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Trends. Aspects of Latin American Contemporary Art at Merrill Lynch ARTEAMERICAS. A curatorial project since 2003 in Miami


JUAN-SI. In the Name of God-Odios, Oh Dios!, Oh to Him! 2008. Performance at TRENDS 2008, Merrill Lynch ARTEAMERICAS, Miami Beach Convention Center. Photo Courtesy of the artist and Hardcore Art Contemporary Space

JUAN-SI. In the Name of God-Odios, Oh Dios!, Oh to Him! 2008. Performance at TRENDS 2008, Merrill Lynch ARTEAMERICAS, Miami Beach Convention Center. Photo Courtesy of the artist and Hardcore Art Contemporary Space

By Lilia Fontana

Trends. Aspects of Latin American Contemporary Art at Merrill Lynch Arteamericas is a curatorial project led by Miami-based curator, Milagros Bello. This curatorial project has already become a landmark for Latin American Contemporary Art in the city. Countless generations of artists, well known and emergent, have been selected by this curator to show in the different editions of Trends, since its first presentation in 2003 at the legendary location of the Coconut Grove Convention Center.

Local artists such as Pablo Contrisciani, Ena Marrero, Guerra de la Paz, Andres Michelena, Lili(ana), Evelyn Valdirio, María Jose Arjona, Nina Dotti, Federico Uribe, Liliam Domínguez, Nina Surel, Patricia Gil, Pedro Vizcaíno, Rogelio López Marín, Ani Villanueva, Giovanni Basile, Nahila Campos, Carolina Sanllehi, Adriana Carvalho,  have participated. Artists from other states have also left their footprints in the show: Juan-Si, Grimanesa Amoros, Aisén Chacín, Elba Damast, Sylvia Riquezes, Sydia Reyes, Henry Bermúdez, among others. From Latin America, Tatiana Parcero, Perla Krauze, Andrea Camargo, Ricardo Migliorisi, Adriana Barrios, Lucía Pissani, Benito Laren, Rogelio Baez-Vega, Cristina Tufino, Jason Mena, Nela Ochoa, Carola Bravo, among others.

Trends has focused on the most cutting edge works of the moment. Nela Ochoa presented a striking performance, “I Could Be You Could Be Me” in the edition 2006 in which she, disguised as a homeless woman, roamed the fair during the night of the opening cocktail party. VIP guests were shocked and surprised to find a homeless person at this upscale event. Ochoa reported to have found friends that did not recognize her, and bluntly rejected her. Juan-Si in the edition of 2008 presented a highly politically charged performance, “In the name of God - Odios, Oh Dios!” in which he, dressed as a military general with speakers on his back blaring liturgical chants and war bullets sounds, walked the fair booths giving a military salute to the visitors and gallery directors. Nina Dotti in the 2006 edition installed and performed the “Menopause Bar,” a real life bar paying homage to women in menopause. Visitors were offered colored drinks and menopause souvenirs. María Jose Arjona in the edition of 2005 presented a performance in which she sat for hours creating a corn necklace as a metaphor for the Latin American condition. Sylvia Riquezes (2004) placed metal flowers in the gardens around the Convention Center creating high contrast between nature and simulated nature; Pablo Contrisciani (2005) intervened the ticket booths at the entrance of the Coconut Grove Convention Center, transforming the space into an artistic one. The artistic duo Guerra de la Paz in the same year’s edition created a garden of soft sculptures, a sort of “comedia dellarte” with imaginary personages made out of discarded fabrics, destined for Haiti, which artists buy in the Little Haiti area.  They also presented “Vigilante” in the same year, a huge sculpture in the form of a soldier made out of war uniforms.

Adriana Barrios in the 2003 edition presented an altar with Virgins and Saints outlining the strong religious syncretism of Latin American iconography. Perla Krauze presented in the edition of 2005 an enclosed “natural” habitat, a sort of plastic hut fully covered with plastic vines and flowers, outside of the center, in which visitors could sit and hear the songs of beautiful birds coming from a tape recorder. Krauze outlined the human need for bucolic intimacy. Lili(ana) in the 2006 edition created a gigantic bed in form of a cross, in which the visitor could lay down and read  phrases relating to the AIDS Crisis in Africa.  Aisén Chacín presented in the 2007 edition a striking ideological work related to church child abuse; she showed two lenticular big-format photographs containing priest figures and altar boys in dubious sexual situations. In the 2008 edition she again pointed out social problems related to children. She showed two photo-sculptures in aluminum in the form of a shower drain, containing photos of children of the Brazilian “favelas” taken on her recent trip to Sao Paulo. Evelyn Valdirio in the 2008 edition presented a tridimensional painting in the form of a “tondo,” in which she represented falling roses in a clock, as a metaphor for memory and loss.  

Ultimately, Trends is better defined in Milagros Bello’s own words for the 2008 Seventh Edition in which she also added a new section: New Media in Latin America.

“More than twenty artists interpret the spirit of contemporary times where representation has shifted to new mediums and meanings. A new visual vocabulary, removed from tradition and academicism, emerges. New icons, new subjectivities and personal myths continue to flow out incessantly.  Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art is no longer a peripheral issue enclosed in a microcosm, restrained by tight borders or simple geographies.

Contemporary Latin American art reveals itself concisely strong and vividly rooted in the global hemisphere.  In spite of its polemic content and its theoretical ambiguity, globalization has extended its scope and has reached the whole world of art.  Latin American art is no exception. 

Contemporary artists construct and deconstruct from mass culture and from collective platforms. They render a mix of fictional tales and real show-like visualities in a delirious blending of wonders and cultural politics. Art nowadays outlines a complex imaginary world of parodic paradises and auratic halos. 

Contemporary Latin American art revolves around iconic spaces, but it also functions - through its disruptive strategies- as a “transformer” of social conscience.

Trends: Aspects of Latin American Contemporary Art in its 2008 edition juxtaposes multiple narratives and intercrosses ideological standpoints, crystallizing and mirroring critical world issues. Traditional methods and practices are dislocated. Each artist this year, in his/her own way, questions reality and interrogates the purpose of the world.  From Installation Art, Digital Photography, to Video Art and Performance, this project is dominated by an objectual approach in which artifacts, industrial materials, found objects, form the expressive core of the works.

Artists come from Chicago, Houston, Caracas, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Paris, Miami, San Juan, New York to show creative impetus and demonstrate accomplishments in their diverse approaches to Post-Contemporary art.

A special section of Video Art was included this year in Trends with such artists as Grimanesa Amoros, Flavio Cury, Sabrina Montiel-Soto, Matilde Marín, Richard Garet, Pascal Meccarielo, Gabriela Morawetz, Nina Doti, Beth Moyses, Juan-Si, among others, who demonstrate the exceptional developments of this medium in Latin America.”

 Curator Milagros Bello has already left a footprint in the arts in this effervescent city. We await next year to discover the new roster of cutting edge artists that will participate in Trends in its Eight Edition 2009. 

Lilia Fontana, Art administrator, photographer, art critic and curator. B.F.A. from Pratt Institute, M.F.A. from Vermont College. Director of Curatorial Affairs at Miami Dade College, Art Gallery System.

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