Southern Heat: Five Latin American Artists to Watch at the Venice Biennale

Southern Heat: Five Latin American Artists to Watch at the Venice Biennale

Latin American artists have had a vivid presence at the Venice Biennale ever since the Italo-Latin American Institute began organizing a pavilion in 1972 to foster cultural exchange. As recently as 2005 Guatemala's Regina José Galindo took home the Golden Lion for best younger artist. But this year, with nearly 100 artists from the region participating in the event — and with the United States pavilion orienting its gaze toward its southern neighbors — the spotlight will be on Latin American art as rarely before. To navigate the wealth of displays, ARTINFO turned to New York gallerist Frederico Sève for advice.

A dealer with an eye for spotting talent — he is best known today for discovering and championing Carmen Herrera, now counted among the 20th-century greats — Sève is especially excited for this Biennale, his sixth. "Most of the artists that I will be looking at are very young artists," he said. "What I'm liking is a lot of new faces and new names." On Monday, Sève threw a luncheon on the terrace of the Monaco Hotel — "because it is my favorite view in Venice" — for the Latin American artists participating in the Biennale. After this week he'll be heading to London for the Pinta Art Fair, and "then we finish the semester with Art Basel — it's a lot, no?"


Here are his picks — none of whom he represents, incidentally. (He does represent Jaime-David Tischler at the Costa Rica pavilion, however.)


Latin American Pavilion

I think Brazil had a very strong concept to send these experimental works Oiticica made with this moviemaker to the Venice Biennale. They worked together for  a long time, and they produced a very interesting body of work — a whole body of work produced under the effects of cocaine. Very interesting, conceptually. They're called "Cosmococa, Program in Progress." These were already included in a show at the New Museum here in New York City five years ago, but now Neville D'Almeida — he's a director and producer of movies in Brazil — has just upgraded the whole technology of the installation, so it's probably going to be something very interesting.

Latin American Pavilion

From Colombia there is something very interesting also. The name of the artist is Juan Fernando Herrán, and he's trying to make something like the underground of Bogotá and it's a very interesting thing. The name of the work is "Escalas." Very strong installation. Is it political? For sure. In Colombia if you go to the bathroom, it is political. Everything they do is political.


Latin American Pavilion

Guatemala has Regina José Galindo, a very interesting artist who uses the body as a political gun, a political arm. She won the Golden Lion in 2005 for best artist under 35. What she is showing now looks like a cemetery for one body only, because she creates a hole. She has performed with a coffin in the past as a sort of an accusation against drug and arms dealers who use coffins for shipments between the U.S. and Mexico. Here, the public participates by moving this coffin from one side to another. It's an interesting work. MoMA is looking for a format to do that installation and that show.

El Salvador
Latin American Pavilion

El Salvador has something interesting also. The name is Walterio Iraheto. He uses paper in his photography that reminds me of Brazilian art — it's very difficult not to remind somebody at this point of life — so it's interesting that the work is from El Salvador. The photos are gorgeous. Full of poetry, full of looking for new frontiers. Interesting, very interesting.

United States

Another thing that I like a lot is the huge surprise of the U.S. team, if I can call it that. It's a wonderful advance in political terms to have Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla, one born in Cuba and the other one from U.S., from Puerto Rico. Both live in Puerto Rico. They are so courageous. One of the pieces is a U.S. tank turned upside down with a gym treadmill on top. I think that's something that calls attention, no? Then they have a huge musical organ in the middle of the pavilion that has a special sound. I like the whole thing about experiments with sounds because we have experiments in images, you have experiments in the formative thinking and all these things, but rarely at the Biennale are there experiments with sounds. So, I think the U.S. is going to be great doing what they did. Also, Lisa Freiman is a great curator. I'm sorry to be so Brazilian in that way, but I didn't know that Indianapolis was a good museum, and now that I see her name linked to this museum I know it is a very good museum.