Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960 – 1985

Pinacoteca
São Paulo, Brazil
Until 19 November 2018

The Pinacoteca de São Paulo, a museum of the Secretariat of Culture of the State of São Paulo, presents the major group exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960 – 1985, on display on the first floor of the Pinacoteca. Curated by British Venezuelan art historian and curator Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Argentine researcher Andrea Giunta, the show is the first in history to present an extensive mapping of the experimental artistic practices of Latin women artists and their influence on international art production. In total, 120 artists representing 15 countries, brings together more than 280 works in a variety of techniques and on different supports, such as photography, video, painting and others. Its presentation in São Paulo includes the collaboration of the Pinacoteca’s Chief Curator Valéria Piccoli.

By giving visibility to a remarkable artistic production created between 1960 and 1985 by women who lived in Latin American countries, and by Latina and Chicana women born in the United States, Radical Women addresses a gap in the history of art. The exhibition presents works by some of the most influential artists of the 20th century including Lygia Pape, Cecilia Vicuña, Ana Mendieta, Anna Maria Maiolino, Beatriz Gonzalez and Marta Minujín – alongside that of less well-known artists such as the Cuban artist Zilia Sánchez, whose works are imbued with geometric abstraction and eroticism, the Colombian artist Feliza Bursztyn and the Brazilians Leticia Parente, one of the pioneers of video art, and Teresinha Soares, sculptor and painter who has recently been attracting international attention.

The chronological segment of this group show is considered decisive both for the history of Latin America and for the construction of contemporary art and the transformations concerning the symbolic and realistic representation of the female body. During this period, these pioneering artists set out to explore the notion of the body as political field embarking on radical poetic investigations that defied the dominant classifications and the established art canons. “This new approach laid the foundations of a research on the body as a rediscovery of the subject, which in turn would later be regarded as a radical change in the iconography of the body,” note the curators, who suggest the artists’ investigations eventually fostered the emergence of new directions within the fields of photography, painting, performance art, video art, as well as conceptual art.

Repression of these bodies, especially those of women, resulted in works that denounced the social, cultural and political violence of the time. The approach adopted by these Latin American artists was a form of dealing with the dense political and social atmosphere of a period deeply marked by patriarchal power in the United States and by the atrocities of dictatorships in Central America and in South America that were supported by the USA…

 

“The lives and the works of these artists are interwoven with the experiences of dictatorship, of imprisonment, of exile, torture, violence, censorship and repression, but also with the emergence of a new sensibility,” says curator Cecilia Fajardo-Hill.

For curator Andreas Giunta, topics such as the poetic and the political are explored in the show “through self-portraits, through the relationship between body and landscape, through the mapping of the body and its social inscriptions, feminisms and social places. These themes crossed borders, arising in works by artists that had been working in radically different cultural conditions.” It is not by chance that the exhibition is structured around themes instead of geographic characteristics. The Pinacoteca’s curator Valéria Piccoli highlights the importance of the representation of Brazilian artists in the show: “In addition to the names that participated in the exhibitions at the Hammer and Brooklyn Museums, we have also included works by Wilma Martins, Yolanda Freyre, Maria do Carmo Secco and Nelly Gutmacher in the São Paulo exhibition.”

Latin America preserves a strong history of feminist militancy that, – with the exception of Mexico and in some isolated cases a few other countries during the 1970s and 1980s – was not widely reflected in the arts. Radical Women proposes to internationally consolidate this aesthetic heritage created by women who center on their own body to allude, indirectly or explicitly – to the distinct dimensions of female existence. To this end, since 2001, the curators have carried out extensive research that included trips, interviews and analysis of publications found in the archives of the Getty Foundation and Texas University among others.

The central argument of the exhibition reveals that even though a large part of these artists were decisive figures in the expansion and diversification of the artistic expression in our continent, they have not received wider recognition. “The show stemmed from our common conviction that a vast group of works produced by Latin American and Latina artists has been marginalized by a dominant, canonical and patriarchal art history”, note the curators.

According to the Director of the Pinacoteca, Jochen Volz, “it was mainly women artists who pioneered experimentation with new forms of expression, like performance and video art, among others. Thus, the exhibition Radical Women’s itinerancy across Brazil is of great relevance for contemporary artistic and academic research and for the audience of the museum.”

This outstanding ensemble of works, as well as the research archives brought together in São Paulo for the conception of the exhibition contributes to opening new investigative paths and a deeper understanding of Latin American history.

“The topic is now part of a wider and at the same time, urgent, agenda”, observe the curators. “Yet there is still a lot of work to be done and we are fully aware that this is just the beginning.”

 

Image:

Martha Araújo (Brazilian, b. 1943), Hábito/Habitante (Habit/inhabitant), 1985. Documentation of performance: four black-and-white photographs. 6 7/8 × 8 7/8 in. (17.5 × 22.5 cm) each. © Martha Araújo. Collection of Martha Araújo; Courtesy of Galeria Jaqueline Martins.