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“Chosen Memories”: Exploring Latin American History through Contemporary Art at MoMA New York

History as a source for modern art. In “Chosen Memories,” the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York presents a new reading of Latin America’s past through the eyes of its contemporary artists.

In total, 65 works by 39 artists from different generations and styles reinterpret the history of the region as told by cartographers, missionaries, scientists and adventurers.

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In supports such as painting, photography, sculpture or video, most of the pieces make up the collection that the Venezuelan Patricia Phelps de Cisneros donated to the New York museum.

Structured around three themes, “Returns”, “Reverberations” and “Kinships”, the artists offer new readings of colonialism, the revitalization of cultural heritage and recognition of the origins and their dead.

In “Looting” (Looting), the Guatemalan Regina José Galindo created a work with the gold inlays that a dentist placed in her molars and that, after extracting them again, remained as “imprints of her mouth that function as small sculptures of an imaginary archaeological museum”, in a metaphor for the violence of extractive economies.

“Terra Nova”, the name of a map published in Europe in 1541, serves as the basis for the Dominican Firelei Báez to paint a ciguapa, the mythical creature of her country, voluptuous and elusive that, juxtaposed to the rational scheme of the map, “incarnates the fears and desires of the European conquerors” with unknown cultures.

The Argentine Leandro Katzse used the first lithographs made in the 1830s by explorers John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood, who studied the Mayan region that today occupies southern Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, to reconstruct their expeditions.

Under the artistic name Las Yeguas del Apocalipsis, the Chileans Pedro Mardones Lemebel (writer) and Francisco Casas (poet) present their version of “Las dos Fridas” in an impressive photograph, alluding to the Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.

The artists in this exhibition “have engaged with the past as a means to repair histories of dispossession, reconnect with undervalued cultural legacies, and strengthen threads of kinship and belonging,” says the museum’s Latin American art curator, Argentine Inés Katzenstein.

Above all, “they take a critical look at the impact of colonialism on the landscape, while others recover traditions and cultural legacies that had been lost or devalued,” the curator told AFP, hoping that the exhibition will serve to disseminate artists who are not well known in the United States.

How long will the public be open?

For the Brazilian photographer Rosangela Rennó, who has two works in the exhibition, “history is a living organism; it is constantly rereading and reassessing.”

And it is that, according to the organizers of the sample, the colonial structures continue to condition the value systems around ancestral cultures, work and nature, because the “past has never completely passed”, and rather “is a fertile field of possibilities for the present”.

Artists such as Uruguayan Alejandro Cesarco, Mexican Mario Garcia Torres, Venezuelan Suwon Lee, Peruvian Gilda Mantilla, Colombians Raimond Chaves and Jose Alejandro Restrepo, and Brazilian Cildo Meireles, among others, are part of this exhibition, which will be open through Sept. 9 on the third floor of the museum.

Much of what is on display is part of the 250 works that Phelps de Cisneros has donated to MoMA over a quarter of a century. In 2016, this Venezuelan, one of the largest private collectors in the world, established the Research Institute that bears her name, dedicated to the study of Latin American art in the museum, and directed by Katzenstein.

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The MoMa has a collection of more than 5 thousand works of modern and contemporary Latin American art.

2023-05-06 00:59:21
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