Selected Contemporary Artworks from Patricia Phelps de Cisneros to MoMA

This post was originally published by MoMA as a digital exhibition—presenting a selection of the extraordinary artworks given by Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, and animated by the reflections of 16 MoMA curators—on January 10, 2018.


The Museum of Modern Art has received a major gift from the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros of 90 contemporary works by artists working in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela. This gift significantly enriches MoMA's holdings of works by Latin American artists, enabling the Museum to trace the shift toward video, performance, photography, and more participatory forms of art in the region, many by artists that are entering the collection for the first time.

This most recent gift complements hundreds of others given to the Museum by Patricia and Gustavo Cisneros and the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros. They join 40 works previously given over the last 16 years, and an unprecedented gift in 2016 of 102 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper made between the 1940s and 1990s by artists working in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Together these works allow the Museum to present more expansive narratives of modern art, highlighting Latin America’s integral role in the establishment of geometric abstraction as one of the pillars of art in the 20th century.


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Feliza Bursztyn, Untitled (from the series The Hysterics). c. 1967. Stainless steel and motor. 17 11/16 x 15 3/4 x 19 11/16 in. (45 x 40 x 50 cm). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Carolina Rodríguez-Cisneros

 

Starr Figura and I visited Bursztyn’s studio in Bogotá while finalizing the checklist for Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction. We were convinced she had to be included in the exhibition…and thanks to Patty Cisneros this was possible! When the motor is on (as Bursztyn intended), this rather elegant arrangement of discarded scrap metal becomes a cacophonous, vibrating, welded heap that evokes the sense of hysteria alluded to in her series title.

Sarah Meister, Curator, Department of Photography


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David Lamelas (Argentine, born 1946), Time. 1970. Performance and gelatin silver print, duration variable. Image: 9 1/16 x 22 5/16 in. (23 x 56.7 cm). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Kathy Halbreich

 

Lamelas has shaped time as a material throughout his career. He created the performance Time when he was living and working across Europe and wanted to produce artworks that he could easily transport with him. The work consists only of a set of instructions: each participant is to hold 60 seconds of time before passing it to the person next to them. This photograph, which accompanies the performance, documents the first presentation of Time.

Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art


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Victor Grippo (Argentine, 1936–2002). Analogy IV. 1972. Wood table, ceramic and plastic dishes, metal and acrylic utensils, cotton and velvet tablecloth, and organic and plastic potatoes. 29 3/4 x 37 1/8 c 23 1/8 in. (75.6 x 94.3 x 58.9 cm). (Edition 3/5). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Glenn Lowry

 

Analogy IV is a signature early work by the important Argentinian Conceptual artist Victor Grippo. The half-black-velvet, half-white-linen, draped table seems set for confrontation: elegant acrylic potatoes on the one side, their humble raw counterparts on the other. Artificiality comes face-to-face with real, proletarian materiality.

Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture


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Héctor Fuenmayor (Venezuelan, born 1949). Citrus 6906. 1973/2014. Wall paint and vinyl. Dimensions variable. Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Lord and Lady Foster

 

Citrus 6906 is a discreet but incredibly witty proposal for a monochrome painting. The work consists of an empty gallery painted yellow and a label that offers nothing but the name and product number of the Sherwin-Williams paint used. The result attains a massive presence using the humblest of means.

Yasmil Raymond, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture


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Luis Camnitzer (Uruguayan, born 1937). Sentence Reflecting the Sentence that States the Reflection. 1975. Wood, glass, and brass. 13 7/8 x 9 3/4 x 2 in. (35.2 x 24.8 x 5.1 cm). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Pedro Barbosa

 

“The primary function of the artist is [to] make him or herself useless and needed,” Camnitzer said in a 2010 interview. The simple elegance of Sentence Reflecting the Sentence that States the Reflection challenges the viewer (or reader) to add him- or herself to the work. The viewer’s participation in the sculpture—through their reflection in the glass pane and synthesis of the texts—creates a very personal, unique experience.

David Platzker, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints


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Cildo Meireles (Brazilian, born 1948). Meshes of Freedom. 1976/77. Iron and glass. 47 1/4 x 48 1/4 x 1 1/2 in. (120 x 122.6 x 3.8 cm). Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Paulo Herkenhoff

 

Meireles is a master of riddles that at once startle and empower. In this emblematic work, the glass placed between the metal grids reminds us that freedom is a precarious state: it combines both strength and fragility. Meireles’s relentless, uncompromising approach influenced an entire generation of Brazilian artists to explore the ways in which Conceptual art could function at the level of political discourse.

Yasmil Raymond, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture


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Miguel Rio Branco (Brazilian, born 1946). Blue Tango. 1984. Twenty silver dye bleach prints, overall: 51 3/4 x 62 3/16 in. (131.4 x 158 cm). Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Adriana Cisneros de Griffin

 

Rio Branco is both a photographer and a filmmaker, and I love the way the 20 images that comprise this iconic piece are like storyboards, representing the intersection of his work in photography and film. Each frame captures two boys engaged in capoeira, a highly stylized form of fighting that draws as much from ballet as karate. They are performing for the camera, and are simultaneously determined to ignore it.

Sarah Meister, Curator, Department of Photography


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Alfredo Jaar (Chilean, born 1956). He Ram. 1991. Screenprint ink on mirror. 96 1/16 x 96 1/16 x 3/16 in. (244 x 244 x 0.5 cm). Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Guillermo A. Cisneros Phelps

 

The seven lines comprising Alfredo Jaar’s He Ram are taken from Mahatma Gandhi’s grave, and represent Gandhi’s list of “Seven Social Sins.” The artist recently wrote to me reflecting, “They were the perfect representation of the moral decay of our society. They were simple, direct, clear, brilliant. Needless to say, they apply today more than ever." Jaar has used mirrors in his work since the 1980s, and, by silkscreening these words onto the surface of a mirror, pays homage to Gandhi in a deceptively simple gesture—we are implicated as we view ourselves reading, and as we observe others viewing themselves and us.

Lilian Tone, Assistant Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture


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José Alejandro Restrepo (French, active in Colombia, born 1959). Quindío Way I. 1992. Three-channel video (black and white, sound). Dimensions variable. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund

 

Quindío Way I consists of images shot by Restrepo during a journey across the Quindío Pass, an important overland route in colonial-era Colombia that is the subject of works by numerous 19th-century traveler artists. Restrepo used his video camera to document the same landscapes as these historical artists, tracking similarities and differences. The result is an installation that emphasizes the continuity of history in the present.

Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art


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Gabriel Kuri (Mexican, born 1970). Untitled (Superama II). 2005. Woven wool. 44 1/2 x 91 5/16 in. (113 x 232 cm). Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Ramiro Ortíz Mayorga

 

Kuri's tapestry depicts what would seem to be a completely forgettable receipt for purchases made during a visit to the Superama supermarket in the artist's native Mexico City—a list of acquisitions including tuna, vegetables, Cheetos, and chocolate. Transformed by the artist into a large, hand-woven tapestry, however, the everyday-ness signified by this typically ephemeral bit of paper becomes endowed with an absurd profundity.

Paulina Pobocha, Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture


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Regina José Galindo (Guatemalan, born 1974). America's Family Prison. 2008. Video (color, sound). 54:49 min. Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Agnes Gund and the Art for Justice Fund

 

To make America’s Family Prison, Galindo moved her family into the same kind of mobile detention unit that private contractors use to house imprisoned migrants along the US-Mexico border. Galindo and her family spent 36 hours in the space. This record of their voluntary imprisonment draws attention to America’s growing private prison industry and its perverse accommodation of the nuclear family unit.

Giampaolo Bianconi, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art


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Alejandro Cesarco (Uruguayan, born 1975). Present Memory. 2009. Video (color, silent). 3 min. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund

 

Present Memory is a portrait of the artist’s father, a physician, soon after his diagnosis with cancer. In the video, 16mm footage Cesarco had previously shot in his father’s office is projected onto the same space, producing a ghostly record of presence and loss. Like many of Cesarco’s works, Present Memory explores the relationship between recording technologies and lived human experience.

Stuart Comer, Chief Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art


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Cinthia Marcelle (Brazilian, born 1974). Leitmotiv. 2011. Video (color, sound). 4:16 min. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of João Carlos de Figueiredo Ferraz

 

Cinthia Marcelle’s videos recast workaday tasks as poetic performances. In Leitmotiv, the labor of washing a sidewalk with a mop and soapy water becomes the unexpected occasion for a street-level whirlpool. As with most of Marcelle’s videos, Leitmotiv is shot from a bird’s-eye view, emphasizing its abstraction despite its everyday origins.

Giampaolo Bianconi, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art


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Amalia Pica (Argentine, born 1978). Venn Diagrams (Under the Spotlight). 2011. Spotlights and motion sensors. Dimensions variable. Promised gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Stuart Comer

 

Pica installs two colored stage lights on a common stand, so that they project overlapping circles of light. On an accompanying caption, Pica explains that the use of Venn diagrams was banned from grade schools during the Argentinian dictatorship in the 1970s: such mapping of the relations of inclusion and exclusion might encourage subversive thought. In the relay Pica sets up between object, image, and text, she seems to be asking, How does form take on meaning? And what meanings do we project onto forms?

Leah Dickerman, Director, Editorial and Content Strategy