Schools of Fine Arts, and Vice President of the Student Fine Arts Center. In 1958, the students' efforts paved the way for a new modernized plan of studies with influences of the Bauhaus and other modern European art movements, as well as the dismantling of the long-standing and antiquated hierarchical faculty structure.
Despite Márquez's involvement with academia, she possessed a nonconformist and anti-academic attitude that only grew stronger after contact with the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella, an experimental arts center in Buenos Aires. Through Center of Visual Arts she became familiar with the work of Victor Vasarely, the "grandfather" of the Op art movement, and Arman, a Dadaist influenced artist known to repurpose materials and objects in the creation of art.
In 1960, Márquez married artist Juan Carrera Buján. The couple moved back to Paraguay, now under the dictatorship of Alfredo Stroessner. After years of isolationism within Paraguay's geography as a landlocked country, the Stroessner regime attempted to align itself with the Unites States and Brazil.
Márquez had embraced the influences on art that came from Europe. With New York now the epicenter of art in the Western World, Márquez embraced its new ideas within the movements of abstract expressionism, pop art, op art, minimalism, and all forms of experimentation.
Throughout the 1960s Márquez participated in multiple group shows and solo exhibitions. In 1964 she was awarded a grant from Argentina's National Art Fund to study the folk art of Paraguay. Márquez blended the traditional forms and motifs of Paraguayan culture with abstract and pop art concepts. She was one of the founders of Museum of Modern Art in Asunción in 1965.
In 1967, her much-celebrated installation piece Puertas Inútiles (Useless Doors) was exhibited at the 9th São Paulo Biennial. The immersive work consisted of 50 white iron frames and doors more than 9 feet high that could open and close. Curious onlookers were free to enter the structure and meander through the labyrinth. Smaller versions of the structure were installed at various art events including reprises at the later São Paulo Biennials.
Márquez moved to New York in 1970. She lived primarily in Manhattan, frequently traveling to Paraguay and Argentina. In 1971 she and other artists formed the now defunct Museum of Latin American Art in New York.
Márquez moved back to Paraguay permanently in 2013 where she received many awards and honors. She died in Asunción in 2021.