During Paris art week, another really solid showing opened, as Galerie LJ kicked off Llenos de Todo (Full of Everything), the first solo show in France by Argentine painter Martin Kazanietz, also known by his pseudonym Gordo Pelota. Originally from Buenos Aires, Juxtapoz favorite Kazanietz lives and works in Patagonia. After studying graphic design, he first made a name for himself as a muralist and illustrator.

Kazanietz has been dedicating for the past several years his practice to the culture of amateur fútbol. Like an outsider version of Botero’s characters from the streets, his figures are not the emblematic stars or legends of the field. Beyond soccer, Kazanietz’s paintings offer a mirror to the popular culture typical of Latin America, and offer a broader reflection on the links between society, politics, economics, gender and sport.

His most recent series of paintings, which he is presenting in Paris this Fall, takes as its starting point the last soccer World Cup, won by Argentina (2022). The jubilant populace brought no fewer than 5 million people to the streets of Buenos Aires – the most massive popular celebration to date in the country’s history. While crowds gather mainly for demonstrations, or at least for political reasons and to protest, Kazanietz wonders about the desire to celebrate the unity of a people: is it fueled by the anger we feel when demonstrating against injustice? What parallels can be drawn between these celebratory images and the protest demonstrations? Taking for granted that Argentina is one of the most unstable economies on the planet, Kazanietz asks how to create an identity while Argentinians live in daily crisis. Would the Argentine people have been so proud if it had been a globally dominant economy?

His images are intended to open up a conversation about the role of soccer in South American identities, and in particular its social role in a marginalized economy, and how it reproduces the injustice of North-South inequalities. The quasi-religious approach to the celebration and practice of soccer is also perplexing. Martin Kazanietz’s paintings reflect on how we create our heroes and icons.