Art_Latin_America: Against the Survey highlights the Davis Museum’s extensive and diverse collection of “Latin American art," formed over the past twenty+ years. The exhibition’s thesis is expansive, an approach signaled by the underscores in the title. On one side Art, from abstract paintings to political posters and photojournalism; on the other America, understood broadly and accurately, as geography demands. Between them, the adjective Latin confronts both nouns: American works of art, yes, but only those connected—literally, through the underscore—to a particular part of the Americas colonized by Spain and Portugal, whose languages are derived from Latin.
The underscores function as productive gaps into which new meanings can be inserted, suggesting rather than restricting what goes in between. The first—“Art_Latin”—expands the range of art of inclusion to art from Latin America, art of Latin America, and art [made] in Latin America—none of which are synonymous—but also art about Latin America, or even related to Latin America. The second—“Latin_America”—further complicates the question of where such “Latin” art is produced; the gap stands for single characters: one is the hyphen, which ties together the words, but others—o, a, @, x—push them further apart, amplifying our pool to bring in works by Latinos and Latinas, as well as artists who seek gender neutrality though recent neologisms like [email protected] and Latinx (and including diasporic artists who sometimes reject those particular labels).
Art_Latin_America features some 150 works of art by 99 artists (about a third of them women) from twelve countries, including twenty-five born in the United States: among the artists in the show are Ansel Adams, Olga Albizu, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Francis Alÿs, Gunther Gerzso, José Clemente Orozco, Roberto Matta, Ana Mendieta, Liliana Porter, Alice Rahon, and Grete Stern. Rather than a chronological survey, the exhibition is organized in eight broad thematic sections—Identity and Territory, War and Loss, Protest and Propaganda, Farmers and Workers, City and Country, Saints and Rituals, Models and Mothers, and Gesture and Geometry. These themes are not intended to summarize complex cultural, political, or economic phenomena, like gender or labor. Instead, they should be seen as visual nodes or points of collision. The project elevates rather than eludes the peculiarities of this single institutional collection, formed as it was in fits and starts, through donations and purchases, and guided by varied players, according to no strictly calculated plan. More than any recent exhibition of its type, Art_Latin_America embraces diversity—aesthetic, of course, but also in terms of the artists’ background, experience, residence, and point of view—thereby pushing the concept of “Latin American art” almost to its conceptual limits. By drawing from an expansive pool, and by allowing space for new connections, Art_Latin_America aims to generate ideas and narratives that canonical works alone would not have revealed.
Please note: Tickets are required for entry to this special exhibition. General admission, $20; Wellesley College alumnae, $12. Free entry for all students with I.D., Wellesley College faculty and staff, Friends of Art members, and Durant Society members. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit:
Curated by James Oles, Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at the Davis Museum and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art at Wellesley College, the exhibition and catalogue were realized with generous funding from:
Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis
Judith Blough Wentz ’57 Museum Programs Fund
Mellon Endowment for Academic Programs at the Davis Museum
The Helyn MacLean Endowed Program Fund for Contemporary and South Asian Art
The James Wilson Rayen Museum Gift
Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation