Maria C. Gaztambide, Rachel Mohl, Beatriz R. Olivetti, Gabriela Rangel, Tahia Rivero, Osvaldo Sanchez, Michael Wellen, Daniela Wustenberg, Houston, 2015.
Hardcover, 242 pp., 290 color illus.
Exploring cutting-edge techniques and daring themes, many Latin American artists seamlessly intertwine aesthetic refinement with biting critiques of social and political issues. Contingent Beauty assembles major works by more than 20 such artists who have made significant contributions to the global art scene over the past 30 years. Encompassing a variety of media—including painting, drawing, sculpture, and video—the majority of these innovative works are culled from the holdings of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, which possesses an exceptional collection of contemporary Latin American art.
These objects, while formally sophisticated and alluring, are not ends unto themselves but rather tools intended to heighten viewers’ awareness of critical factors that shape the lives of these artists, such as poverty, gender, political repression, the war on drugs, and globalization. In some instances, the “beauty” of these works is contingent upon cultural interpretation. Tensions between beauty and violence, seduction and repulsion, elegance and brutality contribute to the enduring impact of this art and provide a revelatory experience for readers.
Mari Carmen Ramírez is the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.