“The fair’s strength lies in its willingness to reinvent and rethink itself,” Colombian curator José Roca said of PINTA New York, the Latin American-focused fair which, in its seventh edition, is reimagined with a shift to a fully curated format. Roca—the Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at Tate, London—is among an international group of prominent curators chosen to curate six brand new platforms, and his section, Emerge, features solo presentations by emerging artists under the age of 40. In a conversation with Artsy, Roca explains his curatorial theme, which is based on the concept of “modern ruins,” his thoughtful considerations in choosing the eight artists involved, and the one-month residency that awaits one of the artists—in relative isolation in a colonial town in Colombia—to explore the project of their choice.
Artsy: Can you tell us a bit about the Emerge section you curated for PINTA, including your concept of “modern ruins”?
José Roca: There is little subtlety in this kind of exhibition, since there are no spatial or visual juxtapositions between the works. In my opinion, all you can do is propose a thematic thread and be completely open in regards to the responses it might elicit from the artists. But many powerful works do emerge from the dialog between the individual artists and the curator.
I proposed a simple premise: modernity, our recent past, has already produced its own ruins in the form of arrested development, failed utopias, technological waste, and the like. The artists are responding to this idea in many different ways.
Artsy: What did you consider when choosing the eight artists involved? Can you share a few highlights of the exhibition?
JR: I chose the artists based on their past works, so as not to propose something that is completely alien to their practice. I think it is complicated to commission works based solely on a curatorial premise. I usually see many artists and try to identify some common ground, and then come up with a premise based on conceptual, thematic and formal coincidences. I then select artists whose practice is related somehow to the idea and then work with the artist to see if (s)he is interested in proposing something new, or to show an existing work.
Artsy: Can you tell us about the collaboration between PINTA and FLORA ars+natura and the opportunity that awaits one of the eight artists in your section? Why is this opportunity significant for an emerging artist?
JR: PINTA NY has agreed to fund a month-long residency for one of the artists included in this section. This artist will stay at a beautiful colonial town in Colombia named Honda, and work on the project of their choice. By the end of the residency we will show the process to the local community (in the form of a talk or workshop), and at FLORA in Bogotá. We do not expect, though, to have a finished exhibition; we understand that some artists have slower processes. We want them to have a significant experience, and if the outcome of the residency is materialized months or years after, it is okay with us. We do want them to share the experience with the public in whatever form they prefer: a talk, interview, workshop, or exhibition. We think that one month in relative isolation is a good opportunity for the artist to reflect, read, write, draw, or produce work, and this will be important in the long run. And, for those who choose to show the results in an exhibition mode, FLORA will provide the space and adequate exposure.
Artsy: As the Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at Tate, London, you help foster both local and international appreciation of Latin American art. How do you feel PINTA has had an impact on providing international visibility to artists with limited scope?
JR: All fairs bring visibility to a certain constituency. Most fairs in Latin America show the local and regional art to international visitors. In the case of PINTA, it brings the art of the region to the international art crowd in New York. PINTA is constantly seeking ways to become more interesting. The fair’s strength lies in its willingness to reinvent and rethink itself.
José Roca is a Colombian curator working and living in Bogotá. He is currently the Estrellita B. Brodsky Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at Tate, London, and Artistic Director of FLORA ars + natura, an independent space for contemporary art in Bogotá. For ten years, he managed the arts program of the Banco de la República in Bogota. He co-curated the first San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial in San Juan, Puerto Rico (2004), the 27th Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil (2006) and the Encuentro de Medellín MDE07 (2007), and was the Artistic Director of Philagrafika 2010, Philadelphia's international Triennial celebrating print in contemporary art. He served on the awards jury for the 52nd Venice Biennial (2007), and was the chief curator of the 8 Bienal do Mercosul in Porto Alegre, Brazil (2011). He is the author of Transpolitical: Art in Colombia 1992-2012.
Portrait by Guillermo Santos