Then & Now: Abstraction in Latin American Art from 1950 to Present

Waldo Díaz-Balart, Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck, Tony Bechara, Marcelo Bonevardi, Waltercio Caldas, William Cordova, Alejandro Corujeira

Antonio Dias, Iran do Espírito Santo, Eugenio Espinoza, León Ferrari, María Freire, Manuel Hernandez, Carmen Herrera, Arturo Herrera

Ana Mercedes Hoyos, Juan Iribarren, Guillermo Kuitca, Judith Lauand, Julio Le Parc, Gerd Leufert, Antonio Llorens, Raul Lozza

Ana Maria Maiolino, Alejandro Otero, Claudio Perna, Alejandro Puente, Luis Fernando Roldán, Fanny Sanín, Mira Schendel

In the post-World War II era, artists in Latin America broke away from the creation of national artistic styles and socially concerned figurative art and began developing abstract languages that reflected a broader international context. “Then & Now” explores the various modes of abstraction that arose in Latin America, ranging from geometric to gestural, kinetic, neo-concrete art and more. The exhibition features works by thirty artists including drawings, prints, paintings, video, photography and sculpture. It unites pioneers of Latin American modernism with contemporary artists and offers a rare opportunity to view these cross generational works together.

Beginning in the 50s geometric abstraction boomed throughout the region and many artists pioneered innovations, such as shaped canvases and viewer participation. During this period abstraction was strongly linked to a Utopian modernist view and artists focused on formal investigations and concerns for expression, truth in representation, illusions of space, and the materiality of a painting’s support. Works by María Freire and Antonio Llorens feature dynamically asymmetrical compositions in vibrant colors, while Raul Lozza and Marcelo Bonevardi play with structure, wedding painting and sculpture.

Works from the 60s, 70s and 80s by a later generation of artists whose involvement with abstraction was informed by developments in pop, conceptual, minimalism and performance art, reveal how the possibilities of meaning attached to abstraction were expanded during these decades. Influenced by social change and the burning political issues of the day, artists such as Ana Maria Maiolino, Leon Ferrari and Claudio Perna, challenged conventional concepts associated with abstraction. They explored radical new directions incorporating a diversity of disciplines and mediums including ink, clay, film and performance. Hoping to reproduce those moments of discovery in the viewer, this exhibition presents works like Alejandro Otero’s Hoy en TV (1965), which daringly combines formalism and content demonstrating that political and critical content can be conveyed through formally reduced, nonobjective art forms.

The exhibition’s contemporary artists simultaneously celebrate and question the legacy of their predecessors. Juan Iribarren’s paintings of luminous traces, are a meditation on light and color that hints at the symbolic remains of modernity. Luis Fernando Roldán and Arturo Herrera carefully construct their abstractions through the fragmentation and combination of elements, resulting in complex spatial relationships that are formally rigorous, yet feel very casual.

“Then & Now” encompasses a period of great transformation and embodies the spirit of freedom and possibility that abstraction has generated from the start, highlighting the vitality of its force as an authentic expression of every artist’s individuality. Emerging from the posture of presenting an installation generated by the works themselves without following a chronological or geographical order, the exhibition embraces each individual’s aesthetic through aggregation and visual analogies. This allows for juxtapositions that reveal the innovation and originality achieved by the artist, enabling viewers to witness the transculturalism and international cross-fertilization that has contributed to Latin American abstraction. In doing so, the exhibition permits challenging the perception of Latin American art as a single phenomenon, by revealing important differences and tensions emanating from the various artistic proposals articulated around abstraction from 1950 through today.

“Then & Now: Abstraction in Latin American Art from 1950 to Present” is organized by Monica Espinel, a New York based independent curator.