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"The Experiment of Exercise and Freedom"
1999-10-17 until 2000-01-23
Museum of Contemporary Art
Los Angeles, CA, USA United States of America

This major exhibition explores the work of five Latin American artists who moved from traditional art forms toward a new experimental aesthetic. The Experimental Exercise of Freedom examines the contributions of five artists—Clark, Gego, Goeritz, Oiticica, and Schendel—who created innovative and highly individualistic work in Latin America from the late 1950s to the 1970s. During the period highlighted by the exhibition, these artists moved away from traditional art forms such as painting and sculpture toward a new aesthetic that connected directly with the cultures in which they lived. With shared roots in modernism—particularly geometric abstraction and European constructivism—these five artists developed strongly experimental practices that responded to new aesthetic dimensions and established distinctive and unexplored links with architecture and other mediums.

These artists shared beliefs that their artwork was to be regarded not only as an aesthetic object for passive contemplation, but also as a participatory and transformative experience that advocated new relationships between art, life, and society. All five artists produced complex bodies of work that called for close interaction of the viewer with the environment. In their explorations, these artists emphasized the value of the process and experiences offered by their works.

Goeritz’s experiments with site-specific sculpture and “emotional architecture” (architecture that elicits feelings or emotions) introduced a new aesthetic to Mexico, a country deeply concerned with national identity. Today, his Torres de Ciudad Satélite (Towers of Satellite City) , 1957, are renowned architectural symbols of urban Mexico. Gego created weblike sculptural constructions of metal to explore the relationship of sculpture to space. Her work reflects her continual experimentation with structural systems of vertical and parallel lines, and the shapes derived from them (triangles, squares, and polygons) which are combined and changed through various links. Schendel’s Monotipias (ca. 1962-1964 and ca. 1970) mark the beginning of her investigation of language in a medium other than painting. Her works made from delicate Japanese rice paper encourage careful investigation.

Both Clark and Oiticica believed that the spectator, rather than the artist, imbues the object with meaning. As Clark’s sensorial objects are handled and worn, the audience actively eliminates the space between the object and the viewer. Also included in the exhibition is A casa é o corpo (The House Is the Body) , an installation representing a metaphorical journey through a woman’s body, completed by audience participation. Eden is Oiticica’s “experimental ‘campus,’” an environment of quiet and meditative experiences. From walking on sand, hay, and crushed stones; listening to music in a secluded tent; and socializing or resting in nest-like areas, the viewer becomes an active and integral component of the work.

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