edited by Victoria I. Lyall and Jorge F. Rivas Pérez. Hirmer (distributed by University of Chicago Press), 2020. 176 p. ill. ISBN 9783777434346 (h/c), $40.00.
Reviewed January 2021
Clayton C. Kirking, New York Public Library (retired), email@example.com
In the penultimate sentence of the catalog’s introduction, the curators of Revisión, Jorge F. Rivas Pérez and Victoria I. Lyall, state that “As a category of art history, Latin American art seeks, but at the same time resists, positioning.” This in many ways is both the premise and the motivating principle of this exhibition, which strives to place the arts of Latin America in a new light, a third space. The exhibition and the catalog come at a time when many are struggling to understand American cultures that are, in many ways, refashioning the political and economic composition of the Western Hemisphere. In this sense, Revisión provides an important point of view from which to observe, and name, these shifts in identity and democratic orientation.
Organized by the Denver Art Museum and on view there through February 2021, the show is comprised of 105 objects drawn largely from the collection of the museum. Considered here are works that span more than two millennia of artistic thought and production. Objects are paired, contrasted, and examined in the light of five illuminating essays that make a strong case for the deep connectedness of these artists—and the populations they represent—to place and in many cases to the earth itself.
Texts by the curators are complemented by three others by leading scholars in the field; these are engaging, very readable and amply illustrated. Following the English language essays, the introduction as well as all essay texts are included in Spanish, without illustrations. Notes, which function almost as label copy, on some of the illustrated works in the catalog are in English only. The volume will be essential for any academic library that supports the study of Latin American art or institutions that exhibit works by the very broad range of individuals identified as Latin American, Latinx, or Chicanx.
This is a handsome book, well designed and of a size that allows for easy handling and reading, not approaching the status of “coffee table book.” While there is not a formal bibliography, end notes for each essay, in English and Spanish, are included in the appendix. Also appended is a checklist of the exhibition and a brief, but adequate index. A particularly useful asset of the imprint is the inclusion of entries for illustrations used throughout the catalog that demarcate sections of texts, illustrate the cover, and provide endpapers.
This title joins a growing list of books that are expanding and clarifying the definition of Latin American art, and its position within the history of art.