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In this text, researcher Carmen Hernández examines the visual discourse on gender issues of women artists from Latin America. She concludes that there is no artistic movement in the region that specifically reflects on gender of the sort that emerged in the United States in the seventies. What there is, however, are individual ideas based on personal experiences, most of which address problems related to the construction of identities. Hernández points out different levels of discourse in the practices of Latin American women artists who feel the need to go beyond the formal aesthetics of the corporal in order to delve into the condition of the subject. The set of identities of the masculine and the feminine in the reigning social model are questioned, as are gender issues as visual discourse. A new language that entails “distancing” and “resistance” is formulated in works that often make use of autobiographical reference and self-representation.
This essay by Chilean curator and art critic Carmen Hernández (b. 1963) is a chapter in the book, Desde el cuerpo: alegorías de lo femenino, una visión del arte contemporáneo (Caracas: Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana, 2007). It is the product of research Hernández did for the international exhibition of the same name held at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Caracas from January to March 1998. The aim of that ambitious project was to exhibit contemporary feminist Latin American art. While no catalogue was produced in conjunction with the event, in 2007—almost ten years after the show—a book featuring this text, among others, was published.
Hernández’s research centers on the notion that in contemporary art, the human body is perceived as an “ideological construction”—that is, a projection of the subjectivity and social structure in which it takes shape. Women artists find that on the basis of the body, they can construct an identity that goes beyond it. Through the body, the artists Hernández studies gain access to a new language that affords them a more accurate or desirable ideological construction of their own identity. Perhaps because in Latin America, there have never been artistic tendencies joined by those specific aims—the reasons for which, it must be said, the text fails to adequately explain—the curator’s approach is sweeping; she lays out common traits of artists whose approaches to gender issues vary greatly, while nonetheless, exploring the premises of her initial thesis.
The following artists participated in the show and are discussed in the text: Marina Abramovic (from what was then Yugoslavia), Janine Antoni (United States), Kuki Benski (Argentina), Argelia Bravo (Venezuela), Tania Bruguera (Cuba), María Magdalena Campos (Cuba), Marlene Dumas (South Africa), Mailén García (Venezuela), Silvia Gruner (Mexico), María Teresa Hincapié (Colombia), Sara Maneiro (Venezuela), Lia Menna Barreto (Brazil), Paloma Navares (Spain), Catalina Parra (Chile), Marta María Pérez (Cuba), Graciela Sacco (Argentina), Paula Santiago (Mexico), Valeska Soares (Brazil), Antonieta Sosa (Venezuela), Jana Sterbak (from what was then Czechoslovakia), Jocelyn Taylor (United States), Adriana Varejão (Brazil), and Eugenia Vargas (Chile).