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In this exhibition catalogue essay, Mari Carmen Ramirez writes on the fundamental importance of Adolpho Leirner’s collection of Brazilian Constructive art within the trajectory of its art historical moment as well as its impact in representing the Brazilian Constructive Art movement. Ramirez suggests that because the history of this movement has yet to be fully written, Leirner’s collection provides valuable insight as it has “provided a solid foundation from which to simultaneously project and build the very field that it aims to represent.” Ramirez mentions a number of well-known artists featured in the collection, as well as many under-recognized artists, all of which have made significant contributions to this Brazilian artistic movement.
Written on the occasion of the exhibition Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection, on view from May until September 2007, this exhibition catalogue aims to emphasize the crucial historical significance of Adolpho Leirner’s Brazilian Constructive Art collection. Mari Carmen Ramírez (b. 1955) in the essay “Fitting Pieces Out of Place?” discusses the notable accomplishment of Leirner’s collecting endeavors. She inserts historical context and establishes two paramount events that defined the spirit of Brazil, post WWII. The São Paulo Biennal in 1951 and the inauguration of Brasília, “the futuristic new capital” in 1960.
Ramírez looks closely at the groups actively participating in new artistic developments of this time and adds that, “like an art exhibition,” Leirner’s collection is a “private repository of visual culture [that] provides opportunities for displacing, redrawing or even expanding established art-historical platitudes, while in the process, articulating new frameworks for interpreting these tendencies.”
Calling attention to the title of this essay, Ramírez notes the significance choice of Leirner’s collection to reside in Houston. Its removal from immediate cultural context, in Brazil, adds another layer of permeability to the collection because with its displacement comes “both entrenched views about Brazilian art in general and postwar Constructivism in particular.”
This essay is important because it frames Adolpho Leirner’s collection from a curatorial perspective. [See in ICAA digital archive, the texts: “Foreword” by Peter C. Marzio (doc. no. 1324404) and “Collecting is Searching” by Adolpho Leirner (doc. no. 1324445) regarding the exhibtion catalogue Dimensions of Constructive Art in Brazil: The Adolpho Leirner Collection]
Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Mari Carmen Ramírez (b. 1955) received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Chicago in 1989. She is the Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and Director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA) at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Recent exhibitions curated by Ramírez include: Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950 (2017); Adíos Utopia: Dreams and Deceptions in Cuban Art Since 1950 (2017) and Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America (2016). At the ICAA, Ramírez conceptualized and oversees the continental initiative Documents of 20th Century Latin American and Latino Art: A Digital Archive and Publications Project. In addition to her work with Latin American art and artists, she has published widely on a broad range of topics that include the relationship of this art to identity politics, multiculturalism, globalization, and curatorial practice. In 1997 she received the Peter Norton Family Foundation Award for Curatorial Excellence and in 2005 she was the recipient of the Award for Curatorial Excellence granted by the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.