Latin American Art || [Introduction]

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  • [Introduction]Author(s): Luis CamnitzerSource: Art Journal, Vol. 51, No. 4, Latin American Art (Winter, 1992), p. 6Published by: College Art AssociationStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/777270 .Accessed: 14/06/2014 10:09

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    Recent Latin American Art

    Edited by Luis Camnitzer

    iewing Latin American art in terms of how it relates

    to the Quincentenary invariably raises the expecta- tion of a more or less narrative connection with the

    topic. Fulfilling this expectation would lead to something like "Columbus in the work of Latin American artists." However, Columbus does not even remotely seem to be iconogenic enough to justify this kind of superficial and anecdotal

    approach. More interesting is that his traumatic excursion left us

    with a definition of art and indications on the evaluation of

    quality in art. It was the European definition of his time, carefully readjusted by successive one-way flows of informa- tion, but also including the possible deviations from it, that contributed to the concept. Hybridization, syncretism, eclecticism, and derivation-all stemming from the push- and-pull created by the want to please and the want to overthrow the military, economic, and cultural masters- created a web of conditions that have condemned us to eternal doubt. Are we making art that is of any cultural use to ourselves? Can art actually be of any cultural use? Thus, instead of selecting by anecdote, we have taken a more inclusive approach. Any Latin American artist serves the

    purpose and may illustrate (but not answer) the questions. My co-editor, Shifra M. Goldman, and I have avoided

    both extremes: total dependence or independence from anec- dote. The artists selected link their work more closely to issues of colonization, to cultural encounters, and to cultur-

    ally narcissistic projections than do many other Latin Ameri- cans. In that sense we have favored works used as an alterna- tive tool to present information on the subject matter in the broadest sense and in ways that cannot be achieved by essays.

    As Rodriguez Brey puts it in his comments, "Columbus discovered America, but not the New World." He limited himself to projecting his own images onto the new land. The land had to wait for Baron Alexander von Humboldt to be discovered in a more scientific sense, forcing Humboldt to discover the limitations of his own approach and views of the world as well. By contrast, Columbus acted crudely and

    militarily. Humboldt's actions were less offensive; from the

    vantage point of individual judgment one could even say they were correct. In his work re-creating Humboldt's lost Cuban

    diaries, Brey stresses how the poetry of tropical nature overwhelmed the rationality of enlightenment.

    Humboldt did not leave us untouched. He set us up for what became a dynamic of creating reservations, not only Indian or wild-life reservations, but also reservations about our views of ourselves. The reservation as a nostalgic phan- tom and its closeness to hallucination makes a good metaphor for much Latin American art. Nelbia Romero, with her multi- media Sal-si-puedes, tackles the issue in nearly therapeutic terms. The title of her work refers to the place in which the

    Uruguayan tribe of the Charr6as was massacred in the inter- ests of creole landowners, an event that had been hidden from

    history for over a century. Children learned in school that the "Indians," fighting valiantly in the creole armies, were in- strumental in achieving the independence of the country from

    Spain. After the third decade of the nineteenth century, they disappeared from history (and from the ethnic landscape) without anybody asking questions. In Romero's work, made and performed by a collective in 1983, the massacre at Sal-

    si-puedes becomes a pointed metaphor for the violence reen- acted in the 1970s and 1980s by the Uruguayan dictatorship.

    Ultimately it is violence that guides the art shown here: the violent threat of the brief moment of the unknown in the work of Patricia Israel, though immediately and painfully known (or essentially confirmed) by that of John Valadez.

    "Discovery" becomes the synonym of targeting: in a military sense, in Marina Gutierrez's work; in a cultural sense, in Herman Braun-Vega's triptych. Violence continues regard- ing information, primarily evangelical information, elegantly boxed in Carlos Zerpa's baroque showcase; in relation to

    ecology through the literal, metaphorical, and breathtaking rape of nature in Jonas dos Santos's installation, where trees are converted into newspaper and then painted into gold; or

    dealing with the erasure of memories in G6mez-Pefia followed

    by a forced and continual set of rediscoveries. These works include the continual search for one's own individual identity as much as those for a collective identity generated every hundred years trying to untangle the mixed feelings that have

    lingered since Columbus's voyage. After all, most of us wouldn't be here to discuss these issues had the voyage not taken place.

    WINTER 1992

    6

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    Article Contentsp. 6

    Issue Table of ContentsArt Journal, Vol. 51, No. 4, Latin American Art (Winter, 1992), pp. 1-111Front Matter [pp. 1-108]Artists' PagesRecent Latin American Art[Introduction] [p. 6]Herman Braun-Vega [p. 7]Guillermo Gmez-Pea [p. 8]Marina Gutirrez [p. 9]Patricia Israel [p. 10]Ricardo Rodrguez Brey [p. 11]Nelbia Romero [p. 12]Jonas dos Santos [p. 13]John Valadez [p. 14]Carlos Zerpa [p. 15]

    Editors' StatementThe Columbus Quincentenary and Latin American Art: A Critical Evaluation [pp. 16-20]

    Translating 1492: Mexico's and Spain's First National Celebrations of the "Discovery" of the Americas [pp. 21-29]Africa in the Art of Latin America [pp. 30-38]The Virgin of Guadalupe: Symbol of Conquest or Liberation? [pp. 39-47]"Civilizing" Rio de Janeiro: Four Centuries of Conquest through Architecture [pp. 48-56]Postmodern Disalignments and Realignments of the Center/Periphery [pp. 57-59]Beyond "The Fantastic": Framing Identity in U. S. Exhibitions of Latin American Art [pp. 60-68]Recapturing History: The (Un)Official Story in Contemporary Latin American Art [pp. 69-80]Exhibition ReviewsReview: Gertrude Ksebier and Helen Levitt [pp. 83-85+87+89]Review: Chiefly Feasts [pp. 91-93]

    Book ReviewsReview: 19th-Century American Painting [pp. 95+97]Review: Feminism and Impressionism [pp. 99+101+103]Review: The Museum [pp. 103-106]Review: Cubist Poetry [pp. 106-107]

    Books and Catalogues Received [pp. 109-111]Back Matter