Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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    In this introductory essay, Peter C. Marzio refers to Houston’s historical context and then-current economy, in relation to the rapid modernization of South America. He introduces the Caroline Weiss Law Building designed by Ludwig Mies van de Rohe, as the perfect backdrop to showcase the Brazilian Constructive artworks assembled in the collection of Adolpho Leirner.

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    In the “Foreword,” of Dimensions of Constructive Art: The Adolpho Leirner Collection, Peter C. Marzio (1943–2010), director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston from 1982 until 2010 and founder of the ICAA, writes that while Houston stepped into the defining spirit of midcentury modern as a result of the city’s rapid expansion and bustling oil economy, “so too were our neighbors in South America.” He notes that “when we focus on Brazil, we see works of art that were created during periods of relative prosperity.” Marzio uses the Caroline Weiss Law Building as a notion of Houston’s progressive interest in modern ideas such as the International Style, and also deems it most fitting to exhibit The Adolpho Leirner Collection.

     

    He then introduces Adolpho Leirner as a prescient figure whose piqued interest Brazilian art led him to purchase Milton Dacosta’s Em vermelho [In Red], 1958, the first work to contribute to the “world’s leading collection of Brazilian Constructive Art.” The MFAH acquired Leirner’s collection of more than 100 artworks, as the Trustees “recognized the tremendous benefits of being able to exhibit art that speaks to our universal values and shared experiences.”

     

    This exhibition catalogue was written on the occasion of Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection, May 19–September 27, 2007.

     

    In this essay, Marzio expresses how fitting the MFAH is, as the home to Adolpho Leirner’s collection. [See in ICAA digital archive, the texts: “Fitting Pieces Out of Place?” by Mari Carmen Ramírez (doc. no. 1324424) and “Collecting is Searching” by Adolpho Leirner (doc. no. 1324445) regarding the exhibtion catalogue Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection]

     

    Peter C. Marzio (1943–2010) spent three decades of his career as the Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, until his death in 2010. From 1978 until he was recruited to Houston in 1982, he served as Director and CEO of the Corcoran Gallery in Washington. In 2001, he established the Latin American Art Department and its research institute, the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) at the MFAH, which are currently headed by Mari Carmen Ramirez. Both the department and research division are leaders in the field of 20th- century Latin American and Latino Art and have built a renowned collection, producing critically acclaimed exhibitions and award-wining publications. Also a prolific author, Marzio not only contributed exhibition catalogue essays but also wrote books such as: Art & Philanthropy (2010); Masterpieces from the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: Director’s Choice (2009); and A Permanent Legacy: 150 Works from the Collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1989).