Regarding OP…timism

May 18, 2014

Around 1989, there developed a formidable collusion of academia, collectors and institutions proposing to eradicate the cancer of the surrealist-fantastic-muralist-revolutionary genealogy that still appeared as the necessary reference for any Latin-Americanist panorama. The cause could perhaps be seen as a horizontal expansion of European taste for abstraction and the re-activation of Modernist sensitivity through the discovery of an extremely rich geometric deposit that decades-long exclusion held up as unexplored territory. The acceptance of a “parallel Modernism” actually stimulated the rescue of the Modernist sensitivity from its post-Pollockian tedium, and the sudden re-evaluation of an enormous secondary market for auctionable works made a range of neo-Modernist stimulation games possible in the synergy between curatorship, collecting and historiographic production. The label of abstraction made it tenable to place the typefaces of Mira Schendel side-by-side with the painted crypto-writing of Ferrari; the temporal differences in Gego’s drawings without paper as a criticism of Venezuelan art from the 1970s no longer seemed asynchronous with and antagonistic to the neo-Concretist boom in Brazil a decade earlier; and Hélio Oiticica’s deployment of colour-matter could burn on the same bonfire as Venezuela’s kinetic vibration.

More recently, the Constructive nexus has ended up being used to wage a decidedly nostalgic apology in favour of the post-war moment when Latin America offered the structural opposite of Europe’s existentialist anguish, and dulled the subcontinent’s stereotype as the region with its veins opened by violence, poverty, imperialism and desperation. In the words of Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, looking to the Constructivist art of the south reminds us that there was once “a time when Latin America was a beacon of hope and progress…”. That this vision of the “Geometry of Hope” entailed a retroactive clearance of blame for the economic and social disasters that had occurred due to the pro-development lobby was a small price to pay for the project of our inclusion. 
Now, in the early years of the 21st century, the rescue of the Constructivist tradition has tended to fill fairs and galleries with works that resort to claims of inheritance for validation, as if that heritage of references could guarantee some semblance of vitality or cultural continuity.