Inverted Utopias is the first large-scale exhibition devoted to the emergence and development of avant-garde art in Latin America from 1920 to 1970. The show brings into focus, for the first time in the United States, more than 250 works by nearly 70 artists and artists´ groups from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, and Venezuela. On view, in every gallery of the Caroline Wiess Law Building, are outstanding examples of painting, sculpture, assemblage, mixed-media works, and installations. These works are shown with printed materials that complement the avant-garde manifestations of the artists and groups represented.
Inverted Utopias presents works in dialogue with two distinctive periods of the twentieth century. In the first—comprising the decades 1920-40—artists who are considered the pioneers of the Latin American avant-garde returned from Europe, where they had taken part in cutting-edge movements such as Cubism, Futurism and Constructivism. Having assimilated these trends into highly innovative ideas that set new standards for artistic creation in Latin America, these forerunners sought to make real the promise of a "new art" for societies undergoing the initial stages of modernization. The second period—1950-70—witnessed the expansion of avant-garde activities throughout the region as well as their autonomy from contemporary developments in Europe and the United States.
Stressing such an interplay, the exhibition focuses on paradigmatic artists and groups whose oeuvre embodies both the utopian and feasible dimensions of the avant-garde, yet inverted. That is, regauged according to the needs of the Latin American context, its quite different history, as well as its limitations and paradoxes. Furthermore, the idea of inversion in the title of this exhibition takes its cue from Joaquín Torres-García´s (1874-1949) strategic positioning of the continent according to an upside-down map of South America. The Uruguayan master declared: "Our North is the South." This inverted map has since become both a theoretical point of departure and a metaphor for the autonomy of Latin American art.
Curator Mari Carmen Ramírez explains: "Our aim in organizing Inverted Utopias has been to show that, despite their remoteness from Europe and the United States, Latin American artists played an active role in the profound artistic redraft carried out by twentieth century Modernism. Such a generating source of new ideas regarding the nature and function of art should be compelling enough to put to rest the host of stereotypes that, even today, continue to characterize accounts of the art of this region."
The exhibition is organized according to the following six constellations: Universal and Vernacular; Play and Grief; Progression and Rupture; Vibrational and Stationary; Touch and Gaze; and Cryptic and Committed.
A 600-page exhibition catalogue with 21 interpretive essays by the exhibition curators and eleven leading critics from Latin America, Europe, and the United States has been published by Yale University Press. It includes 525 illustrations, 300 of which are in color.
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston Web Site