by Michele Greet. Yale University Press, March 2018. 296 p. ill. ISBN 9780300228427 (h/c), $60.00.
Reviewed July 2018
Dr. Michele Greet, associate professor of art history and affiliated faculty in Latin American studies and cultural studies at George Mason University, offers a nuanced and well-illustrated history of Latin American artists in interwar Paris in Transatlantic Encounters: Latin American Artists in Paris Between the Wars. Although Latin American artists studied in Paris in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Greet explains that between World War I and World War II, increased grant money from Latin American governments produced the largest influx of Latin American artists in Paris to date, producing a profound effect on the art scene in Paris and western Europe as well as in newly formed Latin American countries. Currently coinciding with MoMA’s Tarsila do Amaral exhibition (whose 1924 painting Carnaval em Madureira is featured on the cover), this book is a timely survey for a topic that merits and is likely to receive even more scholarly discussion.
The book includes chapters discussing Latin American cubists, surrealists, and constructivists, the artwork of Latin American women during this period, and the construction of a conceptual understanding of Latin American artists in the French press. The historiographical approach in the latter chapter is among the best of Greet’s work in discussing the historical and contemporary categorization of “Latin American art.”
The author introduces the book by examining how Brazilian artist Vicente do Rego Monteiro reacted to and subverted Parisian perceptions of Latin American “primitiveness” in his 1925 book of prints, Quelques visages de Paris, and provides a perspective for understanding the experiences of Latin American artists during this period and varying ways that they responded to this exoticization—whether through rejection, subversion, or reinterpretation of these colonialist expectations. Greet offers readers a nuanced perspective on the symbiosis between Parisian society and Latin American artists by exploring the ways these artists contributed to the development of modernism, and how Paris had an effect on the formation of Latin American artistic production and the intellectual formation of the artists that worked and studied there.
This title would be a useful entry point for readers looking for an overview on this topic, while at the same time enriching the already voluminous writing regarding interwar Paris, which Greet does by deftly balancing general art historical information with more nuanced discussions of identity formation, colonialism, and displacement. While the author covers the likes of Diego Rivera and Wifredo Lam, Greet also discusses artists that are lesser known outside of their home countries. Transatlantic Encounters will appeal to an academic audience and would be accessible to undergraduates. Finally, the volume and quality of color reproductions in this title should not be overlooked, as they are an excellent illustration of and accompaniment to Greet’s text.