Bell, Vikki, “Absence and Vigilance: The Artwork of Diana Dowek and Lucila Quieto” in The Art of Post-Dictatorship: Ethics and Aesthetics in Transitional Argentina, New York, Routledge, 2014→
Dowek, Diana, La pintura es un campo de batalla, Buenos Aires, Asunto Impreso, 2013→
Glusberg, Jorge, Diana Dowek: Exposición retrospectiva, 1972–2000, Buenos Aires, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2001
Diana Dowek. Paisajes insumisos, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, April-June 2019→
La pintura es un campo de batalla, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Neuquén, March-June 2013→
Diana Dowek: Exposición retrospectiva, 1972–2000, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, March-April 2001
From her abstract work in the 1950s to her soft sculptures made from cloth, Delia Cancela’s art has explored the obligations imposed on women in patriarchal society, gender stereotypes regarding how they dress, and female symbolism and sexuality. Her artistic career path has included an association with the Instituto Torcuato Di Tella (ITDT), the hub of the Argentine avant-garde in the 1960s, involvement with the European fashion scene in the 1970s and 80s, and work with techniques such as collage, drawing and painting, as well as wardrobe design, exploring fabrics on mannequins in her studio and bodies in fashion shows.
In 1964, D. Cancela began a creative partnership with Pablo Mesejean (1937-1991). Together they did installations, paintings, and wardrobe design for ITDT employees (Señalización de los empleados del Di Tella [Signage for Di Tella Employees], 1967) and stage sets for performances (Dance Bouquet, 1965, Drácula, 1966 and Aventuras, 1967). In 1965, at the Galería Lirolay in Buenos Aires, they presented their environment Love and Life, comprised of music, performances and a wall-to-wall representation of astronauts and spaceships. In those years they also did portraits of Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Jean Shrimpton combined with images of clouds, hearts, and floral bouquets.
After their first visit to Paris, in 1968, D. Cancela and P. Mesejean returned to Buenos Aires and held a fashion show with non-professional models, Ropa de Reisgo [Risky Clothing]. They put out a fashion magazine, Yiyisch, which they showed at the exhibition Experiencias’ 68 at the ITDT. The next year, they left Argentina for New York, and then London in 1970, where they founded a brand called Pablo & Delia and made covers for Vogue and Harper´s Bazaar. By the mid-1970s, then living in Paris, the work of this duo was based on the conception of clothing as a language and as a collective creative process involving the participation of models.
D. Cancela’s almost two decades of production with P. Mesejean came to an end in 1980. Gradually, she began to consider clothing as a kind of soft sculpture (Sin título [Untitled], 2018), no longer a part of the fashion world but meant to cover multiple bodies and be shown in specific spaces. In her performance Coser y cortar [Sew and Cut, 2000] at the Centro Cultural Parque de España in Rosario, she covered a cloth soft sculpture with lapacho tree flowers that fade rapidly, a direct reference to her unwavering ecological concerns. Her paintings of those years returned to the representation of landscapes and nature as female bodies, a theme that first appeared in her 1962 Páginas Vogue [Vogue Pages].
In recent years, D. Cancela has combined her cloth work with an intense dedication to painting and drawing, continuing to employ an iconographic vocabulary including flowers, hearts, and portraits. Some of her most notable works are a series of paintings in homage to Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), such as Te odio, te amo. Te amo, te odio y cómo llego a amarte a pesar de todo [I Hate You, I Love You. I Love You, I Hate You (and How I Manage to Love You Despite Everything), 2012] and the production of pieces made of books wrapped in fabric, on which she portrays writers, filmmakers, musicians and other celebrities (the series Mis favoritos [My Favorites], 2005-2009).
A notice produced as part of the TEAM international academic network: Teaching, E-learning, Agency and Mentoring
Diana Dowek, Lo que vendrá (políptico) [What Is to Come (polyptych)], 1972, acrylic painting on canvas, 9 panels of 70 x 80 cm, Collection Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Argentina, Photo Dardo Fabián Flores
Diana Dowek, Malvenido Rockefeller [Rockefeller Unwelcome], 1967, acrylic painting and photography on canvas, 80 x 100 cm, Private collection, Photo Cesar Caldarella
Diana Dowek, Sillón [Armchair], 1969, armchair, fabric, plaster, variable dimensions, destroyed work, Photo Cesar Caldarella
Diana Dowek, Procedimiento II [Procedure II], 1974, from the series Procedimientos [Procedures], acrylic painting on canvas, 80 x 60 cm, Artist’s collection, Photo Alicia Schemper
Diana Dowek, Paisajes con retrovisor II [Landscapes with Side View Mirror II], 1975, from the series Retrovisores [Side View Mirrors], acrylic painting on canvas, 90 x 100 cm, Private collection, Photo Alicia Schemper
Diana Dowek, Paisaje (Tríptico) [Landscape (triptych)], 1976, from the series Paisajes [Landscapes], acrylic painting on canvas, 200 x 520 cm, Photo Dardo Fabián Flores
Diana Dowek, Argentina 78, 1978, acrylic painting on canvas, steel yarn, fabric, wood, 150 x 450 cm, Collection Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Argentina, Photo Dardo Fabián Flores
Diana Dowek, Autorretrato [Self-portrait], 1978, from the series Paisajes cotidianos [Everyday Landscapes], acrylic painting on canvas, 140 x 130 cm, Artist’s collection, © Archivo Dowek
Diana Dowek, Las heridas del proceso (políptico) [The Wounded Women of the Military Dictatorship (polyptych)], 1985, from the series Las heridas del proceso [The Wounded Women of the Military Dictatorship], acrylic painting on canvas, 4 panels of 30 x 40 cm, Artist’s collection, Photo Alicia Schemper
Diana Dowek, María Rosario en embalaje [María Rosario in packaging], 2007, from the series Un día en la vida de María Rosario, una mujer trabajadora [A Day in the Life of María Rosario, A Working-Class Woman], 2006-2007, photo transfer and acrylic painting on canvas, 120 x 170 cm, Artist’s collection, Photo José Cristeli
Diana Dowek, Éxodo diario [Daily Exodus], 2015, from the series Migraciones [Migrations], 2014-2015, photo transfer and acrylic painting on canvas, 160 x 200 cm, Artist’s collection, Photo Otilio Moralejo
Diana Dowek, Pandemia [Pandemic], 2020, from the series Pandemia, una larga marcha (díptico), [Pandemic, a long walk (diptych], acrylic painting on canvas, 160 x 180 cm, Artist’s collection, Photo Dardo Fabián Flores