Advertisement

Oh Mother Nature

In a year marked by natural disasters, some of the best exhibitions in Latin America were attempts to make sense of the environment

2017 was one of those years in which Mother Nature made her point: ravaging floods, roaring earthquakes and wildfires scorching thousands of acres of land. Seen in this light, some of the year’s best exhibitions in Latin America seemed like attempts to make sense of the environment. That was the case of ‘Segundo Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte no-objetual y Arte Rural (Second Latin American Colloquium of Non-Objectual and Rural Art)’, organized by the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM) in Colombia under the direction of Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy. More than 30 years after the mythic and radical 1981 ‘Primer Coloquio’ –  which articulated Latin American contemporary art models and performative practices for an urban setting – Hernández Chong Cuy convened a number of scholars, curators and artists around a slightly shifted focus: art and social action in a semi-rural context, in particular Medellín’s Jardín Circunvalar, or Green Belt.

img_0746.jpg

Picnic in the Jardín Circunvalar, Medellín, 2017 as part of the ‘Segundo Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte no-objetual y Arte Rural (Second Latin American Colloquium of Non-Objectual and Rural Art)’, organized by the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM). Courtesy: the author

The colloquium organized several projects in collaboration with the Jardín Circunvalar’s hillside community: Colombian artist María Buenaventura prepared a meal that merged ancient traditions with local products, and served locals alongside an agronomist and others, exploring the role art and nature have played in different processes of social interaction and cohesion. Guatemalan artist Naufus Ramírez Figueroa’s 2008 performance Para tí el banano madura al peso de tu dulce amor (For You the Banana Ripens to the Weight of Your Sweet Love) was restaged in the lobby of MAMM, where a young man slept all afternoon for two weeks, clutching a bunch of bananas until the warmth of his body made them ripen. This simple, protective gesture toyed with Central American clichés – propagated by the United Fruit Company in Guatemala – and referenced the importance of resource extraction to the continent’s economic and political history, in a loving yet ineffectual attempt to heal that history’s wounds.

jaimemunoz_fin_2001.jpg

Jaime Muñoz, Fin , 2011, acrylic on panel, 91 x 122 cm. Courtesy: © Jaime Muñoz; photograph: Christopher Allen

Jaime Muñoz, Fin , 2011, acrylic on panel, 91 x 122 cm. Courtesy: © Jaime Muñoz; photograph: Christopher Allen

Much of Ramírez Figueroa’s work is imbued with a kind of futile nostalgia for the lost innocence of childhood. The same could be said, in a more satirical vein, of ‘How to read El Pato Pascual: Disney’s Latin America and Latin America’s Disney’, an exhibition curated by Rubén Ortíz Torres and Jessie Lerner at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles, as part of ‘Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA’. More critical than sentimental, the show is a revision of the political role played by the Walt Disney Corporation and its various cartoon characters, first as pawns of Theodore Roosevelt’s ‘good neighbor policy’ and later as more overt vehicles for North American cultural imperialism. The parade of Mickey and Minnie mice, Donald Ducks and the like that appear in the exhibition’s works offer new insight on the role these characters have played south of the US border, such as Beach, Umbrella, Rafael Montañés Ortiz’s nightmarish 1985 film in which The Three Caballeros dive-bomb over a crowded and sunny Brazilian beach in a flying zarape.

guillermo_santamarina_corazon_1-900x600.jpg

Guillermo Santamarina, El corazón es un cazador solitario (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), 2017, oil on canvas in acrylic box, 42 x 32 x 3 cm. Courtesy: House of Gaga, Mexico City

Guillermo Santamarina, El corazón es un cazador solitario (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter), 2017, oil on canvas in acrylic box, 42 x 32 x 3 cm. Courtesy: House of Gaga, Mexico City

A similar sense of gloom hung over Mexican artist Guillermo Santamarina’s recent exhibition at House of Gaga, Mexico City, ‘Funkadelic’s Parliament (or the de(re)valued insignias)’, which convened gothic literary and musical references. The show opened with El corazón es un cazador solitario (The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, 2017), a painting of a singing swan bearing the name ‘J. Singer’, for the deaf and isolated protagonist of Carson McCullers’ eponymous book – a dark omen of the bird’s final gesture when it realizes its time has come. Santamarina produced the exhibition’s titular work in collaboration with troubled teenagers, who cut up his neckties to weave a large patchwork curtain for the space – a gesture of solidarity amidst desolation.

studio-clb.jpg

Studio, Casa Luiz Barragan, Mexico City

Studio, Casa Luiz Barragán, Mexico City

The opening of Santamarina’s show was postponed after a major earthquake struck central Mexico in September, just before Gallery Weekend. A spate of other exhibitions and performances followed suit, including ‘Comedia sin solución (Comedy with no Solution)’, a short play written in 1927 by Mexican writer German Cueto and directed by Colombian Eduardo Donjuan at Casa Luis Barragán. As if mirroring the earthquake’s destruction and aftermath, it staged an existentialist conversation between three strangers that, for no apparent reason, happen to be trapped in complete darkness, their dialogue accompanied by a moaning choir. As the play suggested, in such traumatic situations, we can either submit to the seemingly arbitrary nature of disaster and come to terms with our human vulnerability, or accept responsibility as stewards of the planet, and each other.

Main image: View from a picnic in the Jardín Circunvalar, Medellín, 2017 as part of the ‘Segundo Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte no-objetual y Arte Rural (Second Latin American Colloquium of Non-Objectual and Rural Art)’, organized by the Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín (MAMM). Courtesy: the author

Magalí Arriola is an art critic and independent curator based in Mexico City, Mexico. She is a contributing editor of frieze.

Advertisement

Most Read

Criticism of the show at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest comes alongside a nationalist reshaping of the...
A retrospective at Munich’s Museum Brandhorst charts the artist’s career from the 1980s to the present, from ‘fem-trash...
At the National Theatre of Wales, a performance alive with wild, tactile descriptions compels comparison between the...
There are perils in deploying bigotry to score political points, but meanings also shift from West to East
‘It’s ridiculous. It’s Picasso’: social media platform to review nudity policy after blocking Montreal Museum of Fine...
Poland’s feminist ‘Bison Ladies’ storm the Japanese artist’s Warsaw exhibition in solidarity with longtime model Kaori’...
An art historian and leading Leonardo expert has cast doubt on the painting’s attribution
How will the Black Panther writer, known for his landmark critical assessments of race, take on the quintessential...
The dissident artist has posted a series of videos on Instagram documenting diggers demolishing his studio in the...
In further news: artists for Planned Parenthood; US court rules on Nazi-looted Cranachs; Munich’s Haus der Kunst...
A mother’s death, a father’s disinterest: Jean Frémon’s semi-factual biography of the artist captures a life beyond...
Jostling with its loud festival neighbours, the UK’s best attended annual visual art festival conducts a polyphonic...
It’s not clear who destroyed the project – part of the Liverpool Biennial – which names those who have died trying to...
Dating from 1949 to the early 1960s, the works which grace the stately home feel comfortable in the ostentatious pomp...
The disconnect between public museum programming and private hire couldn’t be starker – it’s time for the arts to...
In further news: Angela Gulbenkian sued over Kusama pumpkin; and Pussy Riot re-arrested immediately after release from...
With Art Week in town, a guide to the best exhibitions to see, from sonic surveillance to Ronnie van Hout’s showdown...
Moving between figuration and abstraction, the New York-based painter and teacher made work about in-between spaces and...
Trump’s State Department is more than 3 months late in announcing its national pavilion – testament to the chaos...
The continued dominance of UK-US writers makes a mockery of the Man Booker’s ‘global outlook’
The fashion photographer has been accused on Twitter of ripping off another artist – with both represented by the same...
Katharina Cibulka has stitched ‘As long as the art market is a boys’ club, I will be a feminist,’ across her alma mater...
The punk artists’s invasion of the pitch during the Croatia vs. France match reminded us what Russia’s new ‘normality’...
In further news: Brexit voters avoid arts; New York libraries’s culture pass unlocks museums; Grayson Perry-backed...
If artificial intelligence were ever to achieve sentience, could it feasibly produce art? (And would it be good?)
Nods to the game in World Cup celebrations show how dance has gone viral – but unwittingly instrumentalized for...
‘What is being exhibited at Manifesta, above all, is Palermo itself’
With the 12th edition of the itinerant European biennial opening in Palermo, what do local artists, curators and...
The curators seem set to ask, ‘how civilized is the world’s current state of affairs?’

On View

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018

frieze magazine

June - August 2018