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Museum of Fine Arts Houston Announces 10th Anniversary Program for Latin American Art / International Center for the Arts of the Americas

Marking the milestone: A series of exhibitions and publications; a major art installation; and the launch of a global online resource—toward an “Archives of American Art” for Latin American and Latino art of the 20th century

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, today announced 2010—11 programming for the 10th anniversary of a landmark initiative: the creation of the Latin American Art Department and Collection at the MFAH and the establishment of its companion research institute, the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA). Both were founded in 2001 and are headed by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art.

The MFAH will mark this milestone with a series of dynamic exhibitions, programs, and publications beginning in October 2010, including: an exhibition of Latin American art from major private collections across the Houston region and Latin America; the first large-scale retrospective of the work of Carlos Cruz-Diez; and the installation of a major work by Jesús Rafael Soto.

In addition, in fall 2011 the ICAA will launch a groundbreaking online resource. Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art: A Digital Archive and Publications Project will provide a free, universally accessible digital archive of some 10,000 primary sources fundamental to the development of 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. The archive, with writings by artists, artistic groups, critics, and curators from across the region, will serve as a basis and impetus for new research and scholarship in the field. A 14-volume anthology series, published by the MFAH in association with Yale University Press, will be produced in conjunction with the Documents project.

“In 2001 we set out to build a new approach to Latin American art based on three components: a focused collection of 20th-century art from Latin America; a program of research-based, pioneering exhibitions; and a research and publishing institute, never before attempted, that would foster new scholarship in what was then an emergent field,” said Peter C. Marzio, director of the MFAH. “The MFAH and its trustees are proud of the progress made in the past decade, and above all for the groundwork this program has established. This includes more than 400 works in the new collection, 15 exhibitions, 11 publications, and thousands of recovered documents that are the basis for the digital archive.”

Commented Mari Carmen Ramírez, “With exhibitions like Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America (2004) and Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color (2006), we have opened new perspectives on a fundamental but long-fractured chapter of Modernism while making great strides in research and conservation related to key artists of the period. As for the ICAA documents project, what we started here in Houston will serve generations of curators and scholars around the world. Like the Archives of American Art, which the Detroit Institute of Arts created in the mid-1950s to fill a void in American-art scholarship, it is intended as a platform for the future growth and expansion of the field. With this initiative the MFAH is consolidating its role as a research museum while contributing a new curatorial model for the 21st century.”

2010—11 Programs and Publications of the Latin American Art Department and the ICAA

Cosmopolitan Routes: Houston Collects Latin American Art
October 24, 2010—February 6, 2011
This exhibition of some 90 works is a tribute to the collectors—the Founding Members and Latin Maecenas patron group—who have supported the MFAH´s Latin American art initiative and have accompanied its collecting activities since the department´s inception. The exhibition will showcase masterworks from private holdings across the Houston region as well as from Latin America. Spanning early Modernism in postwar Latin America to contemporary work, the selection represents distinct and defining conceptual and stylistic moments in Latin America´s modern and contemporary art history: Joaquín Torres-García and the School of the South; Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, and Mira Schendel of Brazil´s Concrete and Neo-Concrete avant-garde movements from the 1940s through the 1960s; Venezuelan artist Armando Reverón´s reductive, pre-Minimalist paintings; and the figurative and Surrealist work of artists such as Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, and Leonora Carrington. Guest-curated by Gilbert Vicario, former assistant curator in the MFAH department and now a curator at the Des Moines Art Center, the exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.

Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color into Space
February 6—July 4, 2011
The first large-scale retrospective of this pioneering Venezuelan artist, Carlos Cruz-Diez: Color into Space will feature more than 150 works, ranging from paintings, silk-screen prints, and unconventional color structures to room-size chromatic environments, architectural maquettes, videos, and a virtual re-creation of the artist´s studio. For over 50 years Cruz-Diez, who will be 87 this year, has intensively and obsessively experimented with the origins and optics of color in a remarkable range of media. He has involved his family and a large corps of assistants in the enterprise, with guild-style studios in Paris, Panama, and Caracas. The exhibition will introduce international audiences to Cruz-Diez´s extensive production and will place his theoretical and artistic contributions to 20th-century Modernism in a broader context than they have been seen traditionally. Accompanied by a major catalogue, the exhibition is co-organized by the MFAH and Fundación Cruz-Diez Houston.

Launch of Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art:
A Digital Archive and Publications Project
Fall 2011
This extensive database of annotated documents will provide free, universal access to some 10,000 primary sources fundamental to the development of Latin American and Latino art. The archive is the result of a 10-year, multimillion-dollar project to locate, identify, evaluate, and digitally publish those primary sources that can become the building blocks of new scholarship in 20th-century Latin American and Latino art. The initiative required the formation of research teams operating in partner institutions situated in Latin American and U.S. centers. The project´s database was developed by São Paulo-based Base 7; the website, which is being developed by 6th Floor LLC in New York, is slated to launch in September 2011.

Publication of First Volume of
Critical Documents of 20th-Century Latin American and Latino Art
Fall 2011
The online Documents resource will be accompanied by a 14-volume series of anthologies featuring selections from the digital archive annotated by the project´s team of scholars and researchers. The first in the series, which will publish over the next 12 years, is Resisting Categories: Latin American and/or Latino? by Mari Carmen Ramírez of the MFAH, with the late Olivier Debroise, Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Artes, UNAM, Mexico City; Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, independent scholar, New York; and Héctor Olea, ICAA Translations and Publications Editor. This first volume will lay the groundwork for the series by gathering writings by artists and critics since the beginning of the 20th century who critically address issues of what it means to be “Latin American” or “Latino.”

The Soto Project: The Houston Penetrable
Winter 2011
Paris-based Venezuelan artist Jesús Rafael Soto (1923—2005) was a leader in the Kinetic Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s and explored for decades a signature concept: the penetrable, “shapes” of color and line (thin, dangling tubes suspended from above) that were completed only by the viewer´s passing through them. In the last year of his life, the MFAH commissioned from Soto what would be his final work, and among his most ambitious: a 2,575-square-foot indoor penetrable composed of 24,000 hand-painted plastic tubes, suspended 36 feet from the ceiling. This monumental work will be on long-term exhibition in the enormous 8,200-square-foot free-span space of Cullinan Hall, designed by Mies van der Rohe as the centerpiece of his 1958 addition to the MFAH. Currently being produced by Atelier Soto and the artist´s former assistant under the supervision of architect Paolo Carrozino, Soto´s long-time collaborator on the penetrable projects, the piece is slated to be installed in December 2011.

About the Latin American Art Department at the MFAH
Since its inception in 2001, the Latin American Art Department at the MFAH has acquired more than 400 works of modern and contemporary Latin American art, including a pivotal private collection of 100 works: the Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art, first exhibited in 2007. In addition, major works by Lygia Clark, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Gego, Gyula Kosice, Hélio Oiticica, Xul Solar, and Joaquín Torres-García, among many others, have entered the MFAH collection.

Significant exhibitions of the first decade include Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America (2004); Gego, Between Transparency and the Invisible (2005); Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color (2006); and Constructing a Poetic Universe: The Diane and Bruce Halle Collection of Latin American Art (2007). The department has also established the Partners in Art program, with three key partnerships to date: the Fundación Gego in Caracas, the Cruz-Diez Foundation in Paris, and the Tanya Brillembourg Art Collection in Miami, all of which provide long-term loans to the MFAH for use in exhibitions, research, and publications.

About the ICAA at the MFAH
The International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) was established by the MFAH in 2001. The center´s mission is to pioneer research of the diverse artistic production of Latin American and Latino artists—from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the United States—and to educate audiences, in order to transform the understanding of Latin American and Latino visual arts while opening new avenues of intercultural dialogue and exchange. Headed by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art at the MFAH, the ICAA has organized four international symposia and published 14 books and catalogues since 2001, including Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America, Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color, and Building on a Construct: The Adolpho Leirner Collection of Brazilian Constructive Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, as well as the Documents Project Working Papers series.

The centerpiece of the ICAA is the Documents project, directed by María C. Gaztambide and governed by a 16-member editorial board and eight-member steering committee comprised of art historians, curators, digital librarians, and others in the field from the United States and Latin America. Partner institutions include Fundación Espigas, Buenos Aires; Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá; Fundación Mercantil, Caracas; CURARE, Mexico City; Universidad de Playa Ancha, Valparaiso, Chile; Museo de Arte de Lima (MALI), Peru; FAPESP, São Paulo; the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Los Angeles; and the Latino Studies Center, University of Notre Dame. The initiative—a free, online archive of documents fundamental to the development of Latin American and Latino Art—is the result of a 10-year research project conducted by teams in Latin America and the United States. The archive and a companion book series launch in fall 2011.

Significant funding for the Documents project has been provided by the J. Paul Getty Trust; the Rockefeller Foundation; the Henry Luce Foundation; the Ford Foundation; the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the National Endowment for the Arts; Petrobras; the Bruce T. Halle Family Foundation; the Wortham Foundation, Inc.; and Patricia Phelps Cisneros.

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