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Inverted Utopias: Avant-garde Art from Latin America

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Bicho by Lygia       Clark

(Madí superstructure [Cut-out Edges with Shaped Frame) by Rhod        Rothfuss

Jefa (Patroness) by Xul       Solar

O atirador de arco (The Bowman) by Vicente Do Rego        Monteiro

Totems by Francisco        Matto

Totems by Francisco        Matto
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston,
Jun 20, 2004 - Sep 12, 2004
Houston, TX, USA

Inverted Utopias
by Annie Laurie Sánchez

"Cryptic and Committed," featuring works by Luis Camnitzer, Cildo Meireles, Luis Benedit and Tucumán Arde, is marked by works whose goal is to create alternative or subversive methods of communication, particularly in response to artists living under authoritarian regimes. Writing, or obscured writing, is often a way to signify the thwarted communications imposed by censorship, although many artists also use objects or even turn to artistic activism, as in the case of Tucumán Arde.

"Progression and Rupture" primarily showcases works that sought avant-garde forms while aiming to make a break with traditional functions of art and traditional methods of viewing art. Many of these pieces are either kinetic or interactive in one way or another. Lygia Clark, Helio Oiticica, Joaquin Torres-Garcí­a and Guyla Kosice. The MFAH recreated one of Lygia Clark’s Bichos especially for this exhibition, so while viewers may not touch the original, they may get the full experience of manipulating the sculpture as Clark intended by playing with the replica.

"Universal and Vernacular" draws works together under the bracket of the artists’ simultaneous use of abstraction as a universal language and specific signs that reference the "vernacular" - in this case meaning various indigenous groups of the Americas. Joaquin Torres-Garcí­a, singled out as the founder of this double language in his native Uruguay, is featured along with his students Julio Alpuy, Gonzalo Fonseca and Francisco Matto. One of the "great three" of Mexico, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Argentinean painter Xul Solar also have works in this constellation. This section concludes the tour through the traditional gallery spaces.

Upon emerging from the interior galleries, one finds that one has made a circuit, and is now once more in the space of "Play and Grief." With a quick jaunt up some stairs to the mezzanine, however, one finds oneself in an altogether different space. The mezzanine is open and flooded with natural light. Here one finds the constellations "Touch and Gaze" and "Vibrational and Stationary."

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