Collage Artist Elisabeth Wild, Whose Career Took Off in Her 90s, Remembered

  • February 13, 2020 11:20

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Elisabeth Wild, Untitled (181), 2018. Collage on paper, 28.8 x 16.7 cm.
The artist / Carbon 12, Dubai

Collage artist Elisabeth Wild has passed away, age 98, at her home in Guatemala. 

Wild recently designed the spring edition of the pocket Tube map for London's Underground, which debuts in May, in conjunction with a major installation by her artist-daughter, Vivian Suter, to be unveiled at the Stratford tube station in June, reports the Guardian.

Beginning with inclusion in a Kunsthalle Basel survey of Suter's work in 2014, Wild and Suter notably exhibited together at documenta 14 in 2017, followed by the Power Plant in Toronto and at Sterna, Nisyros in Greece in 2018, along with various gallery shows in the 2000s. A retrospective of Wild's career is planned at Vienna’s Museum of Modern Art in 2021, according to the Guardian.

The 2017 film Vivian’s Garden (Tate collection) by artist Rosalind Nashashibi featured the lives and relationship of Wild and Suter in their jungle home, represented as a place both of "fear and refuge." 

Carbon 12 in Dubai presented Wild’s first solo exhibition in the region, as well as at the gallery, in 2019 when the artist was in her late 90s. From the gallery:

Elisabeth Wild was born in Vienna (Austria) on February 6th, 1922. In 1938 she emigrated with her parents Franz and Stefanie Pollak to Buenos Aires, Argentina, fleeing Nazism in Europe. Coming from a family of female artists (her Grandmother was a painter), she learned to paint in Vienna’s Academy of Art, and then explored figurative nude drawing in the Círculo de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires, Argentina, participating in her first group exhibitions in Buenos Aires and Mar de Plata.

In order to make a living, Wild ventured in textile design through silk screen printing. And it was precisely by way of her designs that she met her husband August Wild, a textile industrialist of Swiss nationality. Together they had a daughter, Vivian, who was born in 1949. In 1962, during Juan Perón’s government, the family moved to Switzerland, where Wild opened an antiques shop in a historical building in Basel. Finally, approaching her 75th birthday, she moved back to Latin America in 1996 to live with her daughter Vivian (Suter) and grandson Panchito in Panajachel, a remote town in Lake Atitlán, in between three volcanos in Guatemala.

Elisabeth and Vivian fully dedicated themselves to their individual artistic practices despite having to deal with a series of local difficulties. Specifically, they endured the torrential flooding of Hurricanes Mitch (1998), Stan (2005), and Agatha (2010), plus the town’s constant threat of local gangs, narcos, and vigilantes.

Through her meditative daily practice in collage, Wild created bold and dynamic compositions made up of cut-up pages of art and lifestyle magazines.

In the words of Adam Szymczyk, Artistic Director of documenta 14, “The work emerges as sediment processed through the iconography of cool chic; pretty much anything, from lipstick advertising to the decor of luxury interiors to fashion accessories, can catch Wild’s attention. Hers is a magpie strategy: she collects pieces of world glitz and bling to free them from the commodity system and turn all-too-familiar pictures into new images. Wild’s kaleidoscopic worlds -she terms them Fantasías- exert their own, special allure.”

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