Armando Markovitch was born in Buenos Aires, in November, 1936.
My grandmother, Rosalía Markovitch, was a strange woman—she was an anarchist, worked as a nurse, wore mini-skirts into her sixties, and wrote heart-breaking poems.
My father never met his father.
I don’t know precisely what the first years of my father’s life were like.
I have isolated facts.
I know he worked as a construction worker and office page since he was fourteen years old.
He studied painting at the Spilimbergo, Castagnino, and Giambiagi.
When he was a teenager, he was an active member of the Communist Party, but he abandoned militancy. I remember he believed Argentinian Communists were always “scientifically” wrong. Their sociological conclusions, he argued, led them to an absolute lack of common sense. “Even an animal knows it’s not convenient to support its worst enemies.”
My father moved on to more radical ideological stances. In the meantime, he painted. I keep only a few expressionist mono-prints from that period in his life.
At the Spilimbergo studio, he met Genoveva Edelstein, my mother.
My mother was a draftswoman and engraver.
I know they lived together and painted for a few years in Tilcara, a town in the North of Argentina.
In 1968, the year I was born, they returned to Buenos Aires. From there, we moved to San Clemente del Tuyú, an Argentinan coast town. We lived literally on the beach, in a little wooden house, which operated as a spa during the summer.
My father worked as a lifeguard during the summer. He carried parasols and protected tourists from drowning in a virtually harmless sea. He was a good swimmer, loved the sea, boxing and chess. He liked sports competitions. I remember he finished last in a swimming competition between all the lifeguards from the coast.
We spent ten years there, during the military dictatorship.
I keep some of his landscape paintings from that period.
Sometimes, we had house guests—adult visitors, whom I wasn’t allowed to mention outside our house.
They were obviously friends of my father, hiding from military persecution.
In 1980, we moved to Córdoba, the city where my mother’s family currently lives.
From that moment on, my father worked for nearly twenty years pumping fuel at a service station.
In the meantime, he painted compulsively. I remember him coming home after work, smelling like naphthalene, locking himself in his studio, walking out, and smelling like Oleum.
Back then, he was obsessed with Informalism.
He admired Daumier, Braque, Picasso, and Giacometti in particular.
He took photos of walls and street posters and reproduced the images in his paintings.
He argued that “works” were already made in the streets.
Argentina was going through a period marked by silence and repression. I think my father saw the signs on the walls. He was startled by subtle lines, textures, and fragments he found everywhere—it was as if he could read in them the traces of a reality no one dared to speak of. They were mysterious signs full of beauty and desperation.
I remember on one stormy day he stopped to look at various superimposed posters. The rain and the wind were tearing at the paper. The letters on one poster would dissolve into the texture of a photograph. My father made me witness how the composition mutated constantly. The yellow color of the letters revealed the blue color of the image underneath. The wind was transforming the composition of the “work.” My father stood under the rain, on several occasions, observing this insignificant and devastating miracle.
Maybe he could read, in the letters of this poster ravaged by urban climate, the angst of his time, and his own angst.
My father was fired from the gas station at age 56, during a time of massive lay offs.
He died from a stroke two years later. He was looked after by doctors on-call in a public hospital, since he didn’t have any kind of social security.
I suppose his life, like all lives, was full of contradictions and desires.
Although he was my father, there are things I don’t know about him.
I’ve kept more than a thousand of his paintings that have never been shown. I think of my father, and of the things he told me about art. He advised me to. . . do always what I felt like doing. . .and used to say . . . “art requires rigor because even to do something wrong, you have to know.”
He was also obsessed with common sense.
He said “A realist person has to be an artist, because it is the most concrete thing a person can do.”