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A century of color and variation: The Latin American art world

Exhibit shines a light on little- known works of Latin American modernists.

October 02, 2013|By Lynne Heffley | By Lynne Heffley
  • Girl, c. 1931. Angel Bracho (Mexican, 19112005). Oil on canvas.62-7/8 x 39-1/8 in. (159.7 x 99.4 cm)exhibited at the Norton Simon Museum, The Blue Four Galka Scheyer Collection.
Girl, c. 1931. Angel Bracho (Mexican, 19112005). Oil… (Photo Courtesy…)

The small exhibition installed in the alcove gallery near the ticket desk at the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena is somewhat unexpected. In recognition of Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, an institution noted for the depth of its European, Indian and Southeast Asian collections has mounted a tightly focused exploration of forms of Modernism undertaken by 20th-century Latin American painters, photographers and lithographers between 1931 and 1985.

“Breaking Ground: 20th-Century Latin American Art,” at the Norton Simon through Nov. 4, features works by Diego Rivera, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Rufino Tamayo, Jose Luis Cuevas, Angel Bracho, Roberto Matta, Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt) and Antonio Frasconi. Some of the works have never before been on public display. Each, said curator Lynn LaBate, the museum's head of education, “represents a Latin American artist who has made a significant contribution to the world of 20th-century Modernism.”

Mexican artist Cuevas, featured in the exhibition with his 1966 lithograph, “The Marriage of Arnolfini,” “explored the underbelly of society,” LaBate said. “He broke with the tradition of Mexican art that is political or figurative, or highly decorative or primitive.” Influenced by existentialism, Cuevas' singular voice “represents the era in which he was working — an international era, not necessarily part of the national Mexican discourse.”

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One of the two most striking paintings on display, Rivera's “Blue Boy with Banana,” was last shown at the Norton Simon in 2003 as part of an exhibition of works from the museum's extensive Blue Four Galka Scheyer collection. Influential art patron Scheyer built her collection of modern art around works by Jawlensky, Lyonel Feininger, Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee — her Blue Four. It encompasses hundreds of artworks, photographs and documents.

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