March 12, 2007
With this retrospective MOMA signs on seriously to the accelerating effort to rewrite the history of modern art to admit the work of Latin American artists beyond the ones we already know, the Mexican muralists and the beset, uni-browed Frida Kahlo. The point is also to disarm stereotypes about Latin art as something that's always warm, party colored and folkloric. In that vein the Houston Museum of Fine Arts is also hosting a retrospective of work by the Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica, which moves soon to the Tate Modern in London. No mojitos in that one either.
Disarming stereotypes about Latin American art but not dismissing subject matter or processes unique to Latin American artists as quaint—a point I tried to make about Latino artists working in America.
In any case, Reverón does fall into an established tradition with a long heritage: that of the outsider artist, a "none of the above" category with no simple visual tells, which is nevertheless associated with folk art (and more often than not, mental disorder) Lacayo writes:
Six years later he made a crucial move with his companion Juanita Rios from Caracas to the coastal resort of Macuto. There he would create a walled compound called El Castillete and settle into the role of artist and local eccentric. More than eccentric, actually. Beginning in 1917 and continuing into the 1940s he suffered a series of mental breakdowns. Eventually he was diagnosed as schizophrenic and was even institutionalized for a few months in 1945.
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Reverón became a tourist attraction of sorts in Macuto, where well to do visitors from Caracas would drop by his compound for the thrill of watching him paint with a lot of strenuous theatrics, the madman-artist, the local Salvador Dali.Funny how Reverón's status would so shift, from local yahoo to MoMA-recognized artist. His story isn't just a tale of newfound recognition for Latino painters, it's about the art world's changing notion of intent.
- Armando Reverón, Museum of Modern Art, Hélio Oiticica, Houston Museum of Fine Arts,
Latino Artists, Time Magazine, Smithsonian American Art Museum
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