Mario & Antonio (1991) John Ahearn & Rigoberto Torres

Pieter Vandermeer
About the artwork

These two very detailed portrait busts were made by John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres. One is a bit younger, white and dressed in a leather jacket; the other is dark in skin color, in work overalls and with a broom in its hand. The street sweeper looks a little admonishing to the boy, as if he wants to encourage him to roll up his sleeves. In appearance, skin color, attributes and pose, the reality of the two neighborhood residents Mario and Antonio is approached as much as possible. Ahearn and Torres thought it important to portray non-public people - such as well-known sea heroes, scholars, poets, benefactors, heads of state, administrators and politicians. He wanted to immortalize 'unknown' people: the ordinary man from the street. This is not about stereotypes, but about individuals you encounter on the street. With these replicas of people, the artists bring art outside the walls of the museum. They wanted to make a new commitment, put the public at the center and zoom in on social issues. By taking two unknown people as a model and lifelike in public spaces, they want to strengthen the identity of those people and thereby increase the social cohesion in the neighborhood.
In the 80 in the New York neighborhood the Bronx, Ahearn and Torres made many casts of local residents and exhibited them in the neighborhood. In this way a 'South Bronx Hall of Fame' was created: a collection of casts of neighborhood residents, which could be seen in 1991-1992 in an exhibition at Witte de With art center. In collaboration with Ed de Meyer of the local neighborhood center and local residents, they also made portraits of a large number of selected Rotterdam residents from this neighborhood, especially for the Cool neighborhood. At that time, a sweeping team started work in the neighborhood as part of a project for work provision and self-care.
Mario & Antonio originally hung on the wall of the Curve Elbow on the facade of Showroom MAMA, but is currently in the depot. Two other portraits of Ahearn and Torres also resulted from this project. An ensemble of 3 children under an umbrella near a school at the intersection of Kortenaerstraat and Schiedamsesingel. Another man hangs on the corner of Boomgaardsstraat and Kortenaerstraat.
For more information: Sculpture International Rotterdam.

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About the artist

John Ahearn (Binghamton, USA - 1951) attended Cornell University and lived and worked in the Bronx, New York. He was a member of Colab in 1977 with Jenny Holzer and others. Ahearn worked in the Bronx with Rigoberto Torres (Aquadilla, Puerto Rico - 1960), who also grew up there. They worked on many casts of local residents there. Between 1979 and 1995 they worked together in a studio in the South Bronx. Ahearn lives and works in New York. Torres lives and works in Orlando, Florida.

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