The Mexican Pablo Leon de la Barra who was invited to be a guest curator by the Guggenheim Museum in New York, landed in Chile to participate in the fair Ch.ACO ’15 and to talk with Arte Al Límite about the art in Latin American, its work by creating collections and his vision about Chilean art.
By Daniela Sánchez M. / Chile.
Pablo Leon de la Barra speaks with the tranquility of someone who has repeatedly been in Chile. He has been travel to our country four times, most of those travel were invitations by the organizers of the Ch.ACO fair, which took place the last week of September, and especially for his work as curator in the formation of FAVA Collection. But not only that, Paul developed a two-year project at the Guggenheim Museum, New York, where he helped to form a collection of contemporary Latin American art. This collection incorporated works of the Chileans Juan Downey and Alfredo Jaar, which had no presence in this institution.
“What I proposed to the collection was a studious reading of the Guggenheim Museum, which works by Latin American were there and existing gaps. And even being invited to make a contemporary proposal, there was a gap that was in the seventies and eighties. One of the great achievements were to incorporate not only my generation, but look a little back and twist the museum’s arm to accept these works, “says the curator.
How did you connect the differences in Latin American art in your exhibition Bajo el mismo sol?
It was actually to realize that the practices are so diverse that you can’t unify ‘Bajo un mismo sol’. However, if I could use some networks or thematic, suddenly I had matches between artists and works that were not aware of each another; this could give us a general vision or a kind of map that could make us to understand, what is happening on the continent and what artists are doing on the continent. So was this idea, mapping in one side, but on the other hand also give visibility to what was happening.
You have defined the task of making a collection as a puzzle, how does this work?
I say this because of how FAVA works, but also the experience of the Guggenheim was a bit like this: Make that the sum of the parts could create or have a multiplicity of stories as a multiple experience that allows us as public to accessing to different visions. These different visions make us to realize that the world is not only like me as a person, I think it, but like us, crowds, we can see it. It allows us to break those barriers with the other person who thinks different. If we incorporate different parts to this puzzle, we can incorporate these different visions and put them in dialogue and conflict as well.
What FAVA collection has meant for you?
It has been an invitation and an incredible project, which is creating according to the time and somehow it is forming intuitively and from collaboration, to start thinking about how to put together a collection that may have some resonance and relevance in Chile. Then, when incorporating the pieces we realized that much of what I had, it depended on ideas of geography, both local and regional. How art may be a way to create connections within Chile itself, but also to connect with other parts of the world.
There is a quotation of Luis Camnitzer that I like very much and it says: ‘The museum is a school: The artist learns to communicate; the public learns to make connections’. This idea that the collection opens processes in the public, that allow to connect not only works of art but the work with reality and the works of art open you these windows to see and think, or question your reality in a different way.
What is your vision about Chilean art?
There are a series of interesting proposals in Chile that are given in a context that sometimes, for someone who comes from abroad, it looks inscrutable for him because it requires certain keys to enter: Understanding a local history, but also understanding how artists have been communicated, what were their languages. Much has to do with the actual isolation of Chile, geographical distance and on the other side, more or less traumatic stories. These stories have forced artists to create them in certain ways that one begins to understand that there is a very interesting artistic scene. This occurs both inside and outside the country, many from New York, Alfredo Jaar, and the generation after with Ivan Navarro, Felipe Mujica, but also many women and that is interesting, Francisca Benitez, Manuela Viera-Gallo, Johanna Unzueta. And then, many artists and curatorial initiatives that are exemplary for me. From Metropolitana Gallery, which seems to me an almost unique example in the world; temporary galleries that occupy different locations in commercial galleries of the center; the Projecto Pregunta o Mil Metros Cuadrados that they think from the communal, social. There is a number of actors that set up that diversity that makes interesting the Chilean scene. What we have to do know is to find ways of support these artistic practices and for this task I think that initiatives such as Ch.ACO and FAVA have a very important function to make this work.