Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This is a letter dated May 18, 1993, from Waldo N. Rasmussen informing Adolpho and Fulvia Leirner of the decision not to include Hélio Oiticica’s metaschema Vermelho cortado o branco [White Crossing Red] (1958) and Alfredo Volpi’s Bandeiras verdes sobre rosa [Green Flags over Pink] in the New York presentation of the exhibition Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century that he curated under the aegis of the International Council of the Museum of Modern Art. Rasmussen explains that space limitations preclude the museum from allowing the entire exhibition as it was shown in Seville in 1992 to be presented at MoMA in 1993. In New York, the exhibition occupied two floors of gallery space: the International Council Galleries on the ground floor and the René d’Harnoncourt galleries on the lower level.

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Waldo Rasmussen (1928-2013), the longtime director of the International Program at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), organized the exhibition Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century for the Comisaría de la Ciudad de Sevilla para 1992 as part of the celebration of the quincentennial anniversary of the discovery of the Americas. In the related introductory essay to the catalogue for the exhibition [see document 1065350], Rasmussen records his own experiences and exposure to Latin American art, dating from when he joined MoMA in 1954, and he describes the people and events that shaped the institution’s commitment to this collection area. After nearly forty years of informed contact with Latin America, Rasmussen was well suited to craft a proposal for Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century that offered—at a key moment in time (on view June 6–September 7, 1993)—a new and less stereotypical perspective on the subject than some of the other proposals for Latin American art exhibitions in the United States during the 1980s and early 1990s. Throughout his long career, Rasmussen was a staunch advocate for Latin American art. He was critical of MoMA’s decision to eliminate its Latin American gallery (from the 1950s until the museum completed its gallery renovations in 1964) and was an early proponent of showcasing Latin American works alongside their North American and European counterparts in a broader, more inclusive display. That being said, it is ironic that Rasmussen would forego including these works by Oiticica and Volpi, two of the Brazilian artists that have received the most attention over the years.

Researcher
Maria C. Gaztambide
Team
International Center for the Arts of the Americas, MFAH, Houston, USA
Credit
Courtesy of Adolpho Leirner, Sao Paulo, BR
Location
Adolpho Leirner Archives at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston