Latin America in Art History and Criticism

Article excerpt

Gerardo Mosquera, ed. Beyond the Fantastic: Contemporary Art Criticism from Latin America. London: Institute of International Visual Arts and Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996. Essays by Nestor Garcia Canclini, Andrea Giunta, Paulo Herkenhoff, Mirko Lauer, Ticio Escobar, Pierre E. Bocquet, Mosquera, Nelly Richard, Luis Camnitzer, Tomas YbarraFrausto, Guillermo Gomez-Pena, George Yodice, Carolina Ponce de Leon, Mari Carmen Ramirez, Monica Amor, Celeste Olalquiaga, Gabriel Peluffo Linari, and Gustavo Buntix. 343 PP., i5 color ills, 31 b/w. $ 25 paper.

Annick Sanjurjo. Contemporary Latin American Artists: Exhibitions at the Organization of American States, 1941-I964. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 1997. 506 pp., i b/w ill. $75.

Edward Sullivan, ed. Latin American Art in the Twentieth Century. London: Phaidon, 1996. Essays by Teresa del Conde, Monica Kupfer, Giulio Blanc and Gerardo Mosquera, Jeanette Miller, Enrique Garcia Gutierrez, Rina Carvajal, Ivonne Pini, Lenin ODa, Natalia Majluf, Ivo Mesquita, Pedro Querejazu, Ticio Escobar, Alicia Haber, Marcelo Pacheco, Milan Ivelic, and Victor Zamudio-Taylor. 352 pp., 300 color ills., co b/w. $69.95.

Everyone who teaches, conducts research, and curates exhibitions of modern Latin American art knows what a pressing need exists for art historical scholarship and contemporary art criticism within the field. Professors also require access to writings by Latin American critics and scholars in English translation for many of our students. Over the past several years, beginning in the late eighties, there has been a proliferation of substantial (if often controversial) exhibitions accompanied by hefty catalogues that provide the most readily available source of scholarship on Latin American art in English. Journals such as Third Text and Art Nexus present other venues for current writing, and the Winter 1992 issue of Art Journal devoted itself to Latin American art history and criticism. However, so far no one has published a single comprehensive text on the history of modern Latin American art that could be used in survey, upper-division, or graduate-level courses. Just such a comprehensive history by Jacqueline Barnitz, professor of Latin American art history at the University of Texas, Austin, is forthcoming from the University of Texas Press.

Granted, this is a young field, and there are few university programs in this country where modern Latin American art history is taught in any systematic fashion. However, more universities and colleges are at least providing introductory courses, and now a handful offer graduate programs in the study of modern and contemporary Latin American art. In other words, there is a real academic market for both general and more specialized publications in the field.

Precisely because this is a relatively new area of study, much basic research has yet to be undertaken on the history of art in many countries in Central and South America and the Caribbean. There are substantial gaps in our knowledge, particularly of the nineteenth century. However, in the late nineties there is also the more general question of whether a survey of Latin American art would, in fact, be desirable. We have wrestled in our discipline for the last two decades with the usefulness, or lack thereof, of the classic survey texts such as Janson and Gardner, as well as more recent additions to that genre. Are mono-- vocal metahistories valid any longer? The proliferating anthologies of historically significant critical, theoretical, historical, and analytical readings in European and U.S. art history seem to be filling a pedagogical need to provide students (and scholars) with writings that cover the breadth and depth of our discipline. This is especially necessary when we confront the variety of discourses embedded in any discussion of modernism and postmodernism in Latin America. Multiculturalism, postcolonialism, the Third World, and center vs. …