WORDS MATTER: Latin American Art at the Forefront
The Blanton in Austin proudly displays the exhibition Words/ Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton, organized by Beverly Adams, Curator of Latin American Art and Florencia Bazzano, Assistant Curator of Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum.
Words/Matter highlights the depth and breadth of the Blanton’s Latin American collection, featuring approximately 150 works in a variety of media, dating from the 1930s to the present. A powerful exhibition prepared in record time simultaneously for both the Blanton Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid and that brings Latin American Art at the Forefront.
One of the pieces that caught my attention when I went to see this exhibition for the first time at the Blanton Museum was a large piece of brown pin striped fabric that covered a portion of a wall almost from the floor to the ceiling. It concerned the Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. The fabric resembled that of the tailor made pin striped suits she wore most of the time, and here, upon the fabric had several embroidered squares with various phrases of poetry.
I confess that I went back to see the exhibition several times. Each time I found more fascinating things in the same vein as the suit fabric that brought to mind Gabriela Mistral; such as: a record sleeve for a 45 disc from Brazilian singer Cayetano Veloso, the paper totem by Matías Goeritz, the witty cardboard signs by Alejandro Diaz. The typographical patterns of Mexican artist Carlos Amorales and the art of Catalina Parra from Chile, “Personas”.
I talked to Florencia Bazzano in an exclusive interview for La Revista Mujer and she related the following:
Florencia Bazzano is originally from Argentina. She came to the United States in 1983. She studied Art History in the University of Texas, and earned her PhD from the University of Albuquerque New México at Albuquerque. Part of her initial career was teaching Latin American Art, and later as an art curator at several important museums in the United States.
She has written several books including a book about Argentine artist Liliana Porter and the Art of Simulation, published by Taylor & Francis Ltd., as well as a recent essay in The Art Museums of Latin America: Structuring Representation. Just three years ago she started working with the Blanton Museum in Austin, Texas and her work as a curator has been outstanding. She started as a curatorial researcher and is currently the Assistant Curator of Latin American Art.
Florencia, how did the idea of forming the Words Matter exhibition came about?
This exhibition emerged in an indirect way. Beverly Adams was working on a different exhibition called The Avant-garde Networks of Amauta: Argentina, Mexico, and Peru in the 1920s, about the magazine AMAUTA published in Perú (1926-1930), whose director was José Carlos Mariátegui. Due to its rescheduling at a later date we had the opportunity to present this other show. We decided it should focus on the relationship between art and language.What are the objectives of the exhibition?
We started focusing mainly on artists, and how they play with the written word. As we began to investigate in the language, we discovered that the presence and subject of the written word in the art in our collection was very strong.What were the biggest challenges in assembling this exhibition?
The biggest challenge was time. We only had one year to organize everything not only for one but two exhibitions at the same time since The Avant-garde Networks of Amauta opened at the same time at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Spain. Words/Matter – The second exhibition will be in the Queen Sofia Museum in Spain. It was really a team job. Another challenge was to get loans of artworks to complement the exhibition.
Where the art loans did came from?
We have a beautiful work from the Museum of Fine Arts Houston by Waldemar Codeiro, who was a concrete artist from Brazil. It is a language installation with movable letters. The Benson Latin American Library here in Austin was a partner in these projects, because they had many examples of art that includes language. For example, they loaned examples of concrete poetry from Brazil, Pop-up books, 3d books and a series of scripts. The Harry Ransom Center loaned a work by Octavio Paz and, Vicente Rojo, another collaboration between visual artists and writers..
This form of artistic visual expression, by way of the written word, was stronger in the 60s and 70s. Why is that, do you think?
It was always strong, strong from early on. It started in the 1920s. As collages and in conceptual art, even stronger in the 1960s up until today. Whether they use words as images or present images as written signs, contemporary artists have found words to be key tools to communicate messages of a personal, poetic or political nature, wherever you find engravings, words and posters with political messages.
Have some of the featured artists come to the museum for talks during the duration of this exhibition?
Yes, we will have and already had several important and very interesting presentations. On March 7, we had Alejandro Diaz, who made a presentation on the art of San Antonio created there during the 1990s and the emergence of San Antonio’s contemporary artistic community. On April 18, we had the artist Leandro Katz, who talked about the exhibition, which includes his works Ñ and Column XI as well as his approach to the alphabet. And we invite you on May 1st, to a presentation by Dr. Gina Tarver, Associate Professor of Art History, at Texas State University regarding Colombian artists who, from the 1970s, combined words and materials that intelligently address current social, economic and political problems.Florencia, could you give me a word or phrase, the first thing that comes to your mind, to describe the following artists who are part of this exhibition:
Paulo Bruscky (Brazil): Unorthodox and creative
Augusto de Campos and Julio Plaza (Brazil) Visual poetry, powerful messages,
Antonio Caro (Colombia); Powerful messages,
Nury González (Chile) Exploration of fema
le writers, powerful,
Jorge Macchi (Argentina); Humor,
Leandro Katz (Argentina) Brilliant,
JAC (Jacqueline) Leirner (Brazil); she collects the unexpected,
José Clemente Orozco (Mexico) Muralist, visual intelligence,
Mira Schendel (Switzerland-Brazil); Great subtlety,
Edgardo Antonio Vigo (Argentina). Sensitivity for paper. Paper poetry.
What do you expect the visitors to feel after seeing this exhibition?
That people will feel that, there is a lot to learn and explore, that it is a beginning of communication, rather than a simple entrance to an exhibition. You learn a lot, and it’s also fun, for example, I’m surprised to find artists I didn’t know of, like Claudia del Rio, an Argentinean artist known for her mail art, and her collage-style art with pictures of the brands of soaps used for washing clothes!
Don’t forget to visit the Blanton Museum to view this tremendous and unique exhibition, Words/ Matter. Witness the fascination of artists with the written word, from the creation of alphabets and metaphysical signs to the visual experiments of specific Brazilian poets in the decade of the 1960s, along with many, many more surprises such a snazzy typewriter upon a table available for guests to experiment with letters of their own! You will view written words in a very different way.
So hurry, this exhibition will be open only until May 26, 2019. Trust me on this; this is “a Must See”. Plan ahead as you may want to return and view this exhibition more than once, words that matter!