ЯEcap: PINTA for Change?

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It is November 2008 and “America” (you know, these United States that claim an entire continent) has elected the first African American into office. Though it is not the color of Obama’s skin that is going to bring the most change to the White House, it is definitely a visual sign of what we say we are ready for. So, in this spirit of change, I walked through the doors of PINTA hoping to figure out whether we will need a “Latin American art fair” in the coming years.

PINTA, now in its second year, gathers galleries from across Latin America, the US, and Europe to showcase, as stated in the catalog, “the very best of Latin American art.” It was created out of the need to display the works of an incredibly marginalized group of artists who produce work relating to and informed by a particular geographical context. However, judging by the thirsty hoards that gathered around the bar opening night, people seemed more interested in the free alcohol than the artwork; and at first glance, the majority of the art was just as plastic and forgettable as that of any other art fair. The only common thread seemed to be the accents that decorated the artists’ names on the walls of each booth.

I found myself asking many times, “what makes this ‘Latin American art?’” It’s a concept we’ve been struggling with for decades. How are we to bring attention to an underrepresented group of artists, while not putting them into some art “ghetto?” At the very least, PINTA appears to be a step towards bringing this struggle into the mainstream, outside of academic circles and into the very popular art market.

In hopes to aid PINTA in enlightening the NY public, here are some highlights:

Polígrafa Obra Gráfica (Barcelona) displays impressive works by Fabian Marcaccio, Nelson Leirner,Fernando Bryce (this year’s honored artist), and Liliana Porter, who is also the only artist featured at Hosfelt Gallery’s booth (NY-San Francisco).

José Vivenes’works on paper at La Carnicería (Caracas) and RobertoFabeloPérez’sDesbordamiento at Habana (Havana) gallery demonstrate the ugly-beautiful, while Teresa Margolles’Pintura de sangre (Painting of Blood) at Y Gallery (NY) directly relates to the violence that plagues the streets of Culiacán, Sinaloa Mexico.

At Distrito Cu4tro (Madrid), Alexander Apostol’s What I’m looking forpublicizes the private, Craig’s List-like confessions of South American homosexuals and their desire to embark on intimate relationships in Europe, with European lovers.

Praxis Art International(NY) is exhibiting a show-stopping hand-cut phone book sculpture by Mexican-Japanese artist Hisae Ikenaga, in addition to notable works by Luis MalloRubén Torres Llorca and Alexis Duque.

Throughout various booths were the works of masters Wifredo Lam, Leonora Carrington,Lygia ClarkJesús Rafael Soto, and Juan Mele, whose art calls attention to the fact that artists in Latin America have been active participants or creators of art movements and styles usually accredited to Europeans.

As you go around the booths, you realize that though the gallerists at PINTA walk the fine line of employing the mark of the “other” to inspire sales, it is an art fair that is still sadly necessary. At other major fairs likeThe Armory Show, there is a significant lack of representation from Latin America and the Caribbean art.

So again, it is November 2008 and we have voted for change—the “other” is now the face of America. Will we need PINTA in the future? In order for this change to translate into the art world, where does it need to take place, and will the organizers of PINTA be the only ones willing to take on the endeavor?