The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin presents “Words/Matter: Latin American Art and Language at the Blanton” through May 26, 2019. The exhibition examines how modern and contemporary Latin American and Latinx visual artists have engaged written language to make personal, political, and poetic statements.
“Words/Matter” is drawn primarily from the Blanton’s extensive collection of Latin American art. The collection began in 1963, when the museum’s first director established a collecting priority that identified contemporary art from both North and South America. Since then, the Blanton has continued to focus on collecting, researching, and exhibiting Latin American art. In 1988, it was the first museum in the U.S. to establish a curatorial position devoted to this field. The collection now includes 2,500 works of modern and contemporary painting, prints, drawing, conceptual art, installation, video, and sculpture.
“We are very proud to shed new light on the museum’s Latin American art program with exhibitions opening simultaneously at the Blanton and at the Reina Sofía in Madrid this winter,” said Blanton Director Simone Wicha. “The Blanton has long been a leader in this field and continues to build on its commitment to celebrating the unique art histories that have emerged from Latin America.”
The 2019 Blanton Gala will honor the museum’s enduring innovation and engagement in the field and showcase the exhibition, organized by Beverly Adams, the Blanton’s curator of Latin American art, and Florencia Bazzano, the Blanton’s assistant curator of Latin American art. “We are thrilled to share Beverly’s brilliant scholarship with audiences both here in Austin and concurrently in another exhibition drawing from the Blanton’s Latin American collection that begins a world tour in Madrid this February and will conclude at the Blanton in 2020,” continued Wicha.
“Words/Matter” highlights the depth and breadth of the Blanton’s Latin American collection, featuring approximately 150 works in a variety of media, dating from the 1930s to the present. The exhibition will also debut recent gifts to the museum, including several works donated to the museum by the late Jacqueline Barnitz, an internationally recognized scholar of Latin American art and UT Professor Emerita, and a group of Chicanx prints given to the Blanton by Gilberto Cardenas, a collector of Latinx and Chicanx art and professor at UT from 1975 to 1999.
“’Words/Matter’ is a testament to the origins and future of the Blanton’s Latin American collection,” said Beverly Adams, curator of Latin American art and co-curator of the exhibition. “Bringing together works from the beginnings of the collection, such as Barbara Duncan’s seminal gifts of South American paintings, which came to the museum in 1971, with more recent gifts from collectors Charles and Judy Tate, ‘Words/Matter’ showcases the Blanton’s deep ties to artists, scholars, collectors, and others working and interested in Latin America.”
Several key loans in the exhibition demonstrate the strong campus partnerships that continue to position UT and the Blanton at the forefront of this field. A collection of sculptural poems, as well as several Chicanx protest prints from the 1970s, are featured in the exhibition and are on loan from the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, the largest university research collection focused on Latin America in the U.S.
“Organizing this exhibition allowed us to present our collection of Latin American art in a new way, organized around a significant theme: visual artists’ enduring interest in language and the written word,” said Florencia Bazzano, Blanton assistant curator of Latin American art and co-curator of the exhibition. “’Words/Matter’ calls attention to the inventive and subversive aesthetics of artist’s books, poems, socially engaged printmaking, and conceptualist practices, revealing the powerful messages that emerge from the convergence of art and language.”
The exhibition has six sections that examine the varying ways artists made written language a key aspect of their work: Alphabets, Between Poetry and Prose, Concrete Poetry, The Shape of Language, Fighting Words and Between the Lines.