The Norman Transcript

November 7, 2013

OU art exhibit highlights Latin American art

by Hannah Cruz
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — A new exhibition at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art explores the advancement of Latin American art from the 1940s to the 1990s.

“Libertad de Expresión: the Art of the Americas and Cold War Politics” examines how the Organization of American States (OAS) and its cultural institution, the Art Museum of the Americas (AMA), advanced Latin American art and democratic values during the Cold War, said Mark White, museum chief curator and interim director.

“The AMA used art as a form of cultural diplomacy with the goal of furthering understanding and cooperation between the Americas, White said. “In the process, it championed the international aspirations of Latin American art and culture.”

The exhibit includes 62 pieces on loan from the Art Museum of the Americas in Washington, D.C., and is on display through Jan. 5, 2014, at the museum, 555 Elm Ave.

In 1948, as political tensions between the Western and Eastern blocs escalated to a cold war, the Ninth International Conference of American States convened in Bogotá to address the spread of international communism. Twenty-one American states agreed to such an action and adopted several additional resolutions.

The OAS charter that resulted from the conference established a new body charged with furthering relations among the Americas, effectively replacing the Pan American Union.

White said the charter emphasized cultural diplomacy as an important aspect of its central mission to promote understanding among the Americas. The Visual Arts Section would help further that cause.

Cuban José Gómez Sicre lead the visual arts unit section in an ambitious exhibition program at the Pan American Union building in Washington, D.C., that would further awareness of the art of the Caribbean and Central and South America in the United States.

Beginning in 1949, Gómez Sicre sought out established artists as well as emerging talents for the exhibit. White said Gómez Sicre and the OAS selected artists who championed contemporary trends in Latin American art and emphasized freedom of expression in American republics.

The collection gained institutional status in 1976 as the Museum of Modern Art of Latin America and assumed the building that had been the official residence of the OAS secretary general. In 1991, the name was changed to the Art Museum of the Americas.

The exhibition features such modernist styles as constructivism, surrealism, art informel and abstract expressionism by more than 60 artists, including Joaquín Torres García, Roberto Matta and Jesús Rafael Soto.

White said the included styles helped to break stereotypes about Latin artists, effectively highlighting the cultural production of other countries and thereby decreasing international divisions.

While many Latin American art exhibits emphasize muralism and the politically-charged themes found in Latin American art, White said this exhibit shows just how cosmopolitan Latin American artists were in the middle part of the century.

“Ironically, Gómez Sicre’s support for freedom of expression did not include artists of a socialist or communist bent, and he shied away from overtly political artists,” he said.

A gallery talk with White is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Oct. 29, and a fashion show, dance performance and OU student Halloween party are scheduled 7-9 p.m. Oct. 31. A Family Day also is scheduled 1-4 p.m. Nov. 17.

Admission to the museum is complimentary to all visitors. More information about the exhibition and programs is available on the museum’s website at ou.edu/fjjma.

Sidebar:

Celebrate cultural diversity and past lives during the University of Oklahoma’s Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) Street Festival 6-10 p.m. Nov. 1 on the southeast corner of Boyd Street and Elm Avenue.

Hosted by OU’s Student Life in conjunction with the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art, Student Life Assistant Director Crystal Garcia said the second annual event is a light-hearted way to both have fun and learn.

“It’s a great way to expose yourself to cultures without going too far from home,” Garcia said.

Day of the Dead is a holiday recognized and celebrated in many Latin American countries and communities, and celebrates the lives of ancestors with food, music and art, Garcia said.

OU’s free festival will include a variety of hands-on activities, vendors and live performances. Garcia said she is anticipating between 1,500 and 2,000 people at this year’s event.

Performances include different kinds of cultural music, such as mariachi bands, and a folkloric dance group. There will also be a parade that will culminate in front of the museum. The day will culminate with a performance by band Making Movies out of Kansas City, Mo.

Interactive activities include remembrance altars that people can add objects to in the tradition of Day of the Dead, traditional face painting and decorating sugar skulls. The face painting and sugar skulls are available at a minimal cost.

Other activities include bounce houses and laser tag. A variety of food trucks and vendors will also be available. All proceeds from the event go to the OU Latino Alumni Association and help support scholarship funds.

This festival is held in conjunction with the museum’s “Libertad de Expresión” exhibit, highlighting Latin American art from during the Cold War period.

Susan Baley, museum director of education, said they view the exhibit and event as simultaneous ways to celebrate Latin American cultures.

The museum is hosting two free activities inside the museum during the event, including tissue paper flowers and banners.

Student Life is also hosting brief talks inside the museum every hour about Day of the Dead traditions.

Baley said the day is appropriate for all ages and interests.

"Traditionally Day of the Dead is really a family event, so I really see it as being something for everybody. Last year they said they thought only kids would want to have their face painted, but of course adults wanted it, too."

Garcia said she hopes the festival continues to grow every year.

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