Artists who transformed Contemporary Art in Latin America 1

Artists who transformed Contemporary Art in Latin America 1

Artists who transformed Contemporary Art in Latin America 1

In Latin America, the period between the early 1960s and the late 1980s was marked by authoritarian regimes, extreme inequality, systematic violence, social movements, and repression of the population. But also, it was a period where women manifested their radicality through various plastic languages, exploring the political dimension of their bodies, experimenting conceptually and aesthetically, and organizing themselves into collectivities that transformed art in this region.

Although the historical and creative contexts are specific for each country, we made this selection - insufficient to understand the importance that hundreds of women had in the construction of these other stories of art history - considering that several authors locate the changes in the languages and iconographies that give rise to what we understand as contemporary art, in the sixties. As a reference there is also the extensive historiographic research with a gender perspective that was the exhibition Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960–1985 (2017) at the Hammer Museum, curated by Cecilia Fajardo-Hill and Andrea Giunta. An exhibition that assumed the commitment to bring into dialogue works by 120 Latin American, Latina and Chicana artists who had been partially invisible but indisputably important to understanding the history and present of art in our countries.

Lygia Pape
Brazil (1927-2004)

A representative of the neo-concrete movement during the 1950s and 1960s, Lygia Pape systematically built her practice by challenging the principles of geometric abstraction on which concrete art was based to move towards a more organic expression. In her first Desenhos, the geometric shapes recall musical staves, where the visual rhythms of lines, grids and breaks become compositions. In Tecelares, she reinterprets the xylographic process, leaving aside the notion of the multiple to create individual works of art, where the rhythms of reflection, duplication and negative space interact to activate surfaces. Her Books of Creation, Architecture and Time and her iconic Ttéias installations synthesize her artistic process; the latter, as immersive environments defined by geometric distributions of silver and gold threads suspended from the floor to the ceiling and corners of the room.


Zilia Sanchez
Cuba (1926)


«Why do I continue doing works?» Zilia Sánchez once asked. «Well because I need it. “I take it with me,” she replied. Born in Cuba, she decided to live in New York in 1962 and then move to Puerto Rico in 1972. It is there that she begins a series of paintings where she experiments with the figurative elements of the female body and the formal language of abstraction. The warmth and eroticism of the silhouettes on her canvases, which she named with suggestive phrases such as Erotic Topology, broke with the cold and impersonal approach associated with abstraction in Latin America. In Troyanas, she repeats shapes to create a greater sense of duplication and uses visual dualism to establish a sense of what she calls aesthetic balance. Her works have always been attentive to the female experience, honoring the lives and bodies of women, including hers.


Marisol Escobar
Venezuela (1930–2016)

Marisol Escobar spent her childhood following her parents on their travels and her artistic training was irregular, eclectic, academic and largely self-taught. Her early years were marked by abstract expressionism, but she soon preferred sculpture to painting and her particular way of working with materials, especially wood, and later plaster, objects and electricity. By the late 1960s, her style and her reputation were established, and although her personal life associated her with the Pop Art movement, her work was truly outside of any formal legacy. That was the most disturbing and also the most interesting. Her sculptures seemed close to medieval column statues, Native American totem poles, and Hofmann's glued, painted, or sculpted heads; where the hands, the only signs of expression of these lifeless masks lined up, were a reflection of voluntary loneliness.