By Jennifer Deligne
Fifty Years of Latin American Art is on display in the Karl and Helen Burger gallery showcasing the varied styles, genres, and meanings that artists have expressed in the last five decades. This elite collection from the Neuberger Museum of Art includes noteworthy artists such as Jose Luis Cuevas, Leda Catunda and Nicolás De Jesús who each bring something new to the viewer’s experience.
Abstract art paintings, photographs and physical three-dimensional pieces do their work in portraying life in the time specified and expressed the country’s circumstance. In Bicicletas en Domingo, (Bicycles on Sunday), photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo captures a landscape of Mexico with four men journeying on their bikes through a desert with a mountainous view. This alone shows the world a serene and beautiful side of Mexico in the 1960s.
Other photographs in the exhibit make different statements. In En Busca del Santo Grial, (Search of the Holy Grail) Carlos Garaicoa represents the decay of a Cuban City. The photograph shows what was once a full ceramic-tile painting of a man riding his horse. This was placed on the edge of a sidewalk. There has been so much destruction on that street, that the man became headless.
This photograph, interestingly enough, is accompanied with a hand-painted ceramic tile replica placed under the photo which illuminates the meaning. Garaicoa seemed to have his artistic viewers in mind.
Almofadinihas II (Tiny pillows II), designed by Brazilian artist Leda Catunda, portrays a literally softer side to the exhibit. It is simply rectangular pillows painted in earthly tones, one on top of the other.
Catunda places her reaction against strict minimalistic art in her abstract touches and soft brush strokes on the canvas. Many artists of her time were part of the Geração 80 in Brazil, a movement which allowed artists to express themselves through art with various methods and materials, or make political statements through their work.
The last fifty years of Latin American art are filled with such diverse themes that even kinetic elements are demonstrated in the gallery. Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Physichromie #214, is constructed of plastic strips and painted wood which in sum give the piece a non-concrete, active look.
“There isn’t a single piece that isn’t participatory and that can’t be shared,” said Cruz-Diez. “All of my work dies if you remain static before it. The viewer has to participate in order for the work to exist.”
This exhibit represents Latin American artists in both a broad and honorable way. Most of all, these artists are being represented as people with a story to tell.