Past Issue Abstracts
Volume 72.2 December 2019
SPECIAL ISSUE: GLOBAL ART AND LATIN AMERICA
Nature, Market, Media: Explorations in Latin American Art
In April of 2016, Alex Alberro and I organized a conference called "Global Latin America." We invited young scholars from different disciplines to discuss some of the keywords of the field—and the field itself. The increasing internationalization of the study of Latin American art history and cultural studies has altered the topography of these disciplines in ways that are widely acknowledged but not yet clearly defined. The conference sought to track some of the ways in which these disciplines have become enmeshed in global art history and cultural history. Guiding our conversation were questions such as: How is the emphasis on transnationalism shaping the questions we ask about Latin American art and culture? How has our approach to the objects changed over the years? Where are Latin American art history and cultural studies headed?
This article discusses the work of three artists from Latin America that emerged onto the global art world between the 1990s and the present day and became key representatives of a global and contemporary Latin American art. It begins by pointing out the paradox of specifying a specific a geographic production in the context of a global regime. It argues that there are specific types of temporalities in those oeuvres that secure their entry into the ranks of "contemporary art" as the global market around art was configured in the late neoliberal moment. The article suggests that reification in Gabriel Orozco's work, mourning in Doris Salcedo's, and theology in Adrián Villar Rojas's figure temporalities that pass as forms of critique while in fact reinforcing the economic and political mechanisms of the global order. The article ends by proposing a way out of the temporality allowed by the global and contemporary art world.
In recent years, numerous scholars have called attention to the growing presence of economic rationality in every sphere of contemporary life—including those aspects of human existence portrayed by classical liberal thought as inherently removed from the realm of economic interests. In the realm of contemporary art, which is often described as an exemplary case, it is said that market expertise has replaced critical, aesthetic judgment. However, what if this mode of market expertise and, more broadly, neoliberal reason as such have more in common with aesthetic judgment than one might usually imagine? In reference to the work of visual artists such as Cildo Meireles and novelists ranging from Machado de Assis to Ricardo Lísias, and drawing upon a wide range of theoretical perspectives on contemporary cultural and economic theory, this paper investigates the aesthetic underpinnings of contemporary capitalism.
Dolores (Loló) Soldevilla (1901-1971) was among the first Cuban artists to work in geometric abstraction, a member of the short-lived Grupo de Diez Pintores Concretos, and someone who continued working in abstraction until her death. In 1957 she also made an important trip to exhibit her art in Caracas, Venezuela, where local aesthetic and political debates would inform the founding of her own gallery in Havana that same year, Galería Color-Luz. After the 1959 Cuban Revolution, however, Soldevilla also penned articles and an experimental novel, and briefly designed toys for the Instituto Nacional de Industrias Turísticas (INIT), an institution that in the early years of the Revolution fostered and oversaw artistic production in a number of unlikely spaces. This article examines Soldevilla's oeuvre from the late 1950s through the mid-1960s to reveal how her foundation in abstraction came to be inflected by three connected pressures: a revolutionary ideology of realizing immediate change and production, debates about the merits of figuration versus abstraction, and mid-century energy-driven developmentalism in an era of petroleum exploration. National plans for energy extraction and tourism in Cuba, philosophical understandings of energy as both actualized and potential, and period debates among Latin American artists and critics over figuration and abstraction all informed both ruptures and continuities in Soldevilla's work during these critical years, manifest in her painting, her novel El farol, her sculptures and in a design for a toy.
This article examines the motif of the television interview in the film, video and television work of two Argentinean artists: David Lamelas and Jaime Davidovich. Like many of their generation, Lamelas and Davidovich migrated to the Global North amidst the political instability of the 1960s. Television and the mass media remained central themes of Lamelas's work, from his conceptual art in the late 1960s through his experimental films of the early 1970s to his embrace of video from the mid-1970s onward. In an early series of videos made in Los Angeles, Lamelas staged parodic news interviews as if the viewer were actually watching a television program, making ambiguous reference to ongoing political situations. Davidovich moved to New York in 1963 and remained there until his passing in 2016. He pioneered public-access cable production in the mid-1970s, co-founding the Artists Television Network in 1978 and producing his own show, The Live! Show, in 1979. Interviews with artists, critics and curators—some serious and journalistic, some playful or even farcical—were a fundamental component of both projects. While political hardship and migration were indisputably part of their biographies, both artists used the television interview precisely to undermine geographic or political authenticity as markers of identity. Their television works repeatedly stage encounters in which quasi-journalists engage with outsiders, as if perpetually restaging their own incomplete yet insightful integration into their new contexts of production.
The Secular Duty: Latin Americanism as Criollo Humanism
Latin Americanism is best understood as a political-theological formation, which produces the "justification" for its literary-philosophic enterprise as a sacrifice unto the payment of debts, the fulfillment of obligations, and, generally, its servitude to the social order. This article advances the argument that Latin Americanist critique has been, despite its best intentions, a deeply criollo endeavor (often with the racialized valences that the signifier suggests). A Spanish colonial heritage and a certain racialized inscription that works to immunize the Latin Americanist endeavor against theoretical speculation has resulted in a Latin Americanism that has been highly inconsequential: belletrism or "political engagement" as the twin face of a field that can too often only understand itself in terms of its service to a power from which it is at pains to maintain its difference. Engaging decolonial thought, on the one hand, and liberal literary criticism, on the other, I argue that Latin Americanist critique's missed encounter with deconstruction remains a symptomatic scene of its failure to emerge from its criollo heritage.
Geographies of Cuban Abstraction
The connection between Revolutionary Horizons and Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight can be said to be orthogonal—orthogonality being a core compositional principle of post-war abstraction. Both stories begin in Havana and come to age in the long 1950s. They are accounts of divergent geographies of Cuban abstraction in the visual arts but with multiple and concurrent tangential points of contact. McEwen's Revolutionary Horizons chronicles the pursuit of abstraction in the Cuban visual arts at a time of deep political unrest and ideologically charged aesthetic choices. Under the care of curator Dana Miller, Carmen Herrera: Lines of Sight accompanies the eponymous exhibit at the Whitney Museum for American Art with a collection of four texts and 82 color plates, profiling the lifelong oeuvre of the Cuban-born, New York-based abstract artist Carmen Herrera. The most comprehensive retrospective of Herrera's work to date, this is only the latest in an increasingly long list of events and materials—including a documentary—celebrating the rediscovery of her art.
REVIEWS: Global Art and Latin America
Tarsila do Amaral: Inventing Modern Art in Brazil ed. by Stephanie D'Alessandro, and Luis Pérez-Oramas (review)
Picturing the Barrio: Ten Chicano Photographers by David William Foster (review)
Ileana L. Selejan
After Human Rights: Literature, Visual Arts, and Film in Latin America, 1990–2010 by Fernando J. Rosenberg (review)
Cronografías: arte y ficciones de un tiempo sin tiempo by Graciela Speranza (review)
Anxieties of Interiority and Dissection in Early Modern Spain by Enrique Fernández (review)
No hay nación para este sexo: la Re(d)pública transatlántica de las Letras: escritoras españolas y latino-americanas (1824–1936) ed. by Pura Fernández (review)
The Secret Faith of Maestre Honoratus: Profayt Duran and Jewish Identity in Late Medieval Iberia by Maud Kozodoy (review)
Forging the Past: Invented Histories in Counter-Reformation Spain by Katrina B. Olds (review)