The art work currently produced in Latin America is extremely diverse and individual, and stems from a complex choice of representational practices and modes of expression. In most cases it is the product of the assimilation and reinterpretation of a rich tradition of sculptural, pictorial and esthetic idioms and techniques. These experiences and their adaptation to everyday situations have allowed for the development of a strong, innovative and creative artistic production on the continent. Likewise, the works of the Latin American intellectuals who helped forge the artistic and literary movements that have transcended throughout the continent, influenced the great artistic achievements of the latter part of the century.
Mario Pedrosa, one of the most accomplished of these critics, had great impact on the artistic production of Brazil, Argentina, and Chile in the late 40s and well into the 60s. Pedrosa was well aware of international artistic practices and theory. Among his primordial contributions to the artistic scene in Brazil was the notion of an abstract and concrete art (in direct opposition to the predominant figurative painting) that did not relent its capacity of functioning as a critique of the environment. After familiarizing himself with the work by Calder and other abstract artists in the 40s, Pedrosa strongly defended the formal disposition of a work of art as a vehicle of representation that allowed a formal synthesis that was no longer a simple illustration of life, but the conception of the world through the vision of the artist. These ideas were embraced by the Grupo Frente in 1947, thus creating the concretismo and later neoconcretismo movements of which Helio Oticica and Lygia Clark actively participated. Through the dissemination of art and scientific values, the artists and intellectuals of the 40's and 50s were seeking to defend an enlightenment where there would be no boundaries separating people.
This idea was well defended by the Grupo Frente and the Grupo Ruptura, yet artists such as Mira Schendel, Sergio Camargo and Vopli remained in the margins of this rigorous formal approach. Their work never abandoned the underlying principle of changing the meaning and function of art and although simple in appearance, it was embedded with complex aesthetic ideas concerning their artistic production. Volpi for example, never considered himself a concrete artist and gave little importance to all to the essays and reviews written at the time; he solely relied on his eye to set his artistic bearings. A formalist, Volpi applied his creative vigor to the investigation of color and to the search for shapes that most fascinated him at a given time of his life. He, not unlike Mira and Camargo, lived almost exclusively for their work. Volpi and Mira were among the first generation of artists that allowed the sensible to permeate the constructivist utopia and break the rigorous mathematical approach to artistic production. Camargo's work for example derives its inner dynamism from the simple game of opposition between cylinder and plane, a composition that is organized by tension and disorganization.
Waltercio Caldas, on the other hand, bestows his works of art with an unavoidable feeling of presence in flux with the various forces that surround them, including the observer. They demand space, delineate borders, and require interpretation, yet have the subtle capacity of remaining untouchable. Caldas relies on the ambiguity of what is and what is not art, its self-referentiality, to give tension, presence and meaning to the object. Caldas, and Tunga stem from neoconcretismo to fully embrace the presence of the subjective as an intrinsic element of the work of art. Furthermore, they seek the provocation of the observer to perceive art as a phenomenon of thought through linguistic games. Caldas and Tunga attempt to destroy the ingrained association with given images and challenge logic.
Regina Silveira grew in the era of radical experimental and political art of the 60s and 70s in Brazil. Silveira however diverted from the radical ideas into a less politically engaged pictorial language that allowed her to play with the shadow as a vehicle of representation of reality. Finding support in theoretical and conceptual issues regarding the shadow as index, Silveira's work becomes a parody of everyday life. Through the distortion of perspective Silveria presents the observer with a perceptual dilemma that alludes both to art historical issues and social matters as well. The blown and manipulated shadows of quotidian objects are charged with symbolism and meaning about current issues and directly confront the observer with their own perception and knowledge about the given subject or situation.
Also with a strong conceptual intent, yet derived from different social and geographical conditions, including the overwhelming presence and influence of the critic, promoter, and art historian Jorge Romero Brest, Victor Grippo's work is about the permanent transposition of daily life objects into artistic discourses. Responding to a constant state of social unrest and politically charged artistic manifestations, Grippo creates a totally new system of relations for those things 'that we see without seeing and which we use without knowing they contain energy.' Trained as a chemist, his artistic investigations make evident the instability, transformation and constant movement of things toward new realities. By manipulating the objects, the artist provokes numerous associations and levels of interpretation and identity; the undertones of flux mirroring social issues.
Likewise, Jac Leirner and Marco Arce look at art and art history as a vehicle for contemplation and critique. By juxtaposing his drawings of iconic works of art by other artists, or situations that are directly linked to post-war art, Arce forces the spectator -and himself, to revisit his own knowledge and understanding of art and life. Autobiographical and unusually introspective, the drawings by José Antonio Suárez record a flux of images that testify to his intimate world. He draws from a wide range of sources, both visual and literary. He zealously collects newspaper clippings, sentences and images which he later uses as references for his work. This critical situation is taken a step further by the autobiographical work of Jac Leirner. Each piece is an account of her life seen through the accumulation of everyday objects. Her work alludes to issues of time, memory and experience. By presenting the objects she encounters and collects during her journey, she is revealing her intimacy to the spectator while triggering their own memories and experiences into the understanding of the object.
Looking into memory and lived experiences, the sculptures and installations of Doris Salcedo explore the silenced stories of violence in Colombian daily life, offering them the possibility of a public mourning. Marked by anthropomorphic references and a dramatic juxtaposition of materials, objects and architectural elements taken from the domestic sphere, her work testifies to the experience of loss and pain behind those stories. Salcedo has traveled to the most remote areas of the country to meet and interview survivors. She appropriates their traumatic stories and reinterprets them in order to reconstitute a memory which will elicit collective respect. The work acts like a receptacle and space or remembrance, seeking to express and legitimize this pain, reestablishing a relationship of commitment to an empathy with the personal nature of its reality.
Not unlike the artists of her generation, issues of identity and belonging intrigue Maria Fernanda Cardoso. Her art draws inspiration from pre-Columbian myths and contemporary man's behavior in the modern, urban environments. Likewise, her fascination with preserved animals and plastic flowers is mainly derived from the consumer-oriented society and the distorted vision of nature contemporary man has. Every object responds to an unexpected representation of the natural and the urban worlds. Corona para una princesa Chibcha mixes modern and ancient myths of power and status. Likewise, Paula Santiago is looking upon messoamerican myths and local customs to address issues of colonization and identity in her work.
On the other hand, Miguel Angel Rios drew upon the legacy of Indo-American civilizations, the age of discovery and on the constructivist theories by Joaquín Torres-García, in order to create a visual language capable of substituting modern European models of representation. In his work, the elements of the American past are used to create a sense of continuity with the past.
Fabian Marcaccio, Pablo Siquier and Daniel García have examined the long legacy of painting since the renaissance and have undertaken the challenge of creating something new. Each artist approaches the issues of painting from very distinct points of departure and have managed to develop new languages within the notions of abstract, expressionist and figurative models of representation in painting. Marcaccio for example, challenged the achievements of the Abstract Expressionist and the Grupo Madi, breaking the canvas and incorporating the exhibition space into the object. Siquier has a rigorous approach to hard-edge painting that can be traced to the Grupo Madi's incursions into the flat surface and the concrete movements and their mathematical compositions, yet his language is less rigorous and responds to a more complex set of premises about surface, color and line.