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ARTMargins Online Blog

Before Globalization: Pop as Transnational/Transitional

Written by Godfre Leung

The following text is slightly revised from a talk given at a panel discussion on the catalogue to the 2015 Walker Art Center exhibition International Pop at the Swiss Institute in New York. The exhibition, curated by Darsie Alexander and Bartholomew Ryan, revises the familiar narrative of Pop art as primarily a British and American phenomenon, instead chronicling the emergence and migrations of Pop art from an international perspective. Godfre Leung’s sixty-four-page “Visual Chronology” in International Pop’s catalogue mapped the international circulation of Pop art across more than thirty nation-states over four continents, from the immediate postwar period to the early 1970s. Below, Leung discusses the Chronology’s periodization scheme and methodology.

[Left: Dalila Puzzovio, A Load of Serious Smiles, 1963/1997. View of the exhibition International Pop, 2015 Photo: ©Walker Art Center ]

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Unguarded views

Written by Corina L. Apostol


Xandra Popescu and Adrian Knuppertz’s “You are safe with me” (curated and produced by Larisa Crunțeanu) uses film and photography to explore issues of performativity and (male) authority in Bucharest’s public spaces. The project is an experimental take on the conventional contemplative portrait, offering an unusual window into the private thoughts that keep security guards occupied during their often tedious posts, as well as their public persona. Through the iconic image of the security guard, the artists spark a conversation about the gentrification processes in the capital, as well as processes of inclusion and exclusion in regard to class and ethnicity. 

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USSR Passport: Between Soviet Utopias and Post-Socialist Realities

Written by Corina L. Apostol

Since its nineteenth century beginnings photography has functioned as an organisational tool for visually describing the world through groups, categories, communities, from people to plants and planets, in order to better understand the society, as well as to control it. Costumes and props were typically on hand in the photographer's arsenal, so that they could render portraits that recreated compositions from popular plays or paintings. The illusory universes created by photographers in their works resembled worlds that were known or could be imagined. The seeds for documentary, engaged photography were sowed at this time and at the beginning of the 20th century, and were further developed during the post-war period, when artists began to tackle social problems and political issues in a nuanced and evocative way. Making visual arguments through series of photographs taken over time, engaged photographers used experiential perspectives that embraced both objectivity and subjectivity, interpretation and information, art and journalism.

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Alter-global Narratives

Written by Graciela Speranza

Jorge Macchi, Seascape, (2006), 70 x 100 cm

As it has been acknowledged by American art historians and critics, the past twenty years have witnessed "the rapid growth of art historical interest in the post-war period in Latin America" and "an important attempt to question inherited canons, periodizations and critical frameworks of Latin American art".[1] But I would like to go further and even question the continental frame of the narratives of Latin American art in the broader context of contemporary art and literature. The challenge is not new but it is worth revisiting with a view to a genuine globalization of narratives written in Latin America. “We need to think of our heritage as the universe,” Borges argued in the 50's. “We can handle all the European issues,” he also wrote. “Handle them without superstition, with an irreverence that could, and already has had beneficial consequences  (273).” This is what many contemporary artists and writers are doing, in fact, reconfiguring the world in their own image and expanding the scope of their horizon, without losing their singularity. Our critical narratives should then include them without superstition, without making any more distinctions than those imposed by their own works in the greater narrative of the art of the present. It is not that we have not tried to rewrite the history of Latin American art before, inverting the map, postulating alternative modernities, composing atlases with flexible frontiers and plenty more discursive acrobatics, which have fatally left us in more or less the same place, albeit with a fashionable presence on the globalized checklist of  biennials, literary festivals, museums and collections: meager fruits of multiculturalism, the cultural logic of globalized capitalism. We could then start by composing larger, all-encompassing panoramas  -"alter-global narratives," we could call them-  that would free us from the now anachronistic divisions that limit us to local or continental histories of literature or art, coopted to supply a global narrative then composed by others, or tailored to preserve or win space for the regional specialist in the global center.

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