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Cecilia Fajardo-Hill: Abstraction as an Empty Sign
May 8, 2014
Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros

International abstraction, and more specifically, abstract geometric art is considered one of the greatest, most ambitious and elegant forms of modernity, despite still being widely misunderstood and despite the pervasiveness  of representational art to the present day. In the same way that Mexican Muralism was seen as the height of Modern Art in Latin America in the 1970s and 1980s, whereas Geometric Abstraction was perceived as not displaying enough exotic or nationalist undertones to be authentically Latin American, we may see a return to older, more traditional models of modernity for Latin America when our present internationalist art market/art historical vein changes. The political and conceptual aspects of abstraction are easily neutralized through its aesthetic beauty, and for both the art market and art history at present, it is more palatable to promote Latin American Geometric Abstraction produced between the 1940s and the 1970s as the most legitimate, desirable and demonstrable modern art expression of the continent. The issue is not whether Geometric Abstraction is more or less modern, valid or important than Mexican Muralism for example, but why we think of Modern Art in Latin America as a polarized or unique idea of art related to abstraction. We know that Latin American art has been both international and specific since Colonial times; we also know that in each country during the 1940s-1970s many contradicting and important art expressions of great relevance took place simultaneously. Abstraction as a single model for modernity is at risk for turning into a canonical art form caricaturized by a speculative art market, and of quickly becoming obsolete like every trend or fashion in art and culture. Geometric abstraction needs to be discussed and studied in the context of other art expressions of the time, as part of a complex art historical fabric in order to avoid becoming an empty sign or a new stereotype of Latin American art.