Contemplating on Argentinian works at the Blanton

American art is taking on a broader focus in many museums. This is particularly true in Texas. A show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston that ended in January, Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975, was one of few I can recall which put a spotlight on South American Art.

Museums also seem to be expanding their more permanent displays of art from Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina and other too-often overlooked or glanced over art centers. While I may have been the one to overlook it on my last visit, the Blanton seemed to have a larger collection of art from South America on display.

Two works from Argentina caught my eye.

La edad de la razon (The Age of Reason) by Ernesto Deira shows two forms that might be figural with some primary areas and splattering of paint. The palette is limited to red, yellow and black, with slight blue undertones. The title is shared with Jean-Paul Sartre’s work, influential in Argentina.

Sometimes I don’t know whether it’s good to read the labels. They present a description that you may or may not have arrived at through visual contemplation. Once presented with analysis, it is most often accepted.

We often think of humans in scientific, biological terms. Anatomy, cells, disease and the things we can do to maintain health including exercise and nutrition. We put ourself into philosophical camps and choose political sides anticipating we will avoid hypocrisy and act rationally according to our beliefs.

But a human at any given time is made up of random events and experiences. They are anything but orderly or rational. We can try to impose order on the world, but the world is anything but orderly. As the label suggests, a large part of our being remains conflicted and undefined “oscillating between the spectral and the grotesque.”

The second work, Vivir: A los saltos (To Live: By Leaps ad Bounds) by Rómulo Macció (featured image) reminded me of the message in North Texas-based Allison Proulx‘s work.

Detail of a work by Allison Proulx

Proulx commonly depicts urban scenes full of consumer messages with less obvious images incorporated alerting us to the exploitation on which our world depends. On the other hand, Macció interrupts the influence of television to suggest a sinister presence.

When the work was created in 1964, our lives were becoming the seemless television show the label suggests. The task of interrupting a reality created for us today would be infinitely more complex. In fact, we are presented by differing versions of reality and multiple streams of messages that could only really be interrupted by quiet contemplation and temporary or permanent disconnects from the internet.

Both are a reminder to ask if a message or a thing is really for our benefit, and if so, at whose expense?