The Cold War in Latin America: Art and Politics

CHAPTER 3: Inter-American relations and the Cuban Revolution (1960s)

In the late 1950s, Latin America entered a period of economic crisis. Social struggles aligned with the ideological conflict of the Cold War, pitting the democracies of the Western world against the threat of Communism. After the Cuban Revolution, leftist guerrilla groups began to emerge throughout the region. Initially, the ideals of the Cuban Revolution were a beacon for Latin American intellectuals who, as part of the so-called literary boom, became influential international figures. To the north, the Kennedy administration promoted a policy called the Alliance for Progress as a way to expand US influence and encourage economic development in Latin America. Art became an important aspect of this project, which fostered an increase in cultural exchanges along a north-south axis. Artists were invited to visit the United States with Guggenheim Fellowships, and a few museums, including the Blanton, began to collect and exhibit the art of Latin America.

Ary Brizzi’s elegant abstraction made him a favorite artist to include in Argentine exhibitions traveling to the United States.

Superficie activada núm. 2 [Activated Surface no. 2]

Ary Brizzi
Avellaneda, Argentina, 1930 –

Superficie activada núm. 2 [Activated Surface no. 2]
170.5 cm x 168.9 cm (67 1/8 in. x 66 1/2 in.)
Gift of John and Barbara Duncan, 1971

Ary Brizzi’s geometric paintings are elegant, technically rigorous, and conversant with Kinetic and Op art of the 1960s. At the time, Brizzi painted compositions of thin parallel bands that generated optical vibrations. In this example, the subtle color gradations and precise change in trajectory of the blue, black, and gold lines suggest two mirrored shapes that seem to overlap in a shallow space. Brizzi’s use of a diamond-shaped canvas and vibrating cerulean blues enhances the dynamism of this piece.

El puente [The Bridge]

Edgar Negret
Popayán, Colombia, 1920 -

El puente [The Bridge]
Painted aluminum sculpture
59.5 cm x 275.5 cm x 73.5 cm (23 7/16 in. x 108 7/16 in. x 28 15/16 in.)
Gift of Arlene Bobker, 1978

Edgar Negret was among the first Colombian artists to develop an international profile. He spent many years working in Paris and New York, where he befriended Ellsworth Kelly and other abstract artists in his circle. When Negret returned to Bogotá in 1963, he was already constructing modular sculptures with painted metal sheets joined together with visible screws and nuts. "El puente" combines industrial materials with an organic sense of form.

X en la calle 13 [X on 13th Street]

Sarah Grilo
1920 - 2007

X en la calle 13 [X on 13th Street]
Mixed media
101.8 cm x 102 cm (40 1/16 in. x 40 3/16 in.)
Gift of Jordan Metzger, 1975

"X en la calle 13" reflects Sarah Grilo’s experiences of living in New York City during the 1960s. This period marks an important transition in her work as she moved away from her earlier geometric paintings focused on color harmonies. Here, she mixed the techniques of Informalism with the use of language to suggest the graffiti and splashes of color one finds on a gritty urban wall. Her operation is somewhat paradoxical since it is the walls themselves that acquire the look of abstract paintings over time.

Gonzalo Fonseca moved to New York in 1958 after being awarded a Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.
Graneros III [Graneries III]

Gonzalo Fonseca
Montevideo, Uruguay, 1922 - 1997, Seravezza, Italy

Graneros III [Graneries III]
Red travertine
20.3 cm x 54 cm x 50.1 cm (8 in. x 21 1/4 in. x 19 3/4 in.)
Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1983

Gonzalo Fonseca’s fascination with history led him to spend time traveling through Latin America, the Middle East, and Europe to see the excavated remains of ancient cities. "Graneros III" suggests the experience of the modern visitor confronting such archaeological sites. The unexplainable architectural features may be puzzling, but their mystery captures our imagination. Fonseca enhances the need to engage directly with the piece by providing movable objects that can be placed in different areas of the work—if one only had access and permission from the curator. Alas, the piece must remain a tempting yet remote enigma.