New York

“Multiples By Latin American Artists”

Franklin Furnace

This show, curated by Fatima Bercht, offered New York audiences their first extended look at contemporary artists’ books, mail art, and other printed matter by Latin Americans. These forms of expression, free from the usual commercial pressures and constraints of the art market, have provided Latin American artists with alternative means of communication with their audiences, according to Bercht. The rise in interest in multiples in the region coincided with the increased availability of industrial printing and reproductive technology that took place in Latin America during the ’60s and ’70s; other stimulating influences were the conceptual art and mail art movements. The same factors figure no less prominently in North American responses, and like North American or European art of this kind Latin American multiples embrace an amazingly diverse group of formats, styles, and issues.

The show contained over 60 works by artists from all over Central and South America, many of whom have chosen for various reasons to live outside their homelands. Technologies of production included photo off-set, silkscreen, mimeography, and photocopy; materials ranged from illustrated books and pages to mixed-media constructed pieces, postcards, and magazines. That the issues here were very much a matter of personal choice can be indicated by the following sampling: in Ñ, Argentinian-born and New York–based Leandro Katz discoursed in dictionary fashion on the usage of this distinctively Spanish letter; Brazilian artist Regina Silveira, in Brazil Today–Brazilian Birds, 1977, parodied picture postcards; Venezuela’s Carlos Zerpa did a humorous take-off on primary school primers in Silabario Venezolano; Colombian Raul Marroquin, who lives in Holland, investigated quasi-narrative situations using boxed letters and photos in Changing Personalities, 1974; and in Mahla, 1981, Brazilian artist Carmela Gross counted numerical sequences.

A standout among the collaborative efforts was Polaroid, 1979, by Grupo Margo, a group including artists Gilda Castillo, Mauricio Guerrero, Magali Lara, Manuel Marin, Alejandro Olmedo, and Sebastian; the work, published in Mexico, probed the perceptual/philosophical implications of photographic vision. Close relations between artists and poets were demonstrated in the Brazilian magazine Navilouca, 1972, while the Cuban magazine Signos was a showcase for Cuban graphic artists. In the issues displayed of Ovum, a magazine from Uruguay, experimental poetry and mail art were featured. The show revealed a generally high level of creative aspiration, execution, and enthusiasm for the conceptual implications of language and the visual possibilities of the printed page in contemporary Latin American art.

Ronny H. Cohen