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4/20/2009 Houston— North Looks South: Building the Latin American Art Collection, opening June 7 at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (MFAH), celebrates the museum’s major Latin American art acquisitions since 2001, with more than 80 works in every medium, ranging in date from the 1920s to the present. North Looks South is organized around unexpected juxtapositions between artists and works from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Uruguay, the United States, and Venezuela.

Featured artists include Gego, Jesús Rafael Soto, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Roberto Obregón (Venezuela); Hélio Oiticica, Lygia Clark, Alfredo Volpi, Franz Weissman, Waldemar Cordeiro and Luis Sacilotto (Brazil); Xul Solar, Antonio Berni, Marta Boto, Carmelo Sobrino, Miguel Angel Ríos and Juan Carlos Distéfano (Argentina); Roberto Matta and Alfredo Jaar (Chile); David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo, Gabriel de la Mora and Teresa Margolles (Mexico); Julio Alpuy, José Gurvich and Joaquín Torres-García (Uruguay); and Beatriz González and Oscar Muñoz (Colombia). The exhibition will be on view through September 28, 2009, in the Upper Brown Pavilion of the Caroline Wiess Law Building.

“This exhibition is an extraordinary opportunity for the MFAH to envision how its Latin American collections could be installed in a future, permanent space,” commented Dr. Peter C. Marzio, MFAH director. “As this exhibition has come together, the works that so far comprise this collection have revealed unusual and even unexpected relationships and counterpoints among artists, movements and objects.”

Mari Carmen Ramírez, the MFAH’s Wortham Curator of Latin American Art, has built one of the most important Latin American art collections in the United States. For the first time since the critically acclaimed, groundbreaking 2004 exhibition Inverted Utopias Ramírez, along with Gilbert Vicario, Assistant Curator for Latin American Art, will again pull together artwork from a wide array of Latin American countries, this time by exclusively mining the museum’s diverse Latin American art collection (which does not currently have permanent display space at the museum). In North Looks South, Ramírez and Vicario will present a provocative view of the Latin American modern and contemporary art tradition—one that has been shaped as much by technical innovation and utopian concerns as it has by cultural and sociopolitical realities.

“In just eight short years since the Latin American art department was established at the MFAH, we have pursued a collecting mission aimed at identifying, researching and collecting renowned masters of Latin American modern art, as well as those artists who challenge preconceived notions about the region,” said Ramírez. “In this exhibition, we will showcase some of the museum’s major acquisitions, including outstanding recent gifts, along with long-term loans and works that the museum hopes to acquire. These acquisitions are a testimony to the MFAH’s and the community’s commitment to Latin American art. The majority of the works acquired since 2001 were purchased with funds from the biannual Latin American Experience Gala and the Latin Maecenas, the department’s extremely dynamic Latin American art collectors support group.”

Also featured in the exhibition are masterpieces on long-term loan to the MFAH from the Latin American Art Department’s Partners-in-Art Program. Participants in this program include the Fundación Gego, the Cruz Diez Foundation, Houston, and the Tanya Brillembourg Art Collection.

Rather than a traditional, chronological timeline, North Looks South is instead organized around the Latin American art movements that have come to define the collection, advancing dialogue between varied works from different periods: Constructivism, Kinetic and Op art, Surrealism, Latin Pop, installation art, and contemporary video. The arc of the exhibition moves from ethereal works that play with light and space, to darker works that wrestle with social issues.

In addition, the MFAH will showcase a major new acquisition, La Ciudad Hidroespacial (The Hydrospatial City; 1946-72), by Argentinean artist Gyula Kosice. An ambitious undertaking first begun in 1946, Kosice worked on the project for over 25 years. While components of this artist’s signature piece have been exhibited, the MFAH will be the first museum to display this immense work in its entirety. The installation, to be presented in a 200-square-foot room, demonstrates Kosice’s vision for the future: space architecture for a new, utopian civilization. The centerpiece of the work is a 9-by-9-foot installation filled with a “galaxy” of clear plastic mobiles–each a unique habitat—that dangles from the ceiling. The installation also includes a manifesto and fifteen drawings.