Expect nothing less than sophistication as El Museo Del Barrio’s latest exhibitions equally stimulate and bemuse the mind of the viewers with art created by both traditional and a new generation of urban Latin American artists. Voces Y Visiones: Signs Systems and the City present markedly different forms of abstraction that collectively and perceptually address issues of social and political degradation. The other notable exhibition on display at El Museo Del Barrio is the collective works of Luis Camnitzer. His politically works deal with language more explicitly with relation to urban development in Latin America.
Voces Y Visiones exhibits works that evoke a yearning for everlasting societal change, showcasing a myriad of conceptual and stylistic approaches. Ranging from floor installations, two dimensional, and three dimensional styles, all the works provide a perceptual microscope into each artist’s own personal viewpoint. The group of artists’ involved primarily focus on redefining the very term of “abstraction” and “representation” in art; Oscar Munoz’s Ambulatorio (2003) reflects quite abstractly the grid work of his photographical floor piece, while shattered glass laid over the four photographs presents a bleak aerial representation of an urban landscape with the glass evoking a dangerous and hap-hazard environment. Similarly, Alexander Apostal’s Skeleton Coast IV (2004) presents a bleak portrayal of urban life in Latin America. The main focal image is a partially constructed building complex that has seemingly been abandoned in the foreground. In contrast a noticeable white building stands diminishingly small, yet vividly, in the background in the bottom left hand corner. The geometric dynamism of the isolated building activates the entire composition, the metaphorical message conveyed is ominous; the message being that governmental negligence is seemingly all too common within urban development in Latin America.
Vargas-Suarez Universal’s Virus Americanus XII (2003) is a large panel consisting of multiple overlapping marks and forms rendered on several panels. Universal’s affinity with science, particularly astrophysics and organic chemistry is distinctly reflected in his overly methodically clustered system of mark making which bare similar resemblances to chromosome testing charts, while the numerous overlapping forms wholly resemble a satellite- like image of a geographical region or structure. Furthermore Universal’s red and white palette reflects red and white blood cells, while compositionally the painting harmonise abstraction and representation. Unlike the rigid structure employed by Universal, Caio Fonseca’s Ultramarino (2008) utilises colour forms sparingly affording the viewer to “breathe” in the colour field painting. Fonseca’s forms are irregular but like Universal’s use of a limited colour palette, Fonseca’s choice of ultramarine derives from a personal passion for classical music. Fonseca’s economical use of his blue is most likely attributed to the artist’s adoration for classical music, more precisely the music of Bach. The sincerity and energy that each blue colour form encapsulates, radiates vividly against the dirt beige colour field triggering a melodiously soothing overtone. Despite the paintings’ abstracted representation of musical notes, Fonseca claims that he does not intend to re-tell or recreate a particular story or event. In fact the artist believes that each viewer will find it in themselves to construct their own story or message in his artworks many shapes and lines.
Luis Camnitzer however does afford an explicit narrative concerning the political temperature in Latin America. Camnitzer’s self titled solo exhibition includes an eclectic range of works that reflects the artist’s attitude in what can only be described as upfront- the works perceptively voicing a “…sense of wanting to change society.” The meaning of change is one that viewers are intended to query by constructing and deconstructing the works reflecting on individual perceptions, assumptions, and the self consciousness. Most, if not all, of Camnitzer’s works explore the relationships between images, objects, and texts creating for a language that tackles issues of power and oppression. For instance Compass (2003) is a single compass pointing in a northerly direction. The picture conveys the essence of time; the past, present, and the future. The compass symbolises a periodical time and direction that has remained unchanged today since colonial Latin America. While Compass meanders between language, image, and concept, Camnitzer’s etching titled Horizon (1968) tackles language and conceptualism. With the word Horizon printed, one can discern an immediate sense of precariousness and disorder. The bold typewriter font conveys a level of attentiveness with the word Horizon conjuring visual imageries of infinite time, even the future; its incompleteness heightens the viewer’s awareness of an ominous signifier of a failure, even perhaps a prosperous and pragmatic future that was once to be, is now unforeseeable.
Though all the works are political in subject matter, they are intelligent in execution. The message that El Museo Del Barrio ultimately presents to the international community through Voces Y Visiones and Luis Camnitzer isn’t one of political equality, nor is it one that calls for social equality. The message is purely nationalistic; to reflect on a history that was once rich and vital, but has now succumbed to decline and obscurity. To develop and enrich that history into the future is as vital as remembering and preserving it in the present is a message that translates through both Voces Y Visiones and Luis Camnitzer.