Border-Defying Art at the Blanton

Blanton Museum of Art
Aug 16, 2013 8:38PM

Alexandra Clark is an intern in the PR and Marketing department at the Blanton Museum of Art. She is pursuing a degree in Art History and Government. Here she writes about the Blanton's commitment to scholarship in the area of Latin American art.

From paintings to prints and drawings and sculptures of all sizes, the Blanton’s collection of Latin American art is a spectacular display of diversity. With over 2,100 modern and contemporary works, the permanent collection represents more than 700 artists from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean. Recognized as a leading institution for the scholarship, exhibition and collection of art of this region, the Blanton holds one of the largest and most comprehensive collections of Latin American art in the country. With so many fantastic works to choose from, finding the right point of departure to organize an installation or exhibition can be a challenging. Yet our curators consistently develop shows that thoughtfully present the unique cultural identity of the art and artists of our Latin American collection while simultaneously engaging in a larger conversation about the role of Latin America in the globalization of modern art.


America/ Americas, for example, a permanent Blanton exhibition that pairs works from North America alongside those from Latin America, underscores the innovative ways in which distant cultures can meld together. This display allows the artworks from each geographic region to respond to one another in new and original ways, and is a favorite of Blanton visitors. By drawing on transnational themes and artistic movements, the exhibition piques curiosity and promotes an understanding of the twentieth century in the Americas. Rather than organizing the works by country of origin, borders are blurred and works are presented thematically. This allows viewers to make new connections and follow modern ideas as they contagiously spread. 


A perfect illustration of this concept can be found in the constructive universalism pioneered by Uruguayan artist Joaquín Torres-García. Constructive Universalism is an avant-garde artistic movement that combined European abstraction with symbols and textile patterns of Latin America. The marriage of these two styles produced something simultaneously traditional and modern, indicative of twentieth century Latin America. Trained in Europe, Torres- García exhibited with other emerging abstract artists of the 1920s and 1930s such as Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian. However, Torres-García rejected European and North American trends in abstraction as he sought the influence of ancient cultures, particularly those of Latin America. In his work, Constructif en rouge et ocre (Construction in Red and Ochre) 1931, he used an abstract grid composition to display pictograms of ancient and contemporary symbols.  Shortly after painting this work, the artist left Europe and returned to his native Uruguay.  There he inspired an emerging generation of Latin American artists whose work was characterized by this juxtaposition of abstraction and the indigenous. 


Along with Torres-Garcia, America/ Americas displays works by fellow Uruguayan artist Francisco Matto, Mexican Gunther Gerzso, and Peruvian Fernando de Szyszlo. While each artist experiments with elements of constructive universalism, they represent the ancient cultures and crafts of their own respective regions. The inclusion of these works into America/Americas both delineates history and emphasizes the reoccurring themes of regionalism and globalization that are still present in Latin American art today.


In an upcoming exhibition this fall, the Blanton invites visitors to further explore the idea of border-defying art. Cubism Beyond Borders, on view August 31 through December 8, 2013, will give visitors an exclusive look at cubist works from the Blanton’s extensive permanent collection. Predating the works of America/ Americas, the exhibition will expose visitors to the beginnings of this era as it investigates the varying international interpretations of cubism and how this movement influenced modernism. Much like America/ Americas, Cubism Beyond Borders will offer a thematic journey with no shortage of Latin American representation, including an avant-garde approach to cubism by Diego Rivera, Still Life with Gray Bowl (1915), on loan from the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.


For all who seek a greater understanding of Latin America’s role in modern and contemporary art we encourage a visit to the Blanton while both America/ Americas and Cubism Beyond Borders are on display. We hope that visitors will leave with a greater appreciation for the all of the inventive and eclectic contributions this region has to offer.

Blanton Museum of Art