November 14th

South & About!  is a student-organized research workshop on the arts from Latin America and the Caribbean. This program invites graduate students and emerging scholars in art history and related disciplines to participate in informal discussions amongst their peers.

Axonometry Across the Atlantic:  Architectonic Arte Madí

Elise Chagas, PhD student in Art History, Princeton University

Reproduction of Alberto Sartoris, Notre Dame du Phare, 1931, axonometric plan, and Gyula Kosice, Ecuación de tres planos blancos, ca. 1951, oil on wood, in Madí no. 5 (Buenos Aires, 1951), reprinted in Arte Madí: Edición Facsimilar (Buenos Aires: Biblioteca Nacional, 2014).

Axonometric projection is a representational mode in which all sides of a given object are visible at once to an imagined viewer in an unfixed position. Historically found in architectural drawing, engineering, and mechanical instruction, axonometry has been an inconsistent presence throughout the history of art. This paper concerns its use and abuse by the artists involved with Arte Madí in Argentina and Uruguay between 1946 and 1954. In the iconic irregular frames of the group’s collective painting practice, I show how the non-Euclidean geometries, and the rotatability (and in some cases reversibility) of the canvas achieve a dynamism proper to a conception of spacetime visualized in axonometric perspective. I trace the appearance of axonometry within the movement’s self-theorization to argue that these artists developed the heuristic potential of the technique in their projective rhetoric and architectonic aspirations.

Twisting the Modernist Curve: Mary Vieira’s Polyvolume: Meeting Point, 1960-1970

Luisa Valle, Doctoral Candidate in Art History, The Graduate Center/CUNY

Mary Vieira, Polyvolume: ponto de encontro (Polyvolume: Meeting Point), 1960-1970.

Mary Vieira’s kinetic, temporal, and sensorial concretism problematizes conventional narratives of Brazilian concrete and neoconcrete art. Vieira relocated to Switzerland in 1951, missing much of the development of concretism and neoconcretism in the country. However, her public works from the 1960s and 70s highlight the proximity of her practice with a genealogy of postwar Brazilian art that merged formalistic concerns with perception theories. If some of the distinctions between concretism and neo-concretism rest on the contrast between individual and collective experiences, industrial rationalism and de-skilling, passive contemplation versus active participation, Vieira’s public works, produced in Switzerland yet displayed in Brazil, complicate these classifications. My presentation offers a transhistorical account of Vieira’s Polyvolume: ponto de encontro (Polyvolume: Meeting Point), 1960-1970, a site-specific work commissioned for the vestibule of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters, the Itamaraty Palace, in Brasilia to investigate the ways in which her work continues to negotiate notions of concrete art, public art, public space, and public history in Brazil. Adopting Henri Lefebvre’s triad model for the production of space as an organizational tool–designed, lived, and symbolic space—I approach Vieira’s workasan ongoing interaction of social and spatial relationships, a process of production rather than an autonomous object. Looking at the individual and collective experiences proposed by the work, I seek to critically examine the political potency of Vieira’s Polyvolume in negotiating public art and public space as both a constitutive part of Brasilia’s utopian modernism and as evidence of its failure.

September 26th

The Museum in Times of Revolution Taken Over by Red Muses. Exhibitions histories about women artists at the Museum of Fine Art in Santiago during the Unidad Popular (Chile, 1969-1973)

Amalia Cross, Ph. D. Student in History, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Santiago, Chile. Visiting Research Scholar at CUNY.

During the government of the Unidad Popular (UP, 1970–1973), when democratically elected President Salvador Allende established socialism in Chile, museums underwent an important transformation directly related to the historical and political context in which they existed. A key antecedent in this cultural transformation process was a program developed by Nemesio Antúnez, a ‘radical museology’ beginning in 1969. As director of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Antúnez rethought the function and significance of the conventional museum through a series of conceptual interventions by recognized artists, particularly women (artists), such as Liliana Porter, Cecilia Vicuña, Valentina Cruz and Lea Lublin. In this presentation I am going to analyze their exhibitions, inquiring how they expressed the need of a new living, dynamic and inclusive museum. I will look at how these women artists took an important role in the transformation processes to propose and defend new political ideas about art, feminism, revolution and social commitment. With these exhibitions they not only inspire also made revolutionary initiatives in the way of conceiving the museum as ‘laboratory of invention’, important changes against the canon which were truncated by the coup d’etat and the beginning of the military dictatorship in Chile.

‘Highlights of the Markets’: The Newspaper Works of Alfredo Ramos Martínez

Mia Curran, PhD Student at the Graduate Center, CUNY

Upon relocating from Mexico City to Los Angeles in 1929, Alfredo Ramos Martínez radically transformed his subject and style. The artist, who is most widely recognized for his crucial role as the founder of the Open-Air Painting Schools (Escuelas de Pinturas al Aire Libre) in Mexico, abandoned the Impressionist-inflected easel paintings of landscapes and aristocratic women that he created in Europe and Mexico between 1900 and 1928, and began producing murals depicting Mexican scenes in an Art Deco style. This presentation will focus on a lesser known body of drawings on newsprint that Ramos Martínez produced while living in California. In these works, he rendered indigenous Mexican types and lush flora—often images isolated from his contemporaneous murals—atop classified listings from local newspapers, which advertise services and goods, including properties, automobiles, beauty products, and construction materials. I will consider how Ramos Martínez exploits the interplay of text and image in these works to obliquely comment on his role as a Mexican artist producing work for U.S. consumers. I will argue that by positioning his characteristic imagery atop local commercial listings, Ramos Martínez aligns his images with the goods for sale. Thus, the newspaper drawings generate a self-reflexive commentary about his labor as a Mexican artist endeavoring to satisfy the demands of U.S. patrons who were hungry for the artist’s highly stylized representations of a Mexico that was at once bucolic and brutal.