The Cold War in Latin America: Art and Politics

CHAPTER 4: Radicalization of the Politics (1960s-early 1970s)

As the United States pursued an interventionist foreign policy and turned its focus to Asia and Vietnam, relations with Latin America grew progressively terse. The Alliance for Progress failed to achieve the economic development it had promised, and the hardened stance of the Cuban revolutionary regime polarized political discourse throughout region. Unable to resolve a deepening economic crises, many governments in the area faced violent confrontations with radicalized groups who felt politically disenfranchised. During this time, artists addressed the increasing sense of social alienation, and anti-imperialist anxieties led to a questioning of foreign models in artistic works.

Retrato de Ramona [Portrait of Ramona]

Antonio Berni
Rosario, Argentina, 1905 - 1981, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Retrato de Ramona [Portrait of Ramona]
Collage of collagraph prints
63.4 cm x 31.2 cm (24 15/16 in. x 12 5/16 in.)
Gift of the Museum of Modern Art, 1982

Antonio Berni’s experimental figuration was a key point of departure for the members of Nueva Figuración. Beginning in the late 1950s, Berni developed two narrative series based on the lives of imaginary characters Juanito Laguna, a boy from the slums, and Ramona Montiel, a prostitute. In this work, Berni explores the use of three-dimensional printmaking techniques, lending surfaces a sculptural quality. Ramona seems to be assembled out of discarded objects the artist found in the street. Fragments of cheap tablecloths, broken mechanical parts, and forgotten ordinary items reinforce the marginality of Ramona’s existence. Berni pursued through these innovative collagraphs the central goal of his long and prolific career, an art of social engagement.

Cerrado por brujería [Closed for Witchcraft]

Luis Felipe Noé
Buenos Aires, 1933 -

Cerrado por brujería [Closed for Witchcraft]
Oil and collage
199.6 cm x 249.7 cm (78 9/16 in. x 98 5/16 in.)
Archer M. Huntington Museum Fund, 1973

The notion of chaos as the primary state of the universe has been an ongoing concern in Luis Felipe Noé’s art. In 1962, Noé understood chaos as a tension between opposite forces. In a bold, expressionistic style he presents a Catholic prelate in a dominant position above talking heads trapped in a black grid. As the nation’s official religion, Catholicism played a complex role in shaping Argentine society. A controversial 1963 law assigned the Church the function of rating plays and films for the Argentine public. The red cross here is an ambiguous symbol, offering comfort to the alienated while enforcing through censorship officially sanctioned Western and Christian values.

Colombia Coca-Cola

Antonio Caro
Bogotá, Colombia, 1950 –

Colombia Coca-Cola
Enamel on tin
69.8 cm x 100 cm (27 1/2 in. x 39 3/8 in.)
Susman Collection, 2014

"Colombia Coca-Cola," first painted in 1976 and later proliferated in different sizes and formats, presents the name of the artist’s country in the iconic Coca-Cola script. Caro’s recycling and subversion of ubiquitous logos like this one derives from his experience working for an advertising agency in the early 1970s. Here the superimposition of nation and logo points not only to a history of U.S. imperialism in the region, but also to how the line between “us” and “them”—consumers and producers—has become blurred.