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T+L Reports: Southern Stars

Spanning six decades, "Inverted Utopias: Avant-Garde Art in Latin America" at Houston's Museum of Fine Arts takes a close look at the largely underappreciated achievements of artists in 20th-century Uruguay, Brazil, Cuba, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela. The more than 200 pieces are grouped into six evocatively titled "constellations," meant to illuminate the aesthetic and social issues much of the work explored. "Universal and Vernacular" examines the mingling of native, colonial, and folk influences with the ideals of the European avant-garde in the work of such artists as Francisco Matto, who in the late seventies began crafting totems from found wood. "Cryptic and Committed" features vibrantly colored capes created by Hélio Oiticica for samba performances that obliquely challenged Brazil's military dictatorship. Still more subversive are Cildo Meireles's Coke bottles, which he silk-screened with oppositional slogans (YANKEES, GO HOME!) before they were refilled and distributed to unsuspecting consumers throughout Brazil. June 20-September 12.
—Kristin M. Jones

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