Los Angeles

“Latin America—New Departures”

Santa Barbara Museum of Art

This is a traveling exhibition of eleven painters sponsored by the Institute of Contemporary Art of Boston, and Time, Inc., and was organized by Thomas M. Messer, then Director of the Institute, and present director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. As Messer points out in the accompanying catalog, any attempt to objectively sum up in a single exhibit the paintings of such an extensive region as Latin America is an impossibility; therefore one must regard the selection as a highly personal one. Taken in its totality Messer’s choice reveals his perceptive catholicity of taste, his sophisticated urbanity and his acute awareness of the internationalism of contemporary painting. With the one possible exception (R. Martinez of Mexico) there is absolutely nothing regional about these paintings; in fact American or European gallery-goers might well feel that they have never left home. One’s tendency then, is not to judge the works within the productive framework of each of the countries, but as a segment of the world art scene.

Within this framework, one’s overall impression is that the exhibit reveals a high degree of technical polish, utilized to state a series of respectable, widely accepted academic themes; themes which have been derived directly or indirectly from Europe or from North America. The whole atmosphere of the exhibition is beautifully summed up in a comment by one of the participating painters, Armando Morales: “A statement (in paint) . . . should not be uttered in a rough or immodest way, but with decorum.”

Represented in the selection are Ricardo Martinez of Mexico (who continues the Mexican figurative tradition of the ’20s and ’30s), Armando Morales of Nicaragua, a very subtle latter-day cubist, Alejandro Otero of Venezuela, with his precise hard edged paintings, Manabu Mabe of Brazil, an impressive exponent of international abstract expressionism, Fernando de Szyszlo of Peru with his Tamayo-esque canvases, Alejandro Obregon of Colombia represented by a group of delicate, loose-flowing works, and finally five Argentine painters: Jose Antonio Fernandez-Muro and Miguel Ocampo, both of whom assert a rarified intellectualism, Saran Guilo, a non-objective painter of real substance, Kazuya Sakai, a weak exponent of abstract expressionism, and Clorindo Testa whose one work in the exhibition does not attest to his important stature in the world art scene.

Arthur Secunda