Camila Maroja: The First Mercosul Biennial

The First Mercosul Biennial: Showcasing an Abstract and Political Latin America

Rubens Gerchman, A Nova Geografia / Homenagem a Torres-García (The New Geography / Homage to Torres-García), 1971-79. Image courtesy of Instituto Rubens Gerchman licensed by inARTS.com.

Rubens Gerchman, A Nova Geografia / Homenagem a Torres-García (The New Geography / Homage to Torres-García), 1971-79. Image courtesy of Instituto Rubens Gerchman licensed by inARTS.com.

Maroja proposes to examine the curatorial project of the I Bienal de Artes Visuais do Mercosul (Porto Alegre, 1997), also known as the Mercosul Biennial, revealing how avant-garde art became the new canon for Latin America. By adapting the theories and debates of the 1970s, curator Frederico Morais presented a unified (but plural) interpretation of Latin American art grounded in the political and the abstract. Capitalizing on the 1991 Mercosul Treaty that created an economic union between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela, and building on regional interpretations of the art scene advanced in the 1970s (namely, that art in Latin America was social and political), Morais linked the curatorial proposal to the socio-economic and political context of the Southern cone. Ultimately, Maroja defines the curatorial project of the 1997 Mercosul Biennial as an index of the transformation of Latin American canon in art from fantastic and congenital to avant-garde and constructed from the 1970s to the late 1990s.

Camila Maroja is an art historian and visual culturist specializing in modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on Latin America. Originally from Brazil, she completed her PhD in the Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University in 2015. Her work has appeared in Carte Semiotiche, Artlas Bulletin, and Art & Documentation and is soon to be forthcoming in Art Margins. She co‐edited an anthology about precariousness in art, The Permanence of the Transient: Precariousness in Art (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, September 2014). Her current book project, Framing Latin American Art, investigates how artists, curators, and institutions created the idea Of “Latin America” to challenge the notion that Latin American art was derivative of US‐European art. To that end, she studies exhibitions held in the Americas to explain how anthropophagy, geometric abstraction, and the political were proposed to defy an image of an ahistorical and subordinated art production. Overall, her work intervenes in the way Latin American artistic production is currently inserted into collections as part of the “global art turn,” arguing that the current image of Latin American art showcased in the US and Europe is an indigenous construction.


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