Contemporary art News USA

Airtime for Latin American artists

PBS’s contemporary art series starts its newest season with a look at a Mexican photographer

Tania Bruguera, Tatlin's Whisper #5, 2008, at Tate Modern, London. Photo: Sheila Burnett, curtesy Tate Modern and Studio Bruguera © Tania Bruguera

The seventh season of Art21, PBS’s television series on “Art in the 21st Century”, will feature three Latin American artists when it starts in October.

In “Investigation”, the first episode of the season, the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide talks about photographing Frida Kahlo’s house, her self-portraits, and her long-term photographic projects, such as her documentation of the indigenous town of Juchitan. Iturbide was a student of the leading Mexican photographer Manuel Alvarez Bravo and went on to be his assistant for two years. Earlier this year, she was awarded a medal by Mexico’s National Institute of Fine Arts in recognition of her 45-year career.

Two other Latin American artists in the series are the Cuban-born artist and activist Tania Bruguera and the Mexican conceptual artist Abraham Cruzvillegas, both included in the third episode, “Legacy”.

Bruguera is well known for her highly charged political interventions and performances. “The most important moment for an art piece is when people are not sure if its art or not, and this is the most productive moment,” she says in the episode while explaining her project Immigrant Movement International in Queens, New York. Among the works presented in the television show is her Tate Modern performance, Tatlin’s Whisper #5, 2008, in which she brought two, horse-mounted police officers into the Turbine Hall to take care of crowd control.

Meanwhile, Cruzvillegas has been dubbed the “Duchamp of the 21st century” for his sculptures assembled out of found objects. He explains his version of the ready-made through the concept of “autoconstrucción” or self-construction. This process was inspired from the experience of seeing his parents and local community improvise while building his childhood home from scratch. “Sometimes, I just play with the materials, finding combinations, taking whatever is at hand,” he says in the show, “things, they speak, [and] I try to find a balance among them”.

Art21 is an independent nonprofit art organization that produces the "Art in the Twenty-First Century" series for broadcast on PBS. The series premiered in 2001 and is the only ongoing television series in the US focusing on contemporary art. The current season will include other international artists, such as Omer Fast, Katharina Grosse, Thomas Hirschhorn and Wolfgang Laib, as well as American artists such as Joan Jonas, who is representing the US at next year’s Venice Biennale. Sponsors of the show include the National Endowment for the Arts, the Public Broadcasting Service, Agnes Gund, Bloomberg and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

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