Dario Robleto: The Aorta of an Archivist: Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Dario Robleto: The Aorta of an Archivist

January 26-July 9, 2023
Main Gallery
Dario Robleto, Sadness from listening to a sung melody, (Le Vallon) Gounod, 1896, from the portfolio The First Time, The Heart (A Portrait of Life 1854–1913) (detail), 2016. Photolithograph, 11 ½ x 14 ¼ inches. The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, gift of Northwestern Engineering, 2018.6.44

American artist Dario Robleto (b. 1972, San Antonio) explores the empathetic nature of technology in the exhibition, The Aorta of an Archivist, a multisensory encounter between art and science. Rooted in Robleto’s longstanding fascination with the clinical and cultural history of the human heart, this exhibition brings together ten years of the artist’s prints, sculptures, video, and sound installations, and seeks to attune viewers to the material traces of life at scales ranging from the intimate to the universal. Works draw upon a wide range of technologies of peering and listening—from cardiographs to radio telescopes.

In his conceptually ambitious, elegantly wrought artworks, Robleto also hearkens to the emotional resonances of the historical record. The First Time, the Heart (A Portrait of Life 1854-1913) is a series of exquisite photolithographs executed on paper that has been hand sooted with candle flames. These bear the linear tracings of heartbeats made by physicians and inventors in the 19th century, offering an intimate encounter with distant and forgotten lives.  In Sparrows Sing to an Indifferent Sea, a sculpture casts heartbeats recorded in the 19th century during a variety of auditory experiences–listening to melodies, hearing whistles, snoring–in glittering brass. Other works in the exhibition gesture towards discoveries yet unmade. The immersive two-channel video installation, The Boundary of Life is Quietly Crossed, weaves Robleto’s archival inquiries into the first recorded pulses and heartbeats with a speculative search for intelligent life in the universe. The culmination of multi-year residency at The Block Museum of Art and the McCormick School of Engineering at Northwestern, Dario Robleto’s The Aorta of an Archivist brings poetic and philosophical depth to the intersection of humanistic and scientific research.