Published  03/08/2004

Art of the Americas: Latin America and the United States, 1800 to Now!

Art of the Americas: Latin America and the United States, 1800 to Now!

Museum of Art, Santa Barbara
13 March-21 November 2004

It is but a short journey from Los Angeles County Museum of Art to Santa Barbara. However, it must be said that LACMA revives one's sense of reality - while the preoccupation of the second show with who and what is America, 'whose is this history, and with whom is it shared serves chiefly to perpetrate illusion. While Latin American artists here receive the best attention, the light-hearted juxtaposition by the Brazilian Artist, Nelson Leirner, of Mickey Mouse collaged together with Day of the Dead skeletons is salutary. Uruguayan Artist Joaquin Torres-Garcia in his work reminds one of the casta paintings visited in Los Angeles [see Words are worth more than pictures]. He has a Uruguayan mother and Catalan father and studied in Barcelona: he might have deserved better than to be hung next to Adolph Gottlieb's geometric work. Written captions might help here, as in the 18th century. New Director Phillip Johnston made a bold attempt to deploy 'juxtaposition', not of races of course, but of works from different cultures. Where he places next to each other, 'Buffalo Hunter' (1844), a macho example of the mid-American male (anonymous artist) with Fritz Scholder's, 'Indian with Three Faces', we are conscious of the returning pathos of the 18th century casta works just seen up in LACMA. Leirner, a key artist and player in the formation of the exhibition concept, now disclaims the Santa Barbara exercise. 'I wonder,' he says, 'if anyone has taken into account that while American artists are preoccupied with their own work, we Latin Americans criticise the colonial position of so-called first world societies? The games are different, thus the rules will have to be different.'

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