The Preeminence of Latin American Art — from the Miami Art Museum to the Pérez Art Museum Miami
The depth and breadth of Latin American art is as deep and broad as the land and cultures comprised in the massive territory. It is equally as complex as the varied terrain of its land. Ranging from Mexico and Cuba to Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Chile, the total genre represents the voices of over 600 million people and their countries’ respective heritage and history.
From an art history perspective, the collective genre is emerging only recently in the past few decades, with most notable artists only being known to collectors in the 1970’s or even later. Despite the relative novelty of its discovery to international art circles, the works created by Latin American artists are rich in the centuries of tradition and heritage of its people.
While some of the most renowned artists’ styles portray strong influence from the European masters (whether French or Spanish in particular), others derive their style predominantly from the ancient roots of their nation. For many, the evolution of their personal style demonstrates the transition from the European and American icons, back to the reverence, or perhaps personal connection with their rich roots.
Jorge Pérez, donor of over one hundred works to the Museum (which will honor his gift of art and funds in the new Museum’s name, opening later this year as Pérez Art Museum Miami) shared his passion in collecting these works for over forty years at the vernissage of the new exhibition Frames of Reference: Latin American Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection. He also spoke about his lifelong interest in following the development of each artist, as his or her work progresses over time, with influences of life, culture, heritage and customs shifting in each tableau. “Eventually, they found their own form” he states.
In referring to the artistic genre, Pérez ’ passion is infectious, and his interest is deeply personal. “It explains our time, our past, our future.”
“Art is about telling a story… I want it to be about Latin America,” he mused.
Frames of Reference: Latin American Art from the Jorge M. Pérez Collection.
The latest exhibition in the Miami Art Museum (and the last in its present location), presents a wonderful selection of the Pérez collection. Organized by MAM Chief Curator Tobias Ostrander, the exhibition paints a vivid and diverse taste of Latin American cultures, and the beauty and color of their art over the past century. From early works of Diego Rivera to the progression toward contemporary abstraction, the exhibition creates a holistic overview of the history of 20th Century Latin American art.
“The exhibition provides a singular opportunity to examine aesthetic and conceptual developments in the trajectory of Latin American Art, highlighting some of the best representations of work by influential mid-century artists from the region,” said Ostrander.
Frames of Reference, on view through June 2, 2013, explores forty-three works of Latin American art in the collection through an art historical lens, emphasizing the tremendous creative and conceptual contributions of artists such as José Bedia, Beatriz González, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta Echaurren, Diego Rivera, and Joaquín Torres-Garcia, among others. Highlights from the exhibition, include:
• Beatriz González’s Los Papagayos, 1987, which was painted on a long roll of heavy paper and subsequently cut and redistributed in multiple sections. The painting, which references the corruption and repression enacted by Colombian elected officials and military in recent history, depicts a line of men in military uniform interspersed with a recurring civilian figure dressed in suit and tie.
•Wifredo Lam’s painting La Table Blanche, 1939, which features a severely flattened out perspective and nearly monotone palette of blues, grays, and blacks, is highly characteristic of the austere experimental visual language he embraced during his time in Paris following the Spanish Civil War. Lam is considered the most important modernist painter from Cuba, and is known for his embrace of disparate cultural and aesthetic traditions.
• Crucifixión [or Crucifiction (CroixFiction)], 1938, by Roberto Matta Echaurren, is a work that marked the Chilean artist’s transition from drawing to oil and the start of what many scholars consider his most important creative period. Although references to the landscape can be faintly discerned, the work is markedly abstract and features a menacing, roiling darkness.
• Diego Rivera’s Naturaleza muerta, 1908, is an early example of the easel work that he was best known for before his adoption of the mural format. While the oil painting displays an affinity towards the composition and bold use of line of Paul Cézanne, it is notable for its clear rejection of more abstract tendencies.
• Joaquin Torres-Garcia, a Uruguayan artist, is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century in his role of spreading geometric abstraction through Latin America. His work Construcción con dos máscaras, 1943, features one of his favorite recurring motifs, the mask, and is representative of his interest in Native American archeological artifacts.
The exhibition is the last in the Museum’s current space and marks the start of its transition to its new Herzog & de Meuron-designed facility in Museum Park. Miami Art Museum will reopen as Pérez Art Museum Miami in fall of 2013 in downtown Miami’s Museum Park.
The primary mission of the Museum is to collect and exhibit international art of the 20th and 21st centuries with an emphasis on the cultures of the Atlantic Rim (the Americas, Europe and Africa), though perhaps its most important roles are to showcase the beauty and brilliance of Latin American art; and to educate a global audience on its indelible importance in the world of art and culture.