Art Latin America: Against the Survey

Curated by James Oles, Adjunct Curator of Latin American Art at the Davis Museum and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art at Wellesley College

This is the online version of an exhibition that was on view in the Davis Museum galleries from February 7 until June 9, 2019.

Art_Latin_America: Against the Survey sought to highlight the extensive collection of modern and contemporary Latin American and Latinx art at the Davis Museum. Since the 1990s, our holdings in these areas have expanded more than tenfold, strengthening the Museum’s teaching capacities, complicating the personal and historical narratives we can tell in the galleries, and bringing ever greater diversity to the permanent collection. 

Although seemingly self-evident, the definition of “Latin American art” has been the subject of contentious debate. Art_Latin_America takes a broad and inclusive approach, signaled by the underscores—blanks, but also bridges—in the title. The first underscore, between Art and Latin, means that the selection includes not only art from or made in Latin America, but art about or even just related to the region. The second, between Latin and America, allows us to join “Latin-American” artists with their Latino/a/@/x contemporaries: those of Latin American descent who live in the United States.

Installation view, Art_Latin_America: Against the Survey, Davis Museum at Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, Spring 2019.

Art_Latin_America is organized into eight thematic sections—Identity and Territory, War and Loss, Protest and Propaganda, Farmers and Workers, City and Country, Saints and Rituals, Models and Mothers, and Gesture and Geometry. The 2019 exhibition featured over 150 works by 100 artists from twelve countries, a third of them women, and this digital version presents a selection of key works from each section. Working against the traditional chronological or national survey, Art_Latin_America embraces diversity, evident not only in the range of artistic styles and subjects, but in terms of the artists’ backgrounds, experience, residence, and points of view. We hope it serves as both pivot and prompt for future explorations in the field.

You can learn more in the catalogue published by the Davis and the University of Texas Press.

The exhibition and catalogue were realized with generous funding from:

Wellesley College Friends of Art at the Davis
Judith Blough Wentz ’57 Museum Programs Fund
Mellon Endowment for Academic Programs at the Davis Museum
The Helyn MacLean Endowed Program Fund for Contemporary and South Asian Art
The James Wilson Rayen Museum Gift
Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation