Aníbal López, or A-1 53167 (his ID-card number), was a pioneer of politically-inspired performance art, although his production was in fact broader, covering a range of experimental practices. López’s work deconstructs the various rituals and beliefs that govern our everyday lives, by disrupting it (as with a ton of books on a busy avenue) or pushing unspoken conventions to their ridiculous limits (by only letting “beautiful people” into a gallery opening).
Underlying López’s work is a deep commitment to ethics and a desire to unmask hypocrisy of all types. Working in an extremely violent context in Guatemala, his work often engaged the most difficult issues of that society, from the military genocide of indigenous people, to the proliferation of sicarios, or hired assassins, one of whom he famously took to be interviewed by the public at a major art event in Germany. López also applied his razor-sharp critical eye to the art world and its rituals, questioning how value is determined, and how art relates to the broader economy. In one of his most iconic works, El préstamo [The Loan], the artist narrates how he mugged a man at gunpoint in downtown Guatemala City in order to finance the production of his exhibition at a commercial gallery. This conflation of art, economy, and crime runs through much of López’s production. Despite his untimely death, López remains a central figure and inspiration to an entire generation of artists in Central America and elsewhere. [GPB]