Kaira M. Cabañas

  • picks April 15, 2019

    Glexis Novoa

    At once a timeline, an autobiography, and a meditation, Glexis Novoa’s exhibition is encircled by a site-specific drawing of a horizon line along the gallery walls, punctuated by the artist’s small, meticulously rendered images of cultural and political landmarks. The scenes involve people, flags, and banners emblazoned with “Fidel,” “Socialismo,” and “Yankees Go Home,” as well as sketches of Cold War missiles and Havana’s Revolutionary Plaza. The work unfolds through space and time. As visitors walk the perimeter, tracing the drawing from beginning to end, they grasp in an embodied manner the

  • “Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975”

    Rethinking modernity and modernism in Latin America is still a pending task. This was one premise of the comprehensive exhibition curated by Mari Carmen Ramírez and Tahía Rivero at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, that included more than thirty artists with more than one hundred works in various media, from painting and sculpture to collage and film. For the first time in a historical survey of art in Venezuela, the exhibition focused on informalism, or art informel. Michel Tapié launched this term in France with the publication of Un art autre: Où il s’agit de nouveaux dévidages du réel (An

  • passages January 02, 2019

    Lothar Baumgarten (1944–2018)

    AS A GRADUATE STUDENT, I wrote one of my first research papers on Lothar Baumgarten’s film Origin of the Night (Amazon Cosmos) (1973–77), though securing access was no easy task at the time. Shot on 16 mm, it had a magnetic soundtrack and required a special projector to transmit the recording. Marian Goodman generously stepped in to assist, and the film was screened for a small, private audience at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 2001. In the months following the screening and increasingly during our professional relationship (and, ultimately, friendship), I met and spoke with Lothar on

  • Daniel Steegmann Mangrané

    Some gallerygoers may remember the duck-rabbit illusion used in the psychology of form, which demonstrates that perception depends on the mind’s expectations of what one will see. But its blurring of the dichotomy between seeing and knowing depends on two recognizable animals. What if one takes such a lesson to the realm of geometric abstraction and to the opposition between nature and culture?

    In Daniel Steegmann Mangrané’s recent exhibition, a árvore entrelaçada (The Tangled Tree) (all works 2018) occupied the center of the gallery. The work consisted of cables hung from the ceiling’s exposed

  • Laura Lima

    On entering the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo’s vast Octagon Space, one saw multiple workstations for various activities related to clothing production: reviewing template models, cutting and sewing fabrics, displaying a garment for a fitting. Likewise, the materials and tools of the tailoring trade, from spools of thread and rolls of fabric to pincushions, scissors, and sewing machines, were everywhere. Within this setting, Laura Lima’s Alfaiataria (Tailor’s Shop), 2014/2018, brought together a group of real-life tailors and seamstresses to create made-to-measure clothes modeled on the

  • Lasar Segall

    Recent Hollywood films such as The Monuments Men (2014) have dramatized the Nazis’ confiscation of modern art and its postwar recovery. Among the artists whose work had been confiscated was the Brazilian painter Lasar Segall. The notorious exhibition “Entartete Kunst” (Degenerate Art), inaugurated in Munich in 1937, targeted modern art through various didactic slogans, including “Nature as seen by sick minds,” and declared the diseased origins of the art on display. That exhibition included eleven works by Segall—selected from among nearly fifty that were confiscated by the Nazis after

  • Anna Maria Maiolino

    FOR THOSE FAMILIAR WITH THE HISTORY of feminist exhibitions in the United States, the blown-up photograph at the entrance to this retrospective of the work of Anna Maria Maiolino was a familiar sight: a shot of three dozen eggs randomly placed on a cobblestone street, with a human walking across the scene. Captured midstride, with all but calves, ankles, and feet cropped from the frame, the figure delicately navigates the fragile shells filled with life matter. Taken from the Brazilian artist’s series “Fotopoemação” (Photopoemaction), 1973–, this picture is part of a triptych, another image from

  • “Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950–1980”

    Much ink has been spilled on Jacques Derrida’s passionate exchange with Michel Foucault around the latter’s publication of Folie et déraison: Histoire de la folie à l’âge classique (Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason) in 1961. I would like to recall that the primary issue for Derrida was not that madness was expulsed during the Classical Age, but that madness is always already internal to reason. A similar claim informs this compelling postwar survey of international art, but it does so by focusing on the procedures immanent to the artwork on display, while

  • “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA”

    IN 2002, the Getty Foundation set out to invigorate the study of local artistic practices. The result: Pacific Standard Time, a multi-institutional initiative focused on the diversity of Los Angeles–based artmaking. Opening this fall, its third iteration, “Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA,” continues earlier efforts to “forge a critical regionalism sensitive to specific, local conditions,” as Julia Bryan-Wilson wrote in these pages in 2011. Yet it does so by embracing an explicitly international perspective. Key here is that “LA/LA” crosses borders to feature modern and contemporary art from Latin


    Designed to introduce North American audiences to Tarsila do Amaral, a leading Brazilian post-Cubist painter, this show features Abaporu, 1928, a sweeping, Picassoesque depiction of a man seated beside a cactus, which helped spark Brazil’s influential Anthropophagist movement. Inspired by Amaral’s work, Oswald de Andrade penned the “Manifesto Antropófago” (Cannibalist Manifesto) that same year, invoking the indigenous ritual of eating the enemy’s flesh as a metaphor for the country’s transformative appropriation of Euro-American


    The work of Teresa Burga, a Peruvian Conceptualist and founding member of the late 1960s Grupo Arte Nuevo, is being showcased at SculptureCenter in the artist’s first US solo museum exhibition, which will present approximately ten pieces that span her entire, ongoing career. Prominent among these will be Burga’s 1968 “Prisma” sculptures, multicolored plywood polyhedrons covered in painted symbols—from schematic faces to abstract geometries to traffic signs—that evoke the artist’s distinct Pop sensibility and reflect her interest in information systems. The

  • Tamar Guimarães

    For her first solo exhibition in Spain, Tamar Guimarães presented the thirty-six-minute film La incorrupta (The Uncorrupted), 2016, which was commissioned by the Reina Sofía. In it she presents a story about a guest curator and her potential exhibition, using the very museum in which the work is screened as the film’s setting. Throughout the film—an amalgam of documentary, fiction, and essay—viewers are privy to conversations among the curator (played by the artist), museum director, and staff, in addition to confidential discussions among the latter. The exhibition’s point of departure

  • passages March 24, 2017

    Ferreira Gullar (1930–2016)

    ALTHOUGH FAMILIAR WITH HIS WORK FROM MY UNDERGRADUATE YEARS, I never had any reason to reach out to Ferreira Gullar until 2010, when I was preparing the exhibition “Specters of Artaud” for the Reina Sofía. In my research interview with him, we reviewed some well-trodden history: his Concrete poetry of the 1950s and his authorship of the 1959 “Neoconcrete Manifesto” that marked his and his cohort’s break with the rationality of Concrete poetry and visual art. Around the turn of the decade, he also penned a series of newspaper articles titled “Stages of Contemporary Art,” a programmatic and

  • Hélio Oiticica

    “HÉLIO OITICICA: TO ORGANIZE DELIRIUM” was the first US exhibition in more than two decades to feature the full breadth of the Brazilian artist’s vibrant aesthetic production, from his early experiments with color and geometrically shaped supports—including his “Bólides” (Fireballs), 1963–69, “Núcleos” (Nuclei), 1960–66, and “Parangolés,” 1964–79—to his immersive environments. Among the latter was his seminal Tropicália, 1966–67, in which visitors are invited to physically engage an array of materials, from gravel and sand to poems and a TV set. The survey also marked the artist’s

  • Jonathas De Andrade

    The tension between documentary and fiction promises to define Jonathas de Andrade’s first major exhibition outside his native Brazil. In O peixe (The Fish), 2016, he filmed fishermen tenderly embracing their dying catches, forging a new ritual through labor. With O levante (The Uprising), 2012–13, de Andrade was given permission by the Recife government to film a horse-drawn-cart race of his own design in the city (where farm animals are usually prohibited), thereby bringing the reality of the country’s rural poor to this cultural center through fiction. Highlighting

  • “Anita Malfatti: 100 Years of Modern Art”

    Having left Brazil in 1910 to study in Berlin and New York, Anita Malfatti gained notoriety when she returned to São Paulo seven years later on account of an exhibition of her Expressionist- and Cubist-inspired paintings. Though stridently defended by Oswald de Andrade and other writers and artists later associated with the Semana de Arte Moderna festival, her paintings incited the polemical objections of such academic critics as Monteiro Lobato, who designated modern art “abnormal,” comparing it to psychopathological art. This exhibition commemorates that

  • 32nd Bienal de São Paulo: “Live Uncertainty”

    How does one embrace uncertainty without succumbing to fear? This installment of the Bienal de São Paulo will offer provisional answers to the question at a time when the globe is increasingly faced with dramatic instability in the political, social, and natural worlds. Rounding up eighty-one participants from thirty-three countries, the exhibition will explore topics ranging from ecology and cosmology to collective knowledge. Following the recent trend of research-based art, many of the show’s works will

  • “The Illusive Eye: Op Art and the Americas in the 1960s”

    Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary, El Museo del Barrio (in partnership with the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Buenos Aires) will revisit the Museum of Modern Art’s 1965 exhibition “The Responsive Eye,” with the stated ambition of presenting the history of Op art from a Latin American perspective. The show includes some seventy paintings, sculptures, and environments produced during the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s by some fifty artists, including Julio Le Parc, Carlos Cruz-Diez, and Jesús Rafael Soto (who refused to participate in MoMA’s show) as well as several

  • “Playgrounds”

    By framing contemporary artists’ work in relation to that of Lina Bo Bardi, the Museu de Arte de São Paulo aims to recover the legacies of this Brazilian architect, who designed the museum’s current home and who advocated a social vision of democracy and multiplicity. MASP recently reconstructed Bo Bardi’s iconic glass easel display for its collection, and with the title “Playgrounds,” the curators allude to the institution’s homonymous 1969 exhibition, which—as this show promises to do—took the ludic dimension of Bo Bardi’s