Thursday, December 20, 2012

Edgar Negret | AMA's Permanent Collection Artist Series

El Maiz
Edgar Negret (Colombia, b.1920)
steel and paint
30 ft (h) 9.60 meters x 1 meter
OAS | Art Museum of the Americas Collection
Gift of the artist

Edgar Negret 
(Colombia, b.1920, d.2012) 
More on AMA's Permanent CollectionSearchable Collection Database
AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

Sculpture is a medium that requires discipline and patience, skills that Edgar Negret has mastered over his career of more than fifty years. One of Latin America’s most prominent sculptors, Negret’s work defies the limits of imagination and of the viewer’s expectations. His work is elegant, detailed, inspired and vibrant. 

Born in 1920, he completed his formal education at the Escuela de Bellas Artes de Cali (1938-43) and went on to be an apprentice of Spanish sculptor Jorge Ortega, who introduced him to the works of British sculptor Henry Moore. He continued his education at the Clay Sculpture Center in New York (1948-50) and later travelled to Paris and Spain beginning in the 1950s. Each of these European countries opened a world of possibilities for Negret, the avant-garde centers of activity he visited inspired his own journey towards abstraction.

While in Spain in the early 1950s, Negret was heavily influenced by the architecture of Antonio Gaudí, and was particularly impressed by how Gaudí’s organic forms and its simplicity. 

Another pivotal influence on his artistic creation was his encounter with Pre-Columbian art expressions. In 1980, he traveled to Lima, Perú, and visited Machu-Picchu among other archeological sites. The encounter with the Pre-Columbian offered a new thematic direction, and intellectually it represented a change in that he no longer looked for sources in the abstract origin of nature or the machine but in more specific mythologies, like the one of the Inca people.

Aparato Magico (Magic Gadget)
Edgar Negret (Colombia, b.1920)


polychromed wood and aluminum
19 x 35 x 20"Collection
OAS | Art Museum of the Americas Collection

Aparato Mágico, from 1959, which was on display at the Art Museum of the America’s show Constellations, is an example of Negret’s lifelong fascination with the organic nature of form and his dedication to finding its expression through sculpture. Aparato Mágico is one of a series started in 1957, titled Aparatos Mágicos, that occupies a seminal place in Negret’s overall work. The title means ‘magical device’ and the title is the first indication of the contradictions in Negret’s visual language. This piece evokes the mechanical and the imaginary. The mechanics allude to our rational nature, and the magical evokes a space in our imagination. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Maria Freire | AMA's Permanent Collection

Vibrante (1977) by Maria Freire (Uruguay)
Collection OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

Maria Freire 
(Uruguay, born 1917) 
More on AMA's Permanent CollectionSearchable Collection Database
AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

Maria Freire is one of the most important artists to emerge from South America. Her contributions to the artistic experimentations that led to the period known as geometric abstraction in Latin America are of a daring and restless character. Her formal education took place at the Círculo de Bellas Artes (1938-1943) under the tutelage of José Cuneo and Severino Pose and at the Universidad del Trabajo, under the teachings of Antonio Pose. 

With her husband José Pedro Costigliolo (1902-1985), Freire formed one of the most dynamic artistic teams in Latin American art history. Influenced by a wide range of European artists (Antoine Pevsner and Georges Vantongerloo for example) and other expressions like African art and European non-figurative art, Freire was already by the 1940s working on abstract compositions. What this tells us about Freire is that she was an artist immersed in breaking away from the referential, from the traditional, and that she looked at not only her immediate sources in Latin America for inspiration but to European and African ways of artistic expression. 

This is remarkable for two reasons: she was a woman artist who displayed a strong independent spirit, and because as an artist within the geometric abstraction generation from Latin America she was at the forefront of change. Freire’s influences were not dictated by her fellow contemporary Latin American artists, but by her travels throughout the world and her desire to transform the way we looked at art and life. 

Vibrante, from 1977, on display at the Art Museum of the America’s show ‘Constellations,’ is an example of Freire’s lifelong experimentation with abstraction. The richly colored lines create blocks of shadows and light, which create a narrative of color. Freire is recognized as an artist that challenged contemporary notions of art and set a model of an independent Latin American woman artist.  

Monday, June 25, 2012

Joaquin Torres-Garcia | "Constructivist Composition" | Constellations

Sorry for the long wait, check out this Washington Post article to perhaps better understand the delay.

"Constructivist Composition" (1943) by Joaquin Torres-Garcia,
Collection OAS | Art Museum of the Americas, Gift of Nelson Rockefeller

Joaquin Torres-Garcia 

Exhibit: Constellations: Constructivism, Internationalism, and the Inter-American Avant-Garde
AMA | Art Museum of the Americas

The Artist
A pioneer of modernism, Torres-Garcia was born in Montevideo of a Catalan father and a Uruguayan mother. His family moved to Spain in 1891, settling in Barcelona. By the end of the decade he had become, along with Pablo Picasso and Julio Gonzalez, part of the bohemian milieu of the cafe Els Quatre Gats. Torres-Garcia moved to Paris in 1926 where he me Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian and later founded the group Cercle et Carre with Michel Seuphor. 

While in Paris, he also became interested in prehistoric and primitive art, including pre-Columbian objects. The style of Constructive Universalism he developed at this time retained a gridded structure related to Neo-Plasticism but he invested each compartmentalized rectangle with a schematic motif, emblematic of autobiographical, mathematical, spiritual, or metaphysical concerns. His compositions, often based on the proportions of the Golden Section, were in primary colors or nearly monochromatic. 

Returning to Montevideo in 1934, he founded the Asociacion de Arte Constructivo and in 1943 the Taller Torres-Garcia, an arts-and-crafts workshop devoted to pedagogy and collective work. His landmark theoretical book, “Universalismo Constructivo”, was also published in 1943. Within his fairly well defined repertory of signs and symbols, there are frequent references to the pre-Hispanic world. In many works, the geometric patterning is reminiscent of pre-Columbian textiles or Inca masonry and ceramics. His ideas on the relationship of man to the cosmos also draw on pre-Hispanic sources. He saw the function of the Latin American artist as one of recovering the ancestral dignity of the rich Indo-American tradition in order to create a uniquely South American art.

by Joaquin Torres-Garcia, from the Archives of the Art Museum of the Americas

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Anton Cabaleiro | Ñew York

Anton Cabaleiro |

Anton Cabaleiro

Anton Cabaleiro (born 1977 in Spain) received a MFA in Computer Arts from the School of Visual Arts, New York; a MS in Landscape Design from Columbia University, and a PhD in Art, Design and Technology at the Complutense University, Madrid. Past exhibitions include the Bronx Museum Biennial, New York; Armory Show, New York; New York University, New York; Museum of Art and Design, New York; Times Square Public Space Projects, New York; Under the Bridge Festival, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art of Vigo, Spain; the Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art, Spain; ARCO International Fair of Contemporary Art, Madrid; The Cervantes Institute, Beijing; Marisa Marimon Gallery; Marlborough Gallery; and the Loop International Fair of Video, Barcelona.

Artist Statement
The Empire State Essays is an animation video series which represents two opposite ideas of New York. 

On the one hand, it’s the idealized New York, a trompe l'oeil product that has been presented and propagated (sometimes like a backdrop and other times like main protagonist) through mass media, such as movies, TV, music and the literature. 

On the other hand, there are scenes taken from daily life, based on experiences in the Big Apple. They show a very personal and intimate daily routine, mostly lonesome, repressed and frustrating, that both contradict and complete the first idea, the one of a shinning New York, full of glamour and opportunities. 

As it's known, New York is the “Empire State” of the US, and it plays a predominant role in the rest of the world. The Empire State’s repercussions vary from the expansion of English as first language throughout the world, to a cityscape made out of mountainous quantities of accumulated garbage and the social and ethic pressures. 

This series follow propagandistic mechanisms. Extremely aesthetic, the essays contain tense messages that contradict their apparent beauty and innocence. They give to the viewer a chance to review a routine that tends to be overlooked due to its repetitive nature, which can be both beautiful and horrifying.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Manuel Molina Martagon | Ñew York

Manuel Molina Martagon |

Manuel Molina Martagon

Manuel Molina Martagon (b 1981 Puebla) is a multimedia artist working in video, photography and performance. Molina Martagon holds a Bachelor in Mass Media and Communication from UPAEP and a MFA in Photography, Video and Related Media from the School of Visual Arts in New York. His work has been exhibited in Mexico, United States, Spain and Cuba. His videos have been featured in festivals like Proyector Madrid, Region 0 The Latino VideoArt Festival, YANS & RETO and Festival Internacional de Video Arte de Camaguey. His work is currently exhibited at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and Galería de Arte Contemporáneo y Diseño Espinoza Iglesias en Puebla. Molina Martagon has also been a recipient of multiple international awards and grants, such as a Fulbright Scholarship, Santander-UPAEP para Estudios de Posgrado, Beca complemento SEP, Alice Beck Odette scholarship and Fondo Estatal para la Creación Artística de Puebla FOESCAP. Molina Martagon is currently collaborating in the New New Yorkers program at Queens Museum of Art.

Artist Statement
The two videos [in Ñew York] come directly from my everyday experience of living in New York. American Sculpture is a performance that takes place at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 20 minutes I learned the American sculptures of the XIX century collection from a Met catalog. Each sculpture was performed several minutes by heart. American Sculpture is a work that addresses the different functions that a museum has as public space, ranging from a mausoleum to a tourist attraction. Based in endurance, memory and chance, the performance is open to random interactions. In If I come back to life I want to be an American dentist, I chewed only with one side for several days, due to a cavity. The extra work helped to wake up a wisdom tooth. My insurance didn’t cover the expenses and I couldn´t afford a dentist. This situation happened four weeks before spring break… So I resolved to go to a dentist in Mexico. It was just 4 weeks. The result of this process is a beautiful piece, my first organic sculpture: a symbol of coming of age and human endurance.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sol Aramendi | Ñew York

Sol Aramendi |

Sol Aramendi

Ñew York features three photographs by Sol Aramendi. Aramendi says of her work:
"I choose to look through the lens in order to see. The language of photography helps me understand how I position myself in the world, where I’ve come from and where I might go next.
In my pictures I am exploring psychological impressions of my life of 'Being Solo' in New York. I construct scenes that translate the processes and obsessions I go trough my life here with the uncertain hope of bringing some light of understanding to my obscure self."

© Sol Aramendi. "Welcome to My Hood" (2011). Image Courtesy of Praxis Gallery.

Sol Aramendi is a New York based Argentinean artist working in photography and installation. Sol has merged her artistic work with Social Practice. She is the founder of the Project Luz Photography Program for New Immigrants ( Using photography as a tool of empowerment, creating a dialogue of understanding, connecting people with communities and their creativity.
She was featured at El Museo del Barrio's 2011"(S) Files," the museum's sixth biennial of art created by Latino artists living in NY. Sol’s work has been shown widely in New York, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Los Angeles, Tolouse, Barcelona, Madrid, Utrecht, and Split.
Her first studio was at the legendary 5pointz building in Queens, NY where she interacted with a large and diverse group and actively participated of Urban culture. This empty building is now her canvas.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Art + Impact: Part 2

Common Place, currently on display on the 2nd floor at AMA, is a sociological photography exhibition created by Justine Graham and Rubie Rumié.

As our website describes: "the exhibit portrays the evolving subordinate relationship between Latin American housekeepers and their housewife employers, reflecting issues of gender, power, class and race.

Comprised of photographs, videos, and surveys of 100 women between the ages of 19 and 95, this project merges art and sociology, and explores new sensorial and emotional experiences in an attempt to discover affinities and differences among participants, separating itself from the bias and stereotypes present in hierarchical relationships. Common Place (Lugar Común) challenges conventional methods of portraiture and proposes new social constructs."

Common Place | Justine Graham and Ruby Rumié

When you first encounter the exhibit, you are not just confronted with, but pretty much slapped across the face (in a good way) with a charged social issue in South America. As someone who has never been to South America, I had a very similar first reaction seeing the work to most people I observe visiting the museum. Without reading any text or being taught anything by anyone, you immediately come to understand the relevance, importance, and how obviously underrepresented this subject must be in contemporary Latin American society. The pictures here on this blog and our website can not capture the experience of being completely inundated with these images that fill an entire room our museum.

The exhibit offers no opinions. Though the art speaks volumes in and of itself, it is without judgement or agenda. I have led some tours through the museum and I have found the experience very rewarding, particularly for this exhibit. I've seen people's eyes water up (some in loving memory of the housekeepers they grew up with, others in sadness over their personal conflict over the subject). People's reactions completely vary, ranging from curiosity to joy to revulsion. Despite what a person's reaction may be, a conversation always gets started and heated debates between visitors are common. 

Part of mission here at AMA is to create dialogue about current social issues. This exhibit presents a issue going on in parts of South America, yet is very accessible to anyone. We can all relate to the idea of “evolving subordinate relationships” we encounter in our daily lives. Though some might argue that the idea of presenting two social classes on the same level “has been done”, I have personally never seen it done in such a simple, artful, and accessible way.

Common Place | Justine Graham and Ruby Rumié

The selection of exhibits is critical to pursuing our mission as a museum. Art, as seen in Common Place, can wield great power in communicating ideas surrounding human rights, development, social class, the environment, and so on.

Next up: Educational Outreach

Friday, January 6, 2012

Art + Impact: AMA

While AMA is not a household name (yet), we actually do a lot of really interesting things outside our gallery walls.

Aside from showcasing amazing art from the Americas, we are also charged with the task of creating a positive impact in the world through our museum's mission as well as our being a part of the Organization of American States (OAS), whose core values are to promote human rights, democracy, justice, and security (if you don't know what the OAS is, you should look it up, it's a pretty cool institution). Our efforts in this area range from the choices we make in selected art for exhibitions to international programs to keep at-risk youth off the streets. Much of these efforts are less visible to the public, but I am going to use this platform to help shed some light on the "behind the scenes" work we are engaged in.

Not a bad neighborhood, huh?

To begin this new series, I'd like to go back a bit and talk about Tent Life: Haiti, a photo exhibition by Wyatt Gallery (a person, not a place). The show took place in the OAS | AMA F Street Gallery at 1889 F Street, NW. Though our gallery space is less known then our museum, we've been receiving quite a bit of positive press on our (usually photography) exhibitions there. Tent Life was no exception. Gallery traveled to Haiti to document the life of displaced Haitians following the devastating 2010 earthquake there.

from "Tent Life: Haiti" by Wyatt Gallery

The series of photographs range from the uplifting to the down-right depressing; however, what binds them together is a candid sense of perseverance. As the Washington City Paper put it, "is it appropriate to find transcendence in photographs of abject poverty?" It's not the kind of work that says "look at these poor, helpless people" nor does it say "look how great they're doing under horrifying conditions", rather it comes across as a well-crafted documentary and calls on the viewer to enter - and empathize with - another human being's experience. During the exhibition, and after, a book with the same title as the exhibit was - and is still - being sold to raise money to support relief efforts in Haiti and all proceeds from the book go to Haiti. The book is really beautiful, contains all the photos from the exhibit, and more photos that we didn’t have room for. (This isn’t a sales pitch, I promise. I bought one for myself. Ok, maybe a bit of a sales pitch, but it’s totally worth it.)

Exhibits like Tent Life: Haiti serve to accomplish many aspects of our mission. We are bringing talented, contemporary artists to Washington, DC, bridging cultural gaps between different cultures of the Americas, as well as promoting a positive impact in the world by creating greater awareness of social issues in our global community. The selection of artwork is probably the most basic of ways the museum accomplishes our mission.

 Next up: One of our current exhibit, Common Place...