Estadística, 1995-2000 Cardboard, human hair, fabric 127 x 58 x 3/4 in. (322.6 x 147.3 x 1.9 cm)

21.11.2015 – 27.02.2016 / Tue – Sun: 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Caroline Wiess Law Building. The Museum of Fine Arts, 1001 Bissonnet. Houston, United States.

Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America

Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America features a selection of major works by 21 established artists from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela. Encompassing a variety of media including drawing, sculpture, video, and interactive object- and video-based installations, the exhibition highlights contemporary artists who use seductive and engaging materials to convey their social, political, and environmental concerns.

Drawn primarily from the Museum’s permanent collection of modern Latin American art-one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in any public institution-nearly all of the 32 works on view have been acquired by the Museum over the last five years through the Caribbean Art Fund, established in 2010 as a special initiative of the Museum and Fundación Gego. The goal of this fund is to research, promote, and collect the work of artists from the greater Caribbean.

The exhibition also features work by exceptional mid-career Latin American artists, generating a dynamic dialogue that cuts across chronological and geographic borders. Contingent Beauty intertwines aesthetic refinement with biting critiques of timely issues grounded in the complex realities of Latin America and its long history of colonization, political repression, and economic crisis. These issues range from poverty, violence, gender, government corruption, and globalization, to the war on drugs and the legacy of colonialism.

The “beauty” of these works is contingent upon contextual interpretation. Each piece harbors a tension between opposing elements, such as beauty and violence, seduction and repulsion, or elegance and brutality. Among the artists represented are Tania Bruguera (Cuba), María Fernanda Cardoso (Colombia), Los Carpinteros (Cuba), Grupo Mondongo (Argentina), Guillermo Kuitca (Argentina), Miguel Ángel Rojas (Colombia), Javier Téllez (Venezuela), and Tunga (Brazil).

Estadística (Statistics) (1996–2000), by the renowned Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, was produced communally as the artist invited her friends and neighbors to donate and assemble locks of their own hair into a Cuban flag. By echoing women’s collectives who secretly sewed Cuban flags during the Cuban War of Independence, Bruguera’s flag creates an analogous resistance to Fidel Castro’s regime. Similarly, Yoan Capote spent eight years collecting teeth from friends, family members, and acquaintances in Cuba for his work Stress (in memoriam) (2004–12). The piece presents a metaphor for resistance in that a heavy concrete block is precariously balanced on top of rows of these teeth, and rocks back and forth in a grinding motion.