NEW YORK — Pinta, the modern and contemporary Latin American, Spanish, and Portuguese art fair, is currently in its sixth New York iteration, with over 60 galleries from 17 countries representing hundreds of Latin American and Iberian artists, as well as a few artists who, though not from Latin America, have some sort of connection to it. Much of the work in the fair comes from the expected well-traversed art terrains, like Spain, Brazil, and Argentina, but Bolivian, Uruguayan, and Cuban artists make some meaningful contributions as well.
Cuban artist Arles del Rio was a hit the opening night. Most of his pieces were part of a series of studies for his installation in the Havana Biennial last May — a giant fence along the malecon with a cut-out of an airplane, a visually impressive work that touched on ideas of permanence, escape, and closeness.
The Art Projects section — curated by Italian born-Brazilian resident, Jacopo Crivelli Visconti — offers a space in which seven galleries showcase the work of a single artist, allowing for a more in-depth experience of the work, and a more curated art experience for the viewer. The work in Art Projects ranges from Puerto Rican, Brooklyn-based artist Ramón Miranda Beltrán’s “Village Youth,” a subtly powerful and highly political photo-transfer on concrete, to small, formal geometric studies by Brazilian Concrete master Willys de Castro. Also in Art Projects, the sole Portuguese gallery in the fair Filomena Soares highlights the work of Dias & Riedweg with “Little Stories of Modesty and Doubt,” a short video of overlapping cuts of a Brazilian park taken from different angles at the same time.
In curating the section, Visconti was interested in the themes that connected the diverse group of artists. “We have the whole spectrum, from very engaged artists who were interested in making a change or making a political statement," he says, "to artworks that could look just formal, but were created to make a change.”
The rest of the fair was heavy on photography of all sorts. Argentinia-based Espacio Makarius has four incredible works by Henri Cartier-Bresson shot and printed in Cuba for $25,000 each. The Makarius family is a strong presence in the gallery, with photographs by the prolific Argentine artist Sameer Makarius (starting at $6,500) hung alongside paintings by his son, the abstract painter Karim Makarius.
São Paulo-based Paralelo Gallery is dominated by four images of Hélio Oiticica, taken by filmmaker Ivan Cardoso during Oiticica’s final Parangolé installation in 1978. In the stills — cut from film — Oiticica is a lone figure against a blue sky, moving with and within the colored fabric of his moving sculpture, the parango. Each image in the series of four is $9,000.
Based in La Paz, Bolivia, Salar Galeria de Arte is perhaps the gem of the fair. The gallery has fewer pieces than most other galleries; all by strong South American artists little-known in North America. The simply curated space carries a strong Andean aesthetic with visually rich and politically relevant works like the two large Gastón Ugalde photographs set in the desert; one with colored threads woven atop white sand and the other with bright beach balls and clear bubbles contrasted against the blue sky. They are both part of an edition of three, priced at $5,000, and related to his video, “Marcha por la vida,” also part of an edition of three, which costs $12,000. Ugalde’s work is strongly influenced by indigenous Andean textiles: In “Marcha por la vida” he sews together almost 500 feet of bright, hand-woven blankets, which he installs differently depending on the setting. Also at Salar Galeria is a video by Sara Modiano, who has been described as the Colombian Cindy Sherman; and a 12,000-pound, wooden, color-blocked sculpture by Sonia Falcone.
The Miami-based Sammer Gallery has a phenomenal selection of abstract work by Uruguayan artists — particularly the works by Raul Pavlotzky and Carmelo Arden Quin. Sammer also has a series of small, delicate abstract works in tempera and pencil by Ana Sacerdote, ranging in price from $2,800 to $4,500.
For the most part, Pinta 2012 is a success. There’s an incredible selection of artists, thoughtful curation, and much to discover. Yet, the fair fails in one egregious way: only about a quarter of the work shown at Pinta is by women. Hopefully, when Pinta returns to New York next year, it will include more of a selection of female artists, and the work will remain as high-quality as it is this year.