Radical geometry: South America’s surprising art

The Guardian- Paul Laity

“So the Royal Academy show, curated by Adrian Locke and Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro, has no need to be defensive. It tells four main stories, each involving a different country in a particular era. All the art displayed was propelled by radicalism – of differing kinds, all more or less political – as abstraction swept through South America. In the catalogue, Locke elegantly introduces the economic and political contexts of the four radical moments. Montevideo was a modern capital with wide boulevards, parks and intellectuals gathering in coffee houses; Buenos Aires was “a cosmopolitan city of grandeur and sophistication”. Brazil made itself a global art-world capital in the late 40s and 50s with new galleries and the São Paulo biennale – the big Brazilian cities were hot centres for abstract painters, not in a provincial sense, but internationally. In prosperous Venezuela, the modern art movement, influencing industry, science and architecture, also made political sense: it helped the country appear vibrant and in vogue. The continent was a destination shining with promise, chosen by many European immigrants over the US. An interchange of ideas across the Atlantic between Europe and South America – one that has so often been written out of art history – was inevitable. […]

Radical Geometry’s fourth – Venezuelan – story is characterised, like the first, by strong connections between Latin America and Europe. The op and kinetic artists Jesús Rafael Soto and Carlos Cruz-Diez crossed the Atlantic and settled in Paris. In the other direction, Gego, who was born Gertrud Goldschmidt, the daughter of a Jewish banker, left Germany in 1939 as political tension mounted, bound for Caracas. She arrived during an economic boom, and was surrounded by artists consumed by a sense of new possibility.”

Paul Laity, Radical geometry: South America’s surprising art, The Guardian, 2014

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