Marcius Galan, 3 Sections, 2011. Ph: Cortesía del Museo de Arte de Zapopan.
What is contemporary Latin American art? Who are its exponents? What is the role of art collectors in this sphere? These are extremely difficult questions to answer, but they allow us to relay with concision the content of the exhibition Plural Domai: Selected Works from the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO) Collection.
Since its inception in 2002, the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation has shaped one of the most extensive and substantial programs of contemporary Latin American art. From 2012 to 2015, in my role as director and curator of CIFO, I had the opportunity to suggest a few acquisitions for the collection and to become deeply familiar with it. That experience, together with the critical distance I currently enjoy, has allowed me to make a selection that enters into a dialogue with the official show of the XIV Biennial of Cuenca, interpellating and enriching it from its own particular perspective. In this show, viewers will recognize some names that already form part of the history of the event.
Contemporary Latin American art, as reflected in the CIFO Collection, includes artists from all generations, countries of origin, fields, preferences, and experiences. In this exhibition the three customary CIFO generational distinctions are reflected: established, mid-career, and emerging artists. Also reflected are the predominant geographical origins: Venezuelans, Uruguayans, Argentineans, Brazilians, Mexicans, Cubans, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Colombians, and Guatemalans, many of whom have found other horizons beyond their places of origin. All these artists have been trained both in the academic fields of their countries and in the art schools of the reputed avant-garde centers. Many of them are immersed in a range of multidisciplinary or hybrid practices in which both traditional and the most innovative methods come together, as they incorporate into their work the infinite gamut of resources that constitute the repertoire of contemporary art. If all this diversity were not enough, most of them combine different fields of knowledge and ground their work in research, that is, they see art as an exercise in searching and a reflection upon the sociocultural environments in which they perform.
The old dichotomies that drove continental art, to wit: tradition vs. revolution; localisms vs. universalisms; the figurative vs. the abstract; political-apolitical; public-private; and so many other categories that infused certainty into the debate on regional art, are no longer operative in the contemporary world. From the sixties onward, Latin American artists began to incorporate new world situations and the different possibilities of responding to them. As few of them continue to take recourse to iconographic or narrative language to define Latin America identity, each new work tends to be a challenge to the stereotypes of what is Latin American. In fact, in many cases tracing the “Latin American” identity of a particular work or artist has become such a complex task that it can be almost impossible to distinguish them from artists from other latitudes or with other cultural baggage, yet by no means does this cause the work to lose interest or a sense of belonging.
The displacement of the aesthetic to the anthropological, the incorporation of the viewer or the reception of the work in considerations on its production, the critical awareness of the political, social, economic, and cultural conditionings of an ever more globalized and at the same time atomized world, the philosophical problems of contemporaneity, the relationship of art to other disciplines, only hint at the topics that interest present-day Latin American artists.
Naturally, other versions exist alongside these. For example, nowadays each creator tends to employ a range of strategies and artistic programs, whether they be current practices or recyclings of distant or near past practices. Among the strategies contemporary artists have adopted we might mention appropriation, estrangement (or decontextualization), the use of the archive, documentarism, deconstructivism, intertextuality, the performativity of language (the discursive as opposed to the narrative), or the reflexivity of the site, to mention only a few imperatives that have displaced such modern recourses as site-specificity, semiology, primitivism, expressivity, the unconscious, syncretism, de-skilling, autonomy, or self-referentiality.
In addition, the programs under which the artists operate are many, whether they be derived from post-colonial or representation theory, from entropy or systems theory, from epistemology or the social sciences, taking on topics as complex as those posed by the new philosophical materialisms.
Most probably, if we search each and every one of the works of this exhibition for some trait that will identify them with their Latin American-ness, we will be taking on a supremely arduous task. But if we understand that their contribution has been to configure a space of dialogue and plural reflection, we will be able to find in each of them the dominant imperatives, not only of Latin America, but of our very contemporaneity.
Curator of the Exhibition