Latin American Contemporary Art
OLA's Selection: Art Basel OVR

A selection of 12 artworks from Art Basel Online Viewing Rooms, now on show.

8 min read


For this weekend, we recommend heading to Art Basel and enjoying the immense selection of works. We've picked out 12 incredible pieces by Latin American artists for you to get a head start.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger at Galerie Barbara Weiss

Allegorie auf die Geschichte nach Sappho, 2020
In this triptych, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger takes on the motif of Sappho, set in a contemporary landscape. In the central panel we see Sappho in an attempt to seduce a marble statue, reflected in an iris that fills almost the entire format. The scene is embedded in a lush tropical landscape, that has taken an apocalyptic turn and is interrupted by silhouettes in front of a roaring fire and a burning police.

Mario Garcia Torres at Jan Mot

Silence's Wearing Thin Here, 2000 - 2019
The audio piece Silence's Wearing Thin Here is composed of sound fragments that Mario Garcia Torres selected from a range of multimedia works he made from the 2000s onwards. The aim was to provide an overarching perspective on the concepts explored throughout his practice. Silence's Wearing Thin Here offers, as the artist describes it, "an atmospheric road trip" which becomes the context for an abstract discussion between two female, quasi-robotic voices. During their conversation, ideas about time, memory and the politics of images are intermixed with ambient sounds and a multi-part musical score written by the artist and produced with a range of musicians. Garcia Torres conceived this sound piece as the core of "Illusion Brought Me Here," a solo exhibition presented at Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2018 and Wiels, Brussels, 2019. On the occasion of this Art Basel OVR presentation he further developed the work by creating a virtual video screening room.

Similar to the video If Only I'd Thought Of The Right Words (n.d.) by Mario Garcia Torres which is also included in the viewing room, this sound work provokes a reflection on the posthuman notion of voice.

Cecilia Vicuña at Lehmann Maupin

Hilito y Finadita (Little Thread and Dead Woman), 2020
During the late 1960s and 1970s Cecilia Vicuña made a number of oil paintings, many of which were either lost or destroyed due to travel, the Chilean Military Coup of 1973, and lack of care and respect for her practice as a painter. In 1986 Vicuña stopped painting entirely and has only recently come back to this practice. Inspired and driven by the paintings from her past that no longer exist or are lost to her personally, Vicuña is reclaiming her history as a painter by recreating new, reimagined versions of her most significant earlier works. The original Hilito y Finadita was painted in Santiago, Chile, in 1969. The painting portrays a couple who, on a walk, come across a murdered woman lying on the ground. She is dead but a thin thread of blood is running from between her legs. The man abandons his partner to attend to the murdered woman. He is taken with her beauty, even in death. This is the first appearance of the “red thread” that has repeatedly emerged in many of Vicuna’s works, including her Precarios and Quipu series, as well as other paintings. This work was first exhibited in “Cecilia Vicuña: Pinturas Poemas y Explicaciones,” at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile in 1971. It was later lost on a bus transfer at the Los Angeles airport in 1972 in transit to be loaned to another exhibition.

Paulo Nazareth at Mendes Woods DM

CA - produtos de genocídio - Bahia y Black soap, 2018
Paulo Nazareth’s work often embodies simple gestures, which bring about larger ramifications, conveying an awareness of often ignored issues of immigration, racism, and colonialism in his native Brazil and beyond to the international art world. While his work may manifest in video, photography, and found objects, his strongest medium may be in cultivating relationships with people he encounters on the road — particularly those who must remain invisible due to their legal status or those who are repressed by governmental authorities. In certain aspects, Nazareth uses the romantic ideal of the wandering artist seeking universal truths to usurp facile assumptions about national identity, cultural history, and human value. In our time of unprecedented exposure, where systematic oppression can be documented and broadcasted by anyone with a smartphone, Nazareth’s mission to represent the unrepresented is more relevant and persuasive than ever before.

Adriana Varejao at Victoria Miro

Azulejão Português, 2018
One of the most original and significant voices in contemporary Brazilian art, Adriana Varejão is celebrated for a materially diverse practice comprising painting, sculpture, drawing, installation and photography.
Being a recurring motif since early in her career, the azulejo [tile] forms a significant aspect of Varejão’s work and her use of it is as hybrid as her art. This characteristic element of Portuguese decoration carries a variety of influences ranging from Moorish artisans through to Dutch Delftware and Chinese ceramics. Introduced to Brazilian culture by the Portuguese during the colonial period, the tile can be seen as an allegory for cultural integration. Azulejão Português [Big Portuguese Tile],, 2018, alludes to tiles used on the façades of Portuguese buildings during the nineteenth century. The chosen geometric pattern belongs to the transition period from artisanship to mechanical reproduction of tiles. In both paintings, the crackling surfaces can be seen as a vestige of the passage of time; also, these paintings propose to reconstruct the azulejo,/i> as a three-dimensional, almost sculptural object.

Alexandre da Cunha at Galeria Luisa Strina

Kentucky (Indigo), 2020
Alexandre da Cunha’s artistic output is result of time, a unique keen eye for shape and a perceptive and poetic, sometimes ironic, translation of objects into new forms and meanings. "It’s about improvisation and make-believe", according to him. The textile installation Kentucky (Indigo) is constructed from mops, delicately dyed with pigment and then hand-knotted together. The original function and meaning of this everyday object are completely dissipated and the artist’s unexpected approach and maneuvering of it triggers in the viewer a new sense about this familiar object, opening it to new narratives.

Icaro Zorbar at Casas Riegner

Golden Triangle (Assisted Installation No.3), 2006
Icaro Zorbar’s artistic practice embraces multiple fields including film, music, and anthropology. It delves into the creation of hybrid machines made with a combination of old and newfound parts as well as current and obsolete technologies that are transformed with the passing of time. Directing our attention to reproduction devices (i.e. turntables, projectors, fan, music boxes, sound systems) and their peculiar ability to freeze time almost indefinitely, Zorbar’s pieces are given a voice that echoes complex human emotions and feelings. The subtle gestures of his pieces often evidence the inevitable deterioration of technology, as unexpected noise imperfections, dust, and quality alterations, are carefully incorporated; in this acceptance of the intrinsic failure of technology, the artist finds intense human qualities.

Erika Verzutti at Fortes D'Aloia & Gabriel

Esperança Equilibrista / Funanbulist’s Hope, 2020
For the past decade Erika Verzutti has developed wall-mounted reliefs that stretch the boundaries between painting and sculpture. Guided by the tactile experience, these “wall sculptures” establish a complex relationship between two and three-dimensions, form and sensorial expression. Esperança Equilibrista (2020) borrows its title from a verse of a 1979 song made famous by singer Elis Regina. The lyrics use veiled images and metaphors to describe the sadness and lack of freedom for artists in Brazil during the dictatorship. The composer is Aldir Blanc — who recently passed away —, and after whom the artistic community in created the Lei Aldir Blanc: a project that helps artists, musicians and capoeira players survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paolo Salvador at Peres Projects

Pumakunaq kawsaynin, 2020
Paolo Salvador’s (b. 1990, Lima, Peru) paintings assemble a distinct cosmovision. Drawing on mythic imagery, his works lend contemporary reflection to ancient subjects. With loose brush strokes, and saturated colors, Salvador’s practice is evocative of biography, both personal and national. Educated in the west, his paintings offer a proximate view of his Peruvian identity, but from a distance. Salvador’s methodology involves a careful engagement with his materials, as he builds layers and details of paint across the canvas. These different planes of the painting trespass and bleed into one another, both revealing and covering, simultaneously creating and flattening out the depth in the landscapes. Salvador recently had a solo exhibition at Open Forum, Berlin, as well as participated in group exhibitions at PQH, London, and the Slade Research Centre, London. In 2014 he earned his BFA from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú, and in 2019 he earned an MFA at Slade School of Fine Art in London.

Dalton Gata at Peres Projects

Vista desde la ventana (View from the window), 2020
Dalton Gata’s (b. 1977, CU) multidisciplinary practice expounds a bountiful and distinct visual universe. His painting, photography, drawing and installation blends popular culture with personal relationships, the surreal with the quotidian. Born in Cuba, and based in Puerto Rico, Gata’s work operates across multiple registers; the symbolic, political, as well as the personal to address themes of migration, race, and inequality. The varied and diverse inhabitants of his canvases that stare out at the viewer disrupt a western anthropocentric gaze. Drawing on a visual language of stylized realism, with nods to the legacy of surrealism, his long and curved brush strokes, and his composed figures reference and stimulate a sense of embodiment and eroticism. These works are deeply rooted in and signal the artist’s Caribbean background and make reference to African and Spanish histories. Gata’s mediation on performance and artifice, the reclaiming of ‘dirty’ symbols, are timely and remarkable aesthetic translations of the chaos of our time.

Sol Calero at ChertLüdde

Amazonas, 2017
"Amazonas" is a pastel and chalk drawing on blackboard paint by Sol Calero. First shown at Hamburger Banhof in 2017 for the installation Amazonas Shopping Center, the work displays Calero’s distinguishable tropical motifs which refer to the visual and cultural stereotypes surrounding Latin America as a carnavalized Other. Large in scale and using a blackboard canvas, the work nods to Calero’s vision of popularized education around the subject of Latin American history and culture. The installation at Hamburger Banhof stemmed from a solo exhibition produced two years prior at Studio Voltaire, London, titled La Escuela del Sur (The School of the South). The exhibition takes its title from Uruguayan artist and art theorist Joaquín Torres García, whose 1935 piece proposed an autonomous art movement inverting the traditional hierarchy of art, placing Latin America at the nexus of art history. García went on to found the Taller Torres García, a progressive educational art community which aimed to develop a distinctive Latin American artistic language based on constructivist theories. Noting the Victorian architectural style of Studio Voltaire, Calero reworked the space based on the visual culture of South America, imagining a school setting where communal learning and gathering could take place.

Mariela Scafati at Isla Flotante

An, 2019
Fragment of: Glossary for Listening to Stones, by Mariela Scafati & Nicolás Cuello. Measure: Between you and me, there are only nine blocks. I breathe: Send me a message when you get home, I’ll be waiting.

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