arlos Amorales’s huge mobile—a viewer-activated symphony of reverberating copper cymbals—greets visitors to this show. Damián Ortega’s Tortillas Construction Module (1998), built from 52 corn tortillas, and Tania Bruguera’s video from Tatlin’s Whisper #6 (Havana Version), 2009, performed at the 2009 Havana Biennial, which gave participants one minute each to speak freely before being whisked away, set the tone: activist and interactive, full of humor and bile. This canny exhibition, titled “Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today,” of nearly 50 dissenting works by over 40 artists from 16 countries (Argentina to Venezuela) explores recent art practice in Latin America. “What’s happening elsewhere is as important as what’s happening in what used to be the centers,” says curator and organizer Pablo León de la Barra.
In fact, it is more important. These artists are heirs to the radically politicized hands-on work of a previous generation of Latin American artists—such as Cildo Meireles and Lygia Clark. Modernist history, colonialism, and social inequality are subjects these artists tackle—here are Rafael Ferrer’s 1971 “Artforhum” (for whom?), Juan Downey’s 1979 videos shot by Yanomami tribesmen, Luis Camnitzer’s Art History Lesson no. 6 (2000), with blank slides and empty projectors referring to those excluded by history, and Federico Herrero’s Pan de azucar (2014), which refers obliquely to Rio’s dark past. McDonald’s politely rejected Marta Minujín’s free-lunch proposal for an edible hamburger-encrusted Lady Liberty in 1979, but Alfredo Jaar’s A Logo for America (1987), revolving at Times Square, set the Western hemisphere spinning on its axis.
Javier Tellez’s One Flew over the Void (2005), made with mental patients in Tijuana, features a man getting himself shot from a cannon across the U.S. border. And the video Drinking Song (2011) by Donna Conlon and Jonathan Harker uses Panamanian beer bottles and cans as instruments to play the U.S. anthem. “Land of the free, home of the brave” is supposed to end with a burp, but it was, sadly, either inaudible or censored.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 94.