Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, USA
October 4, 2019 – March 1, 2020
The Norton Museum of Art today announced its fall exhibition, The Body Says, I Am a Fiesta: The Figure in Latin American Art, which is the first in a planned series of projects dedicated to Latin American artists.
Largely drawn from the Norton’s permanent collection, the exhibition addresses ideas about the body and its symbolic and societal implications in modern Latin American cultures. The show presents paintings, photography, sculpture, and works on paper by artists active in Latin America and the United States between the 1930s and 2010s.
Artists represented in the exhibition include: the three great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros as well as Mexican artists Eunice Adorno, José Luis Cuevas, Rufino Tamayo; Cuban artists Ana Mendieta, Amelia Peláez del Casal, Pavel Acosta, Carlos Alom, and María Magdalena Campos- Pons. Other Latin American artists featured include Brazilian Vik Muniz, Colombian Fernando Botero, Ecuadorian Oswaldo Guayasamín, Salvadorian Ronald Morán, and Peruvian Javier Silva-Meinel. Art Bridges, a non-profit organization founded by Alice Walton to share American Art with museums throughout the country, will add to the exhibition with the loan of Untitled (LA), 1991, a conceptual installation by Félix González-Torres that is part of a series of works often referred to as “candy spills.”
“The Body Says, I Am a Fiesta explores figural representation, exemplifying both the universal elements of the body and the external forces acting upon it,” said exhibition curator J. Rachel Gustafson, Assistant Curator at the Norton Museum of Art. “That tension is key for many of the Latin American artists in this exhibition, reflecting a history often laden with discrimination. While some artworks in the exhibition function as portraits, the majority differ in their depictions of what the human body can communicate, from the political to the sacred, from agents of aguish to places of solace.”
“The Norton is very pleased to offer an inaugural exploration of work by Latin American artists produced since the 1930s,” said Norton Director and CEO Elliot Bostwick Davis. “This show marks the beginning of a new initiative of exhibitions and public programming at the Norton to promote the far-reaching, but underrepresented, contributions of Latin American artists in North American museums.”
The exhibition engages with the Norton’s American Art Collection, which is on view on the first floor, and expands into the Reyes Gallery on the second floor. Situated within the American Collection galleries, to emphasize Latin American artists’ contributions to the history of American art, are the works of Modernists from Mexico and Cuba produced prior to 1960. These include the “Big Three” Mexican muralists: Diego Rivera (1886-1957), José Clemente Orozco (1883-1949), and David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974), as well as Cuban Modernist painter Amelia Peláez del Casal (1896-1968). Her painting of an abstracted female form, against a stylized, stained-glass-inspired background, stands in noticeable contrast to the Spanish Civil War veteran Siquieros’ more sculptural portrait made in roughly the same period.
The Reyes Gallery on the second floor exhibits art from the 1960s to 2017. Highlights will include a painting and related sculpture by Rufino Tamayo (Mexican, 1899-1991), which together explore the artist’s attempts at depicting ‘universal’ forms to reinforce the realities of rural Mexican communities’ labor conditions. Political undertones and stylized forms are also evident in the tortured face and exaggerated hands of a figure in a painting by Oswaldo Guayasamín (Ecuadorian, 1919-1999), inspired by Ecuador’s political unrest at the time.
Themes of loss and corporeal memories are addressed by later artists such as Ana Mendieta (Cuban, 1948-1985), María Martínez-Cañas (American, born Cuba, 1960), and Ronald Morán (Salvadorian, born 1972). The participatory installation of candy by Félix González-Torres (Cuban, active United States, 1957-1996) relates to similar ideas of mourning.
The work of María Magdalena Campos-Pons (Cuban, born 1959) portrays the body as a vehicle to articulate family history and heritage. This idea can also be seen in the photographs of Javier Silva-Meinel (Peruvian, born 1949). Capturing sitters from the Andean region, with various props of their choosing, he presents a fusion of past and present Peruvian culture. A photograph from the series Pictures of Chocolate by Vik Muniz (Brazilian, born 1961) exemplifies ‘art about art’ as he uses chocolate sauce to render a precise scene of Frank Stella painting in his studio and then photographs the result. Like Muniz, Pavel Acosta (Cuban, born 1975) uses non-traditional materials, in this case sheetrock, to examine icons of the Western art world and their depictions of the body. His re-creation of a painting by Gustave Courbet (French, 1819-1877) critiques the lack of Latin American visibility in the art-historical canon.
The exhibition’s title originates from a book of short stories and folklore called Walking Words by Uruguayan journalist, writer, and novelist Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015). The book includes a recurrent sequence of maxims Galeano called “Windows” and his “Window on the Body” illustrates the conflicting ways institutions regard, study, exploit, and extol the human body. Galeano’s “fiesta” reference (below) speaks to a ritualized celebration and coming together:
“The church says: The body is a sin.
Science says: The body is a
machine. Advertising says: The body
is a business. The body says: I am a fiesta.”
The Body Says, I Am a Fiesta is organized by the Norton Museum of Art. The concept for the exhibition was inspired by the 2018-2019 Norton Fellow, Lesley A. Wolff, Ph.D.
Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Eunice Adorno, José Luis Cuevas, Rufino Tamayo, Ana Mendieta, Amelia Peláez del Casal, Pavel Acosta, Carlos Alom, María Magdalena Campos- Pons, Vik Muniz, Fernando Botero, Oswaldo Guayasamín, Ronald Morán, Javier Silva-Meinel, Félix González-Torres.