Blanton Museum of Art: Latin American Collection

[ Latin American Studies ]

Blanton Museum of Art: Latin American Collection

Edited by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro

The first publication in the museum's history to present a complete and in-depth study of the institution's notable Latin American collection.


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The Blanton Museum of Art's Latin American catalogue will be the first publication in the museum's history to present a complete and in-depth study of the institution's notable Latin American collection. The Blanton's holdings comprise one of the oldest, largest, and most comprehensive collections of modern and contemporary Latin American art in the country, and include works by many artists not represented elsewhere in U.S. collections.

The collection contains more than 1,800 modern and contemporary paintings, prints, drawings, and sculptures, reflecting the great diversity of Latin American art and culture. More than six hundred artists from Mexico, South and Central America, and the Caribbean are represented in the collection.

This beautifully illustrated catalogue features 102 artists from the Blanton's Latin American collection, such as Joaquín Torres-García, Julio Alpuy, Gonzalo Fonseca, Luis Felipe Noé, Rómulo Macció, Jorge de la Vega, Antonio Seguí, Luis Camnitzer, and Cildo Meireles. New and emerging artists such as Jorge Macchi and Cristián Silva are also represented.

The catalogue includes essays and object entries by a host of distinguished contributing writers that provide an opportunity for new interpretation and insight into this significant collection, and the field of Latin American art in general.

  • Index of Entries
  • Preface and Acknowledgments (Jessie Otto Hite)
  • Introduction (Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro)
  • The Blnton Museum's Latin American Collection as an Educational Resource (Jacqueline Barnitz)
  • Between Feedback and Activism (Luis Camnitzer)
  • Engagé Art from Modern Latin America (David Craven)
  • Narrators, Scribes, and Strategists: Nine Writings in the Blanton Museum (Ticio Escobar)
  • Modes of Abstraction, Models of Interpretation (Maria Gough)
  • Noé, Porter, Marcaccio: In Praise of Complexity (Inés Katzenstein)
  • Some Notes on Image and Text in the Latin American Collection of the Blanton Museum (Luis Enrique Pérez Oramos)
  • Selections from the Collection
  • About the Authors
  • Index of Artists
  • Roberto Aizenberg, by Maria José Herrera
  • Julio Alpuy, by Cecilia de Torres
  • Antonio Henrique Amaral, by Madeline Medeiros Ruiz
  • Nemesio Antúnez, by Jacqueline Barnitz
  • Dr. Atl, by Rita Eder
  • Abel Barroso, by Sarah Holian
  • Luis Fernando Benedit, by Victoria Noorthoorn
  • Antonio Berni, by Ana Pozzi-Harris
  • Marcelo Bonevardi, by María José Herrera
  • Fernando Botero, by José Ignacio Roca
  • Herman Braun-Vega, by Valerie Fraser
  • Luis Caballero, by María M. Malagón-Kurka
  • Iberê Camargo, by Luiz Camillo Osorio
  • Sergio de Camargo, by Anna Dezeuze
  • Luis Camnitzer, by Amelia Goerlitz
  • José Guillermo Castillo, by Ana Tiscornia
  • Jean Charlot, by Rita Eder
  • Carlos Colombino, by Ticio Escobar
  • Rafael Coronel, by Michael Wellen
  • Alejandro Corujeira, by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro
  • José Pedro Costigholo, by María Amalia García
  • Luis Cruz Azaceta, by Sarah Holian
  • Carlos Cruz-Diez, by Anna Dezeuze
  • José Luis Cuevas, by Amelia Goerlitz
  • Pablo Curatella Manes, by Jacqueline Barnitz
  • Jorge de la Vega, by Andrea Giunta
  • Ernesto Deira, by Andrea Giunta
  • Gonzalo Díaz, by Gina McDaniel Tarver
  • Eugenio Dittborn, by Gina McDaniel Tarver
  • Jorge Eielson, by Alberto McKelligan
  • Manuel Felguérez, by Michael Wellen
  • José Antonio Fernández-Muro, by Jacqueline Barnitz
  • León Ferrari, by Victoria Noorthoorn
  • Gonzalo Fonseca, by Cecilia de Torres
  • Raquel Forner, by Guillermo Whitelow
  • José Gamarra, by Gabriel Peluffo Linari
  • Nicolás Garcia Uriburu, by Andrea Giunta
  • Flavio Garciandía, by Antonio Eligio Fernández (Tonel)
  • Gego, by Mónica Amor
  • Anna Bella Geiger, by Erin Aldana
  • Gunther Gerzso, by Diana C. du Pont
  • Haroldo González, by Ana Tiscorma
  • Alberto Greco, by Andrea Giunta
  • Victor Grippo, by Luisa Fabiana Serviddio
  • Oswaldo Guayasamín, by David Craven
  • José Gurvich, by Cecilia de Torres
  • Alfredo Hlito, by Ana Pozzi-Harris
  • María Izquierdo, by Adriana Zavala
  • Gyula Kosice, by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro
  • Wifredo Lam, by E. Carmen Ramos
  • Esteban Lisa, by Mario H. Gradowczyk
  • Jorge Macchi, by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro
  • Rómulo Macció, by Andrea Giunta
  • Anna Maria Maiolino, by Luiz Camillo Osorio
  • Rocío Maldonado, by Nancy Deffebach
  • Ricardo Martínez, by James Oles
  • Roberto Matta, by Dawn Ades
  • Almir Mavignier, by Antonio Sergio Bessa
  • Cildo Meireles, by Gina McDaniel Tarver
  • Leopoldo Méndez, by David Craven
  • Carlos Mérida, by Courtney Gilbert
  • Guillermo Meza, by James Oles
  • Armando Morales, by David Craven
  • Oscar Muñoz, by María M. Malagón-Kurka
  • Edgar Negret, by José Ignacio Roca
  • Luis Felipe Noé, by Andrea Giunta
  • Pablo O'Higgins, by James Oles
  • Yoshua Okon, by Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy
  • José Clemente Orozco, by Adriana Zavala
  • Maria Luisa Pacheco, by Jacqueline Barnitz
  • César Paternosto, by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro
  • Liliana Porter, by Inés Katzenstein
  • Alfredo Portillos, by Andrea Giunta
  • Cândido Portinari, by Madeline Medeiros Ruiz
  • Alejandro Puente, by Victoria Noortboorn
  • Raúl Quintanilla, by David Craven
  • Alice Rahon, by Nancy Deffebach
  • Nelson Ramos, by Gabriel Peluffo Linari
  • Mario Rangel Sánchez, by Courtney Gilbert
  • Omar Rayo, by José Ignacio Roca
  • Miguel Angel Ríos, by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill
  • Diego Rivera, by David Craven
  • Fernando Rodriguez, by Antonio Eligio Fernández (Tonel)
  • Carlos Rojas, by Jacqueline Barnitz
  • Kazuya Sakai, by Erin Aldana
  • Mira Schendel, by Isobel Whitelegg
  • Antonio Seguí, by Andrea Giunta
  • Cristián Silva, by Cecilia Brunson
  • Regina Silveira, by Madeline Medeiros Ruiz
  • David Álfaro Siqueiros, by Irene Herner
  • Pablo Suárez, by Andrea Giunta
  • Fernando de Szyszlo, by Jacqueline Barnitz
  • Rufino Tamayo, by Jarrees Oles
  • José A. Toirac, by Kelly Baum
  • Francisco Toledo, by Dawn Ades
  • Antonio Eligio Fernández (Tonel), by Antonio Eligio Fernández (Tonel)
  • Augusto Torres, by Cecilia de Torres
  • Joaquín Torres-Garcia, by Cecilia de Torres
  • Katie van Scherpenberg, by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro
  • Regina Vater, by Madeline Medeiros Ruiz
  • Cecilia Vicuña, by Annie Laurie Sánchez
  • Anton Vidokle, by Itala Schmelz

I hope this catalogue will raise as many questions as it attempts to answer. The comprehensive classification and categorization of a collection of more than 1,800 works, covering the art of over a century from more than a dozen different countries, is an impossible task. Add to this the fact that the scholarship on Latin American art is still uneven, and that primary and secondary sources are notoriously hard to find, and you begin to have a sense of the challenges involved in producing this book.

The Blanton Museum has aspired to produce a catalogue of this iconic collection for several decades. In the 1970s Damián Bayón started to organize material for a catalogue of the collection, and in the late 1990s, Mari Carmen Ramirez raised the initial funds and assembled the team of researchers that ultimately led to this publication. Following Ramirez's departure in 2000, I was given the charge of bringing this project to completion. In doing so, I elected to change the nature of the book—which entailed a new selection of artists and authors, a different criteria for entries, and a shift in its overall structure—so that this volume bears little resemblance to either of its planned predecessors.

This catalogue is intended primarily as a research tool and not as a historical narrative or encyclopedia. To that end the entries are organized alphabetically for greater ease of access, abandoning the national or chronological criteria more typical of art historical textbooks: I anticipate that most research-minded readers will go straight to a particular entry for a particular purpose, rather than try to read them sequentially. In addition the Blanton, unlike most museums, often has in its collections several works by a single artist that span different periods and media. In recognition of this unique variety, the catalogue entries are organized by artist and not by individual works. This provides researchers with an opportunity to trace an artist's development through several works, giving a particular insight into his or her working practices and intellectual ambitions. Finally, because in many cases these are the first essays on particular artists to appear in English, the entries are comprehensive in scope, giving a combination of biographical, contextual, and artistic information in the clearest possible manner. In selecting the artists, I chose a mixture of well-known figures, such as Rufino Tamayo, Roberto Matta, Diego Rivera, or Cildo Meireles, and a range of lesser-known but important artists, such as Jose Guillermo Castillo or Almir Mavignier, many of whose works have not been exhibited or published before.

Very few critical texts on Latin American art discuss specific artworks in great depth. The many studies that discuss issues of identity, politics, globalization, and cultural policy in Latin American art rarely give specific examples. Therefore a volume dedicated almost exclusively to a close reading of actual artworks is something of an anomaly. My hope is that this catalogue will provide some indications of areas for further research, while using a style and a vocabulary that will help casual readers and scholars alike to approach these remarkable works on their own merits. The authors selected for this catalogue represent a diversity of countries, generations, training, and backgrounds. More established scholars are published alongside graduate students from The University of Texas and other institutions in the United States, Europe, and Latin America; for some of the younger Latin American authors, this is their first publication in English. It is encouraging to note how many more highly trained graduate students are now dedicating their efforts to art from Latin America, and even within a specific field of study, I often found several scholars to choose from. Of course many great and promising scholars are not included in this volume—sometimes for practical reasons and sometimes as a result of the difficulty in keeping up with this rapidly expanding field.

An additional feature of this catalogue is the six extended essays that appear before the object entries. The Blanton Museum commissioned these essays, inviting the scholars to the university for week long residencies, during which they toured the Blanton storage rooms to look through the entire collection and respond to it as a whole, suggesting connections and relationships that could not emerge from the sequence of individual object entries that comprise the bulk of the book. The intention was twofold: on the one hand, this kind of engagement allowed the writers to form a judgment of the collection, an indication of its strengths and weaknesses, and on the other hand, it opened a way to suggest some different frameworks through which to approach Latin American art history. Luis Camnitzer's essay is the strongest in pointing out the collection's limitations: his analysis of feedback and activism necessarily invokes works far beyond the Blanton's painting-heavy collection. David Craven's definition of engagé politics in art is more historical and encompassing, including artists like Armando Morales or Oswaldo Guayasaimín who in Camnitzer's definition are hardly political at all. Ticio Escobar's dense and poetic account of his encounters with artistic "scribes" in the Blanton's storage rooms reflects his interest in the overlap between art and language. Escobar's vision from Paraguay, a periphery within the periphery, is a reminder of the alternative and lesser-known critical voices within Latin America itself. Maria Gough, an expert in Russian Constructivism, was invited to contribute as an outsider to Latin American art, a status she gladly acknowledged. Her interest is in the historical and geographic translations of abstraction from one context to another. Gough's readings of the abstract works in the collection bring many important issues of intention and reception to light, suggesting models for a comparative art history in which aesthetic judgments arc not limited by the geographical and cultural essentialism that has plagued the field until very recently. Inés Katzenstein also applies a comparative model in her exploration of the work of three Argentine artists of different generations. Finally, Luis Enrique Pérez Oramas takes two works on paper from the collection-a delicate modernist drawing by Gego and a somewhat conventional print by Fernando Castro Pacheco-and constructs a radical new approach to art history by analyzing the tensions and points of contact between works All six authors responded with vigor and rigor to the invitation to comment on the Blanton's collection, and each has suggested interesting models for how a permanent collection can generate its own versions and readings of art history.

This catalogue begs the larger question of how scholars and curators have defined Latin American art. While I do not want to dwell on an issue that has been debated widely for decades, I would like briefly to point out the limitations behind the term "Latin American art," particularly as it applies to the Blanton's collections. "Latin America" is a term that applies loosely to the countries of the American continent south of the Rio Grande, including the Spanish-speaking Caribbean islands. A single culture does not exist within this vast and diverse area, least of all one that could be called "Latin": the indigenous languages still in use in the Andean countries and Paraguay, or the German spoken in southern Brazil, point to a linguistic and cultural diversity that cannot be contained in a single term. If "Latin" culture is to be the determining factor in identifying this region of art, then large areas of the United States must also be included in this definition, as must the province of Quebec.

Even national classifications arc problematic, as many of the artists under discussion have moved from place to place, interacting with, and contributing to, several different contexts. In recognition of this fluidity and mobility, the museum recently eliminated the national adjective (Peruvian, Uruguayan, American, etc.) from the artist description in favor of a list of cities and dates that gives a more accurate description of the artist by describing where he or she lived and worked. Joaquín Torres-García and Matta, to give just two examples, spent most of their lives outside their country of origin. Given that, is it fair to classify them simply as Uruguayan and Chilean? A quick scan through the artists in this catalogue will show that this mobility is the norm, not the exception.

A further problem arises with the classification of the Blanton's modern and contemporary holdings into Latin American and American & Contemporary collections, which serves an administrative and even an academic function, but gives a misleading impression that the continent can be neatly divided into two halves. Many of the artists in this volume have played an important role in so-called "American" art, while many of the artists in the American & Contemporary catalogue (Fabián Marcaccio, Arturo Herrera, and Ana Mendieta, for example) could also conceivably be classified as "Latin American" artists. When the new Blanton Museum building opens in early 2006, the modern and contemporary collections will be presented in a united manner for the first time. (In this context, the appearance of separate Latin American and American catalogues may seem anachronistic, but it reflects a longer-standing project to document and research these collections in their traditional definitions.)

Finishing a collection catalogue is always a frustrating task. An art collection is a moving target: fashions change, academic and critical attention moves slowly from one field to the next, with the market following closely behind, and most importantly, artists continue to produce work. In 2001 the Blanton began aggressively to collect contemporary art again, for the first time since the 1970s; thus attentive readers will note the comparative paucity of works from the 1980s or early 1990s in the collection. Although some newly acquired contemporary works are included in this catalogue, by necessity it is impossible to document a collection that is still growing. The larger collecting context has also changed radically since the inception of the Blanton's collection. Since 2000, several museums have started major Latin American collection initiatives: The Museum of Modern Art in New York has reinvigorated its Latin American focus, while the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Tate Gallery in London, and several others have launched ambitious new programs. Private collections have also taken a lead, with the Cisneros Collection, the Daros Collection, Bruce and Diane Halle, and others creating Latin American collections that surpass many publicly held collections of such art in this country.

In this context the Blanton's commitment to research and scholarship becomes all the more important. All in all, there is reason to be hopeful that Latin American art will become an integrated and seamless part of the Western canon, and that we can finally move beyond the primitivist fantasy of the "fantastic" or the political expediency of minority politics that until now has prevented an appreciation of the cultural contribution of Latin Americans to modern and contemporary art. This catalogue is a step in that direction.

Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro is Curator of Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum of Art.