Colección
Arte Latino–
americano

A unique collection in the world,
bringing together the main trends
and movements that characterize the art
of the region in all media.

Introduction

Malba - Fundación Costantini, in its dedication to 20th century Latin American art, owns a unique collection that includes the principal tendencies and movements that characterize the region’s art in all its mediums, bringing together paintings, sculptures, drawings, engravings, collages, photographs, installations and artists’ objects from Mexico and the Caribbean to Argentina.

Since its opening to the public in 2001, one of the museum’s principal institutional objectives has been the permanent display of most of its artistic patrimony, offering to visitors innovative lectures and different approximations to the history of art in Latin America.

From the first modern and avant-garde movements to the more contemporary productions of the late 20th century, the collection’s exhibition varies according to the dynamics of the Annual Program of Acquisitions and to the generous donations received from artists, their family members, and private collectors.

ALEJANDRO XUL SOLAR
Pareja, 1923
© Fundación Pan Klub - Museo Xul Solar

Modernity, Avant-garde

Since the beginnings of the 20th century, Latin American artists have traveled to Europe and entered into contact with avant-garde movements. They have developed proposals related to Expressionism, Cubism, and Futurism, while actively participating in related exhibitions and debates, in cities such as Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Berlin, Florence, and Milan. Their works and manifests insist on the autonomy of art and drift away from painting and sculpture as means of representing reality. During the decade of the 20s, many of them returned to their home countries, and as protagonists of their national scenes, they lead different battles between the traditional and the “new”. Xul Solar’s Neocriollism (Argentina), Tarsila do Amaral’s Anthropophagia (Brazil), as well as Rafael Barradas’ and Joaquín Torres-García’s Vibrationism and Constructive Universalism (Uruguay) are only a few key examples of those avant-garde movements typical of the Latin American regional modernity.

EMILIO PETTORUTI
La canción del pueblo, 1927
© Fundación Pettoruti

Art and politics, Modern photography

During the 1930s, the field of action was oriented towards an alignment between art and politics on a regional and international level. From the murals of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros (Mexico), to the paintings of Antonio Berni (Argentina) and Cândido Portinari (Brazil), the painters discuss and propose different ways of relation between artistic manifestations and their social contexts. The artists, through their collective works, militancy, and the debate of programs, give rise to varying forms of Social Realism, Nativism, Nouveau Réalisme, and Critical Art, mostly through painting and the graphic arts. Photography, cinema, and events in the contemporary press relating to political instability are the factual sources for visual production. There begin to appear images of rural and urban workers in monumental pictorial formats, like the characters in a protest for social change or in traditional, popular celebrations. To these representations, already charged with localism, they add expressive and technical resources add a social dimension to the artistic manifestations, such as choosing burlap taken from potato sacks as an artistic medium, or using tempera paint to produce an effect of mural painting

ANTONIO BERNI
Manifestación, 1934

Surrealisms

Since the decade of the 20s in Latin America, artists have investigated the worlds of magic and fantasy by creating images related to autobiographical occurrences or religious beliefs, and in some cases, linked to the international diffusion of surrealism. This literary and plastic movement explored the fields of psychic energy and longed to evade conscious activity through practices such as free association and psychic automatism as well as through the use of factors such as chance and arbitrariness. To stimulate the emergence of the subconscious they resort to techniques that evoke unusual effects and uncontrollable processes, like photomontage, collage, frottage, decoupage or sgraffiato. Antonio Berni, Juan Battle Planas, Maria Martins, Cícero Dias, Roberto Matta, Frida Kahlo, Agustín Lazo, and Wilfredo Lam display in their works the diverse effects of these techniques, as well as the meeting place of popular traditions and the cultivated artistic repertoire that circulated in the region’s countries.

ROBERTO MATTA
The Disasters of Mysticism
[Los desastres del misticismo]
or La decadencia del misticismo, 1942

Concretes, Neo-concretes, Optics, Kinetics

Abstract and non-figurative tendencies are part of the international history of art since the beginnings of the 20th century. Wanting to deviate from the illusionist origins of painting and from the concept of the painting as a “window to the world”, they use different alternatives to free the visual arts from their initial objective of representing reality. In the mid-forties, Buenos Aires turned into one of the most active centers of Concrete Art and its variations. Madí, Asociación Arte Concreto Invención and Perceptismo are the three groups formed by Argentines such as Gyula Kosice and Enio Iommi, and Uruguayans such as Rhod Rothfuss and Carmelo Arden Quin, to contribute to the international debate of Concretism. The artists use material elements of visual language, such as forms, colors, lines, and planes. Their works replace the traditional octagonal framework with irregular and unevenly- cut contours and investigate the function of layers of color and of the system of structures in series. They also invent articulated and transformable “sculptures” and resort to industrial materials such as lacquers, glass and bakelite. In doing so, they manufacture object-paintings mounted on walls and aerial mobiles hanging in space. In the decade of the 50s, Alejandro Otero paints his series of white abstractions with chromatic lines in Caracas, while Brazilians Hélio Oiticica and Lygia Clark turn color and light into bodies that materialize as the spectator observes them. In the same decade and the following, Julio Le Parc and Abraham Palatnik construct boxes and artifacts that investigate the physical and perceptive experience of sight, adding to it the concept of real or illusory movement and the active participation of the viewer, both possibilities opened by optic and kinetic art.

RHOD ROTHFUSS
3 círculos rojos, 1948

Informalisms, Destructive Art, Other Figurations, Pop,
Objects, Minimalism, Conceptual Art

Since the end of the 50s, the world of visual arts undergoes the end of modernity and the beginning of contemporary art at an accelerated rhythm. Critics and artists speak of “the death of painting” and of “the death of art”. With the advent of a different era, painting and sculpture cease to reign over the “fine arts”. New disciplines, mediums, and materials appear: objects, constructions, performances, bricolages, ensembles, happenings, installations, videos, environments, interventions, and tours of spaces. “Works of art” cease to resemble “works of art”: artists work with everyday objects, industrial products, waste and discarded materials, texts, and words; they create actions in urban or natural settings; they make filmic and photographic registers, and propose corporeal and sensorial experiences. Ideas and concepts in process mix with neo-figurative poetics, Minimalism, Pop, Neo-Surrealism, and varying nonfigurative ideas, such as primary structures and sensible geometry. The discussion radicalizes over themes such as the de-materialization of the work of art, and the relationship between artistic and political practices. The Latin American scene displays its own era and agenda of production tied at times to the Neo-avant-garde movements of Internationalism, but always in accordance to its distinctive frameworks of cultural, historic, and social reference. Antonio Berni, Jorge de la Vega, Antonio Dias, Fernando Botero, Nelson Leirner, Rubens Gerchman, Mira Schendel, León Ferrari, Hélio Oiticica, and Lygia Clark are proponents of these tendencies.

JORGE DE LA VEGA
Pruebe de nuevo, 1963

Conceptualisms, Hyperrealisms, New Image

The last two decades of the century appear marked by the democratization of the artistic field, dismissing the principle of the “artistically correct”. Without superior models or authoritarian knowledge to regulate and administer the territory, contemporary artistic productions circulate quickly and multiply possibilities. Conceptual art had dismantled the idea of the work of art as a material presence or as merchandise, predetermined institution. Industrial materials, scientific models, reflections on the areas of psychoanalysis, linguistics, cultural studies and the codes of communication imposed by the mass media intervene in the world of visual arts. The works of Antonio Seguí, León Ferrari, Liliana Porter, Víctor Grippo, Waltércio Caldas y Gego are some examples of this situation. Since the beginnings of the decade of the 80s, the return of painting as an international tendency with local variations has an impact over the artistic scene. The Italian Trans-Avant-garde, American Bad Painting, and Neo-Figuration in Latin countries and the New Image in Argentina, put into circulation pictorial images that combine the codes of cinema, theater, literature, music, dance, urban graffiti and gender studies. This “resurrection” of painting finds two of its key actors in Argentine Guillermo Kuitca and Cuban José Bedia.

VÍCTOR GRIPPO
La comida del artista, 1991
© Nidia Mabel Olmos de Grippo