The Embedded Critic. Writing About Art in Latin America

Lecture and discussion with Florencia Malbrán
June 8th, 2017

This lecture will address art criticism in 20th Century Latin America through a strategic focus on the writings of three remarkable women: Nelly Richard, Suely Rolnik and Marta Traba.

All three follow conceptions of criticism which draw from Roland Barthes’ notion of the »eternally written« text, and propose that descriptions are not neutral, and are not written from an »aseptic« or »removed« point of enunciation. They locate themselves within the discussion of the critic’s presence; she is no longer positioned outside of and far from the work of art, but instead she underscores her »being there.«

Maintaining close relationships with artists, they excavated the works created before their eyes with words, inscribing images with meaning. In their criticism, works by Lotty Rosenfeld, Lygia Clark, and Beatriz González gained new dimensions.

They were instrumental in articulating the art scenes in which they were immersed (Chile, Brazil, Colombia), charting local works in a global context, evaluating how local and global priorities converged or diverged. All three were propelled by a belief in art’s contribution to the theoretical debates around nationalism, postcolonial thought, and emancipation. In particular, they were determined to examine how culture works under difficult contexts or conditions.

Florencia Malbrán is Craig M. Cogut Visiting Professor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies at Brown University in Providence, and is also a faculty member at New York University in Buenos Aires. Also a curator, she has organized exhibitions in Argentina, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Colombia, and Paraguay. Malbrán is currently completing a new book, stemming from her interest in postcolonial and globalization studies: »Contemporary Folds: Latin American Art and Literature in the 21st Century«.

The event is organised in cooperation with the DFG Research Training Group »Cultures of Critique«.