The exhibition features unexpected photographs of iconic interiors in Buenos Aires. It is natural that Michael Eastman, whose works tell stories through the details of interiors located throughout the world, found rich material and inspiration in this city. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Buenos Aires staged ambitious and extravagant architectural projects to brandish its wealth, its stunning architecture helping the city earn its nickname “the Paris of South America.” Latin America’s tallest building and a series of neoclassical palaces were amongst the feats the city boasted. While Buenos Aires proudly retains this legacy today, still teeming with examples of architectural achievement from its belle époque, many of its buildings show signs of the country’s recent political and economic hardships. Eastman’s series illuminates how these interiors, captured a century after their heyday, have not dimmed with time but rather become more intriguing in their age.
At the heart of each photograph is an essential element of surprise: an electric blue light illuminating the doorway of a classic palace, the psychedelic twist of a spiral staircase, the blazing reflection of light in an entirely golden theater. These details dazzle, but equally important is what is absent from these photographs. Each interior is largely devoid of contemporary design, technology, and, somewhat hauntingly, inhabitants. A college stairwell transports no students, an opera stage hosts no performers or audience members—these scenes raise the question, without people, what are the functions of these rooms? Eastman’s photographs present complex tableaux of Buenos Aires’ vibrant history, juxtaposing the splendor of a bygone golden age with present-day realities.
Michael Eastman was born in St. Louis, Missouri and studied at the University of Wisconsin. He is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant, the National Addy Award, and a Paris Photo BMW Finalist award. His work is in numerous private and public collections, including the Art Institute of Chicago of Chicago, IL; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; the International Center of Photography, NY; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, CA; and the Saint Louis Art Museum, MO. His publications include Havana (Prestel, 2011), Vanishing America (Rizzoli, 2008), and Horses (Knopf, 2003). Eastman currently lives and works in St. Louis.