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Everyday Poetics

Sat Nov 18 2017 – Sun Jun 17 2018

Seattle Art Museum

Third Floor Galleries

In equal measure tactile and fragile, the works by contemporary Latin American artists in this gallery function like poetic ballads in the stream of everyday life. The majority of the artists in this exhibition are from Brazil and Mexico, with notable exceptions from Cuba and Peru. Two of the Brazilians, Cildo Meireles and Sonia Gomes, embarked on their careers in the 1960s, a time when their country was moving toward a military dictatorship. In view of an oppressive regime, vanguard artists in Brazil sought ways to articulate independent and probing questions. For an artist such as Meireles, issues of individual choice within an existing system (here, a game of tic-tac-toe mounted on a web of measuring sticks) are characteristic of his approach and showcase both the limitations of a system as well as the creative potential of each individual.

The main focus of this show is on the generation of artists shaped by the social, economic, and political developments in their respective countries during the 1980s and ‘90s. Through alterations and unusual assemblages, the artists successfully transform mundane items, such as books, dust cloths, soda cans, cardboard packaging, and lottery tickets, repurposing them into arresting lyrical objects. Fritzia Irízar uses the scratch marks from lottery tickets as a subject in her work. Marilá Dardot’s Código desconhecido (Unknown Code) #5—a series of books cut to the spine in a way that makes them no longer legible—offers many avenues for interpretations, just as William Cordova’s transformation of a Coca-Cola can into the winged spirit of Saint Rodriguez holds multiple possibilities. By contrast, Moris’s piece Semana 1 spells out the days of the week with seven homemade clubs that harbor associations of raw confrontation, a subject that is as current as it is timeless.

What unites the diverse group of works in this exhibition is the use of everyday materials to render our dreams, desires, fears, and aspirations as material thoughts.

Image: Sandalia, 2004, Los Carpinteros, Cuban, b. 1969–71, pigmented and clear urethane rubbers, 12 ¾ x 5 ¾ x 2 ½ in. each, image courtesy of USF Graphicstudio, Tampa, Florida, © All Rights Reserved, Photo: Will Lytch.