Art Basel

How modern art influenced Latin American artists

How modern art influenced

Latin American artists

1863 is remembered as one of the most memorable years in art history. It was in this year that a rebel French painter named Édouard Manet finished the painting called Le Déjeuner Sur l’Herbe (‘The Luncheon on the Grass’), which was rejected by the official selection of critics and academics of the Paris Salon.

By the intervention of Napoleon III, the rejected works were part of an alternative selection in a different wing called El Salon des Refusés (‘The Hall of the rejected’), where those works that undermined the respectable themes of bourgeois society, the pictorial techniques taught by the academy, and “good taste” may be gathered. Modern art was born.

Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe. Édouard Manet

Some time later, firms such as Manet, Cezanne, Monet, Gaugin, among others, would lay the foundations for artistic avant-garde and a cornucopia of slopes, contrasts and pictorial revolutions that marked the twentieth century.

The influence of originally European movements such as impressionism, constructivism, surrealism, abstract expressionism, and so on, fertilized the seed of the so-called Latin American avant-garde, which laid the foundations of what is now considered modern art in the region.

Les Grandes Baigneuses
Paul Cézanne about 1894-1905

If it had not been for a Picasso there would not be a Diego Rivera; If it were not for a Monet there would be no Armando Reverón; If it were not for a Dalí there would be no Remedios Varo. There are so many names: Antonio Berni, Leon Ferrari, Juan Loyola, Jesús Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez, among others, artists who drink directly from an anti-academic fervor but make it their own, endowing it with Latin American past and reality.

The dominant narrative of modernism that places Latin American and Latino art in the margins emerged as a widely recognized if variably practiced field of political speech and movement.

Many initiatives employed the critique of cultural, political, and economic institutions as devices to fuse art with dystopic societies or to penetrate and subvert the repressive machinery of the state.

Vue d’Auvers (h. 1873). Paul Cézanne

During the dictatorships, Latin American artists employed conceptual strategies to undermine repressive measures and censorship, with the aim of establishing signs of disagreement that would allow critical structures to persist, in spite of the political situation.

The end of the 20th century represented a time of transition in art. It not only meant a change of the century, but the prelude to the change of the millennium. The artists sensed the need to rethink previous schemes in a new way of approaching artistic creation, a new conception of the creative act.

Jesús Rafael Soto / Doble escritura picolina, 1999
Carlos Cruz-Diez / Physichromie No. 933 / 1977

It could be argued that the Latin American art category, as we understand it today, really emerged around the 1970s. Whatever its exact origin, it has been evident to art historians, connoisseurs, and the general public that for more than 50 years, Latin American artists have made some of the most significant contributions to the traditions of Conceptualism, the Minimalism and the Art of Interpretation.

Whenever there is a need to raise your voice to modify reality or the passing environment, to challenge the limits of comfort and assumed modernity, art will be there to shake the foundations and tell us, inside or outside the gallery, that a “beyond” is possible.

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