Critics’ Picks

View of “Perder la forma humana” (Losing the Human Form),” 2012–13.


“Perder la forma humana”

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía
Calle de Santa Isabel, 52
October 25 - March 11

For at least the past fifteen years, exhibitions have been at the forefront of the field of Latin American art history, excavating new objects of interest for scholars. Curated by members of the Red Conceptualismos del Sur, a network of art historians and curators focused on Conceptual art throughout Latin America, “Perder la forma humana” (Losing the Human Form) opens this relatively untouched field consisting of dozens of underrecognized 1980s artists. It is by turns important and overwhelming—the exhibition is more like a colossal, open archive than a focused statement—and should be seen by anyone interested in the region.

The overarching contention here is that the state violence in Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Brazil (the countries that, problematically, absolutely dominate this exhibition) is inextricable from the diverse action- and body-based practices that emerged in these nations during the late 1970s and continued through the early 1990s. This blurring of art and life produced a fundamentally reactive set of practices, from the collaborative street protests by CADA (Colectivo de Acciones de Arte) and C.A.Pa.Ta.Co. (Colectivo Arte Participativo—Tarifa Común) in Chile and Argentina to the highly personal, queer body art of Grupo Chaclacayo and Gang in Peru and Brazil. The results can be visceral and heartbreaking, as in Las Yeguas del Apocalípsis’s traditional Chilean cueca danced on a map of South America covered with shards of glass. They can also defy existing definitions of art, given that many of the practices on view here are extrainstitutional, with specific activist or research objectives. Thankfully, a marvelous concluding gallery of Latin twists on punk and post-punk hints that repressive dictatorships did not govern every corner of the imagination, nor the potential for new bodily and social forms.