Expect nothing less than sophistication as El Museo Del Barrio’s current exhibitions will equally stimulate and bemuse the mind, educating and enlightening 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 a markedly different form of abstraction in which language, rather than aestheticism, is the primary tool within the art process. The other notable exhibition on display at El Museo Del Barrio is the collective works of Luis Camnitzer. His politically saturated 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, to process orientated, to two dimensional, and three dimensional styles, all the works provide a perceptual microscope into each artist’s own personal and psychological viewpoint. The group of artists’ involved primarily focus to redefine the very processes 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) photographically presents a metaphorical portrayal of urban life in Latin America. The main focal image being a partially constructed building complex has seemingly been abandoned in the foreground. Contrastingly a noticeably attractive white building lays diminishingly small in the background in the bottom left hand corner. Though the geometric dynamism of the unattended 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 singular panel consisting of multiple marks and forms rendered on multiple panels. Universal’s affinity for 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 particular region or structure. Furthermore Universal’s red and white palette perceptively reflects red and white blood cells while composite element of the painting perfectly harmonises abstraction and representation. Unlike the stringent structure employed by Universal, Caio Fonseca’s Ultramarino (2008) utilises forms more sparingly affording the viewer to “breathe” within the colour field painting. Fonseca’s forms are irregular but like Universal’s limited colour palette, Fonseca’s singular 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 and ability to play 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 avidly 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 is gracious enough to bestow his viewers a 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 artist’s conceptual works perceptively voice 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 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 concerning power and oppression. For instance Compass (2003) photographically includes a single compass pointing in a northerly direction. The focal 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) dually tackles language and conceptualism explicitly. With the word Horizon printed partially, one can denote an immediate sense of precariousness and disorder. The bold typewriter font asserts a level of attentiveness that reinforces a conceptual perception with the word Horizon conjuring visual imageries of atmospheric distances, infinite time, even the future; its incompleteness heightens the viewer’s awareness that such an erasure is in essence, an ominous signifier of a departure, a failure, even perhaps a prosperous and pragmatic future that was once to be, is now unforeseeable.
Though all the works are intensely political in subject matter, they are inspiringly intelligent in execution. Ultimately the message that El Museo Del Barrio presents to the international community through Voecs Y Visiones and Luis Camnitzer isn’t one of political equality, nor is it one that calls for social equality. The message is purely nationalism, the works reflecting 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.