Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fatal Abstraction?

I just came back from the PINTA art fair. The question: is the name a reference to Columbus' vessel on which he sailed to the New World, or, is it a play on the Spanish for "to paint" was not answered. But I THINK it may be the latter since the vast majority of works on display, were in fact, paintings. And not just any paintings, but abstract geometric paintings. So, I asked myself, is this a Fatal Abstraction?

Of course, if we see the patrons who chaired the gala committee for the art fair, among them is the prominent Venezuelan collector Patricia Phelps de Cisneros, who through her collecting, patronage, support for academic, publication and curatorial endeavors, has put geometric abstraction on the map. And thanks to her pretty-much single-handed generosity, MoMA finally realized that Latin American art should be part of their agenda. Finally.

As she has said in more than one interview, her love of art she grew up with in Venezuela coincides with her goal to show North Americans that Latin American art is not the "Chiquita Banana" "folkloric" figurative (mostly Mexican) art. She particularly loathes Frida Kahlo. (ay, bendito! poor Frida, as if it wasn't bad enough that her entire work and life have been totally trivialized -Hayden Herrera's bio should have been called "Frida, Diego, he's just not that into you") So now we can study these amazing works of art, which when I was in school people barely spoke about, frankly, though these were NOT excluded from big surveys like the one in England in 1989 or at MoMA in 1992. And works that 10 years ago no one was selling, especially not selling, now proliferate in the auctions, and completely dominate this fair. If someone was to walk into the fair who knew nothing about Latin American art, they would walk away thinking: wow, these people really are suffering from Fatal Abstraction! And, that the only countries that produce art or deal in it, are in the Southern Cone. To be fair, I did see ONE Mexican artist represented, Gunther Gerszo.

Then there was my favorite thing about fairs (as you my imaginary reader recall from my discussion of the Asian Art Fair) - the "VIP Lounge." The one at PINTA was PRICELESS. Because I took it to be a neo-Conceptual art piece which in an ironic way was poking fun at corporate sposorships and the privatization of culture. And I was thinking this because of a work by the fabulous artist Yoshua Okon, who made a video that comprised solely of logos for corporate and Mexican governmental entitities with a voice over that read their names out loud, acknowleging their support in an endless loop. But of course it wasn't it was just a clever way to display the names of the corporate partners.

Let's talk about the fashion, so we were Latin Americans and there was a lot of tight black skirts or dresses, a lot of cleavage (uncharacteristically, I didn't take my colleagues and friends on a one-way trip down the Panama Canal but instead wore a high-necked top), lots of rhinestones, very high heels, and what I like to call Puerto Rican neutrals - animal prints and metallics. To a Puerto Rican, this is the equivalent of Navy Blue or Camel. So if Diana Vreeland was still with us, she'd make a maxim about this like she did with "Pink is the Navy Blue of India." There were a lot of really bad face-lifts worn by women with unnatural shades of yellow hair. And furs.

And it's not an art fair until something or somebody gets hurt: I heard many many glasses shatter and break, someone literally fell into a booth, a professor at an Ivy League University told me that he bumped into a Soto while looking at another, and the little sculpture fell to the ground! So fatal abstraction it is.

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