CONTEMPORARY LATIN AMERICAN MASTERS


[1] [2] [3]


(1) Fernando Botero, "Femme Meiade de Valentino", o/c, 64 1/2 x 47", 1981.
(2) Roberto Matta, "Fleur de Midi", o/c, 49 x 41 1/2", 1956
(3) Armando Morales, "Las Banistas", oil on paper on canvas, 24 x 21", 1995

by Margarita Nieto

(Chac-Mool Gallery, West Hollywood) While all of the fifteen artists who appear here have been long established in Latin America, Europe, and New York, this show represents a Los Angeles debut for a number of them. The show was organized to coincide with the publication in English of Marie-Pierre Colle's book, Latin American Masters in Their Studios (New York: Vendome Press, 1995), and was informed also by a symposium held in November at the Pacific Design Center. As a journalist with enormous familiarity with the international art world (indeed, her father was the renowned French dealer Pierre Colle, and she and her sisters posed for a series of paintings by Balthus over a thirteen year period), Colle has conceived a simultaneous recognition of these artists' contribution to Latin American art history as well as a review and revision of what Lation American art is.

That vision is made up of a multiplicity of views drawn on the energy of Western, Indian, Black African, Mulatto and Mestizo traditions that are collectively reflected in a visual language that is evident in the works selected for this exhibition.

Yet, if the multiplicity of approaches in this show seem puzzling to those unfamiliar with the artists and the world of Latin American art, it is because these myriad visual directions mirror the extensions, directions and influences that inform making art in Latin America. You can move from the controlled, painterly surface of a Tamayo mural to Jacobo Borges' or Antonio Segui's neo-figuration. Gunther Gerzo's geometric spatial conception and the surrealistic, illusory worlds of Roberto Matta mirror the extensions, directions and influences that inform art making in Latin America. Influences, one might add, that have spanned any part of the globe during the last quarter of the 20th century. What this sampling reveals is the participation of these artists within the overarching discourse and narrative of modern and postmodern aesthetics.

Fernando Botero's Femme Habille par Valentino draws from the painterly tradition of the Colonial period as well as from popular art ceramics, particularly in the clarity of line and in the muted and highly controlled palette. But there are, in this witty parody of fashion versus obesity, strong references as well to a knowledge of space and volume of Italian Renaissance painting as well as an affinity with the balloon-like female figures of Wilhelm DeKooning, who Botero know in New York during the 1960s.

Armando Morales' Las Banistas (The Bathers) reveals as well a preoccupation with the problem of color and volume. Morales pays homage to a classical tradition as well in his superb composition and balance of form. Enhanced by a rigorous dark-toned palette, which affords a strong interplay of light and shadow, these female figures synonymous with Morales' language are charged with a mystical subtlety. Their power lies in eradicating the futile obsession of categorizing these works and these artists by geographical or national boundaries.