September 14, 2007

Latin American abstraction, 1930s-1970s

"The Geometry of Hope: Latin American Abstract Art From the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Collection," organized by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, curator of Latin American art at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas, Austin, where it originated. Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, NY. Through Dec. 8. For an interactive exploration of the artwork on the Blanton Museum website, click here.

Roberta Smith writes in the NYTimes that "The Geometry of Hope" adds a new chapter to the historical narrative of geometric abstraction. "Works in the Buenos Aires section of the show reveal that even during World War II, Latin American artists were destabilizing Mondrian’s stable grid with the tilting planes and diagonal lines of Russian Suprematism. Reliefs made by Mr. Melé, as well as by Raúl Lozza and Juan Alberto Molenberg, helped ignite a spirit of physical experimentation that is evident throughout this exhibition. Meanwhile, a penchant for an almost weightless, prancing linearity that owed something to late Kandinsky appears in the paintings of Mr. Hlito, Virgilio Villalba and Gregorio Vardánega. Next to this skittering energy, the four-square boxes and grids of American Minimalism can look pretty flat-footed." Read more.

In the NY Sun, James Gardner reports that the artists in "The Geometry of Hope" may be unknown to the Chelsea-centric NYC crowd, but that doesn't mean they aren't accomplished. "As such, the show will appear as something of a surprise. For the abstract paintings and sculptures on view are hardly the second hand, thrice warmed-over derivatives you might expect from a region of the world that looked so longingly toward Europe and from so far away. The one fact that sears itself most emphatically and instantaneously upon the eyeball is how very accomplished and self-assured they are. This is an art that needs no apologies and no special pleading. It stands forth on its own two feet." Read more.

In Time Out New York, Joshua Mack reports that "while some of the paintings here can seem derivative, most of the work is remarkably original and visually stunning....What 'The Geometry of Hope' finally suggests, however, is that the differences in quality and character inherent in art are not and need not be equal. Rather, culture is born of the exchange and alteration of ideas and processes that, like evolution, are deeply affected by local conditions over time. What can seem provincial to American eyes might well be historically important elsewhere. And at a time when globalization makes work from other cultures increasingly accessible, such art can, in turn, influence our own. This show and the links it draws between context, artists and art itself should serve as a model for future surveys of its kind." Read more.

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