Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Latin American Art Exhibitions in 20th-Century U.S.

Apr 28

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4/28/2016 8:44 AM  RssIcon

Starting with the 1927 exhibition Modern Mexican Art, which featured artists Jean Charlot, Pablo Esteban O’Higgins, and Diego Rivera, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston has shown its commitment to Latin American art.  Almost ninety years since, the MFAH has dedicated sixty-seven subsequent exhibitions focused on works from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Latino artists in the United States.  Moreover, the first Latin American objects entered the museum’s collection in the 1930s. Currently there are over 2,000 such works in the permanent collection, and that number is growing, just as the number of documents in the ICAA Digital Archive, which are now over 7,600 available online.  The ICAA has also created the Critical Documents of 20th Century Latin American and Latino Art series, which highlights rare documentation regarding landmarks in the early development of Latin American art history.

In Vol. I of this series, the Latin American Exhibition of Fine Arts, featured at the Riverside Museum in New York City, was one of the first Latin American art exhibitions in the United States. Sponsored by the New York World’s Fair Commission, the exhibition took place July 23 through October 20, in 1940. It served as a way to promote international understanding with countries vulnerable to the influence of communism. In a similar way, in 1943, the Museum of Modern Art in New York organized an exhibition, The Latin-American Collection of the Museum of Modern Art. In 1946, The Inter-American Office of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, announced the availability of pre-packaged exhibitions of Latin American art available for circulation from a number of museums and individual collectors around the United States. In 1959, an exhibition held at the Art Institute of Chicago called The United States Collects Pan American Art was held in conjunction with Chicago’s Festival of the Americas, coinciding with the Pan American Games, in its third year of existence and taking place in Chicago that year. This exhibition also included works of art from Canada, and expanded the notion of unity among countries comprising the continent of North America. These exhibitions played a valuable part in efforts by the United States to increase its influence in the Western Hemisphere during WWII and the Cold War through the universal language of art.

Original catalogs and other primary source materials related to the history of the development of 20th century Latin American and Latino art, including crucial texts available online for the first time, can be accessed free in the ICAA's Digital Archive shared collections page.

The ICAA was initiated in 2001 by longtime MFAH Director Peter Marzio. It continues to lead the field today under Director Gary Tinterow, and indicates the museum’s ongoing commitment to advancing scholarship in this area.

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