Buenos Aires, Argentina.- The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) is pleased to present “Latin American Art From 1910 to 2010” on view at the museum until February 6th. The exhibition features more than 170 works, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, objects, installations and videos. During the first decades of the 20th century, at the height of historical avant-garde movements like Expressionism, Cubism and Futurism in Europe, it was common for Latin American artists to travel to and study in cities like Paris, Milan, Florence, Barcelona, Madrid, Zurich, London and Berlin. In many cases, the work they made while in Europe formed part of avant-garde exhibitions and debates, as these artists participated in the modernist aesthetic and the attendant crisis in painting and sculpture as modes of representing reality.
During the 1920s, many of these artists returned to their countries and became major players in different regional art scenes, leading the battles between the traditional and “the new.” Xul Solar´s Neocriollo (Argentina), Tarsila do Amaral´s Anthropophagia (Brazil), as well as Rafael Barradas’ Vibrationism and Joaquín Torres-García’s Constructive Universalism (Uruguay) are examples of modernist Latin American avant-garde formulations that were not a derivative affirmation of the European movements, but rather an alternative space for the creation of other narratives. These formulations form an integral part of international art history from 1910 to 1930.
In the 1930s, while Torres-García was formulating his Constructive Universalism which combined the design of non-figurative structures with universal symbols placed in a grid, the influence of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros’s revolutionary Mexican Muralism was felt throughout the continent. The “art and politics” binary became a crux of cultural life in Latin America; Antonio Berni’s New Realism in Argentina and Candido Portinari’s work in Brazil constituted different way of formulating the relationship between artistic expression and its social contexts. Photography, film and the press reports on political instability were documentary sources used to produce often monumental works that featured images of rural and urban workers, as well as people protesting to demand social rights or participating in popular celebrations. Later, photography would become a rich medium for the documentation of modern life and the growth of cities, as well as an integral part of the renovation taking place on local art scenes.
At the same time, in the 1920s many Latin American artists delved into the world of magic and the fantastic, creating images related to autobiographical experiences and religious beliefs, on the one hand, and, in some cases, the now internationally important Surrealist movement, on the other. Such work would combine fragments of dreams with veiled political criticism, the esoteric, exotic visions, and real and imaginary landscapes. In both literature and the visual art, the Surrealist movement explored psychic energy and avoided conscious intervention through practices like free association and psychic automatism, as well as the use of chance and randomness.
Abstract and non-figurative art have formed part of art history around the world since the early 20th century. In an attempt to do away with an illusionist conception of painting and with the idea of the painting as a “window to the world,” different tendencies attempted to liberate the visual arts from the representation of reality. In the mid-1940s, Buenos Aires became one of the most active centers of Concrete Art and related strains. Madí, Asociación Arte Concreto Invención and Perceptismo were the three groups that used components of visual language (form, color, lines and plane) to make their works, replacing the traditional frame in painting with irregular and shaped frames. They devised jointed and transformable “sculptures,” “painting-objects,” volumes, mobiles and serial designs, and made use of industrial materials like enamel, glass and bakelite. In Paris in the 1950s, Kinetic Art emerged amidst a group of mostly Latin American artists. These artists formulated works that could actually move; in them, the viewer would participate in a temporal and transformative aesthetic experience by pressing buttons, pulling levers or turning knobs to put mobiles, machines and boxes with startling effects in motion.
At the same time, a movement that came to be called Informalism took hold internationally. Informalism was a strain of abstraction characterized by the use of random drippings, brushstrokes, and splashes on the pictorial surface, as well as the application of glass, pieces of canvas and paper, sand and pigment to create reliefs on the support. From 1949 to 1959, Lucio Fontana developed a personal poetic to make a series of canvases with holes and slashes, thus creating spatialism. The painting, now pierced by the artist’s gesture, gave the work of art new meaning. It marked the end of the painting constructed according to the modernist narrative and the beginning of contemporary art.
In the early 1960s, the visual arts experienced the end of Modernism and the beginning of contemporary period. Critics and artists spoke of “the death of painting” and “the end of art.” With the new era, painting and sculpture’s reign over “the fine arts” came to an end. New disciplines, media and supports emerged: objects, constructions, performances, assemblages, happenings, installations, videos, environments, interventions, and interactive explorations. Works ceased to look like “works of art,” and artists began working with elements taken from everyday life and industrial and waste materials, as well as texts and words. They engaged in actions in urban or natural settings; created photographic and film registers, and proposed corporeal and sensorial experiences, as well as ideas and concepts that combine in Neo-figurative, Pop, Minimalist and other poetics. Between the 1960s and 1970s New Figuration proposed a return to the figure, which was placed in the midst of an abstract pictorial interweave of textures, drippings and gestures. Pop art, Conceptualism and Minimalism dominated the art scene and made use of a number of different formats, and assumed different positions within the production system. The 1970s also witnessed the emergence of Systems Art, Hyperrealism, Arte Povera and graffiti art. The debate revolved around issues like the dematerialization of the work of art and new relationships between art and politics. Starting in the early 1980s, the international return to painting had an impact on the regional art scene. The Transavantgarde in Italy, Bad Painting in the United States, among other movements, produced and put into circulation large canvases covered with faces and pictorial images that combined the codes of film, theater, literature, music, dance, urban graffiti and gender studies. In Latin America, art had its own agenda whose relationship to the international neo-avant-gardes was always tense. At the same time, Latin American art was committed to its distinct cultural, as well as historical and social, contexts
With an impressive unique permanent collection and a continuous stream of new and exciting temporary exhibitions, the Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) should be at the top of the list for art lovers visiting Argentina’s capital. The museum was created by the Eduardo F. Constantini Foundation as a not-for-profit museum to display (and build on) the collection donated by Eduardo F. Constantini. Since its founding in 2001, The Latin American Art Museum of Buenos Aires has dedicated itself to the preservation, dissemination, and integration of modern and contemporary Latin American art worldwide. Fundación Costantini, in its dedication to 20th century Latin American art, owns a unique collection that includes the principal tendencies and movements that characterize the region’s art in all its mediums, bringing together paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, collages, photographs, installations and artists’ objects from Mexico and the Caribbean to Argentina. Located on the tranquil and historic Avenida Figueroa Alcorta in Palermo, Buenos Aires, and close to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the MALBA building was constructed to blend in with its surroundings and encourage a natural interaction between its visitors and the art it showcases. Designed by renowned local architects AFT (Atelman, Fourcade & Tapia), the stunning building provides an airy and luminescent environment, with sectional yet fluid gallery spaces. Visitors seamlessly transition from one period or style of art to the next, the lighting changing throughout the building to best suit the art on display. The mission of the MALBA is to stimulate interest in and knowledge of Latin American art. To achieve this, the museum maintains a dynamic cultural center which serves to constantly highlight and expose the collection, a program of high-quality temporary exhibitions and a library of Latin American films (shown in the museum’s theatre Tuesday through Saturday). MALBA also hosts meetings, classes, lectures and seminars with authors and artists. The museum’s terrace restaurant and cafe is very highly regarded. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2011, the MALBA is already visited by almost 1.5 million people every year. Visit the museum’s website at … www.malba.org.ar