The Norman Transcript

October 5, 2013

Museum shows color, culture of Latin America with new exhibit

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — Fred Jones Junior Museum of Art has brought the color and culture of Latin America to Oklahomans with its new exhibit, “Libertad de Exprésion: Freedom of Expression in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Friday, the museum hosted a symposium in conjunction with Libertad that focused on the role freedom of expression has played in Latin American and Caribbean culture, journalism and politics. The symposium was made possible in part by the Norman Arts Council Grant Program. OU College of International Studies co-hosted the event.

Mark White, interim director and chief curator of Fred Jones, said Oklahomans generally don’t have access to artwork of the Latin Americas.

“The reason for the symposium is to educate the Oklahoma public about the breadth and diversity of Latin America and Caribbean artists,” White said.

All of the artwork displayed in Libertad comes from the Art Museum of the Americas’ permanent collection. White said the exhibit would not have been possible without the help of Andrés Navia, AMA director, and Adriana Ospina, AMA education and archives.

Navia said the quality of Fred Jones is so high that the AMA staff had learned new things about their pieces and ways to display them.

“We are really proud to see our pieces here,” Navia said.

During the Cold War, the Organization of American States, formerly the Pan American Union, actively promoted artists from Latin America and the Caribbean that demonstrated affiliation with influential modernist styles such as Constructivism, Surrealism, Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism.

Speakers during the symposium focused on José Gómez Sicre’s direction of the AMA, Argentina artists Ernesto Deira and Jorge de la Vega, the grassroots culture of Pan-Americanism, and anti-communism and free speech during the Cold War in Latin America. Speakers included Claire Fox, associate professor at the University of Iowa; Patrick Frank, author; Monica Rankin, associate professor at the University of Texas at Dallas; and Alan McPherson, OU department of international and area studies professor.

During her lecture, Fox explained that José Gómez Sicre, Rafael Squirru and Marta Traba were responsible for developing AMA’s permanent collection.

“They sought to position Latin American art as trans-national,” Fox said.

Sicre, in particular, was responsible for influencing and spurring the careers of many famous artists. Fernando de Szyszlo of Peru; José Luis Cuevas of Mexico; Alejandro Obregón of Columbia; and Armando Morales of Nicaragua, are some of the most influential artists, the AMA put on exhibit.

“Sicre hoped that a class of curators and collectors would emerge to sustain Latin American art,” Fox said.

During Patrick Frank’s lecture, he emphasized that Americans don’t usually see these types of artists as good because they are caught up on minimalism or pop art. Frank spoke about Argentina’s Nueva Figuración, a group of four artists who shared a studio in Bueno Aires from 1960 to 1965 and are regarded as some of the most innovative painters in Latin America. Frank said the four artists, Ernesto Deira, Jorge de la Vega, Luis Felipe Noé and Rómulo Macció, had been compared to the Beatles for how strong an influence they had in the art world.

Diera and Vega’s works are on display in the Libertad exhibit. Frank explained that both artists’ works reflect political commentary.

Quoting Diera, Franks said, “Art is intimately connected to the country’s development, and has absolutely a lot to do with all of the surrounding environment, even with its politics.”

“Libertad Exprésion: Freedom of Expression in Latin America and the Caribbean” opened to the public Friday and will remain open until Jan. 5, 2014.

For more information about the exhibit, visit ou.edu/fjjma.