Major works by 21 internationally recognized artists address social and political realities Timed with the Museum’s sixth Latin American Experience Gala and Auction.

In November, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, presents Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America, an exhibition featuring a selection of major works by 21 established artists from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, and Venezuela. Encompassing a variety of media including drawing, sculpture, video, and interactive object- and video-based installations, the exhibition highlights contemporary artists who use seductive and engaging materials to convey their social, political, and environmental concerns. Curated by Mari Carmen Ramírez, Wortham Curator of Latin American Art and director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas (ICAA), with Rachel Mohl, curatorial assistant, Latin American art, Contingent Beauty is on view in Houston from November 22, 2015, to February 28, 2016.

Drawn primarily from the Museum’s permanent collection of modern Latin American art—one of the most comprehensive collections of its kind in any public institution—nearly all of the 32 works on view have been acquired by the Museum over the last five years through the Caribbean Art Fund, a special initiative of the Museum and Fundación Gego. Established in 2010, the goal of this fund is to research, promote, and collect works by artists from the greater Caribbean. Since its inception, the Caribbean Art Fund has sponsored the acquisition of 37 major works by artists from Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela. Works by Central American artists are presently under consideration.

“While the Latin American art department has an international reputation for its unrivaled Modernist and Constructivist collection, Contingent Beauty demonstrates the breadth of the Museum’s holdings of contemporary Latin American and Caribbean art,” said MFAH director Gary Tinterow. “With this installation, we invite Museum visitors to discover artists active in the region today, many of whom have made significant contributions to the global art scene.”

“In the hands of these artists, the work of art—while formally sophisticated and seductive—becomes not an end in itself but a tool to heighten viewers’ awareness of critical factor shaping their everyday environment,” said Ramírez. “The works employ conceptual, sensory- based or interactive strategies that playfully elicit the viewer’s active participation. As visitors become key elements in unfolding the work’s meaning, this exhibition promises to provide them with an exciting, fun-filled, and eye-opening experience.”

In addition to artists whose works were acquired through the Caribbean Art Fund, Contingent Beauty features works by exceptional mid-career Latin American artists, generating a dynamic dialogue that cuts across chronological and geographic borders. Featured artists include Tania Bruguera (Cuba), Johanna Calle (Colombia), Yoan Capote (Cuba), María Fernanda Cardoso (Colombia), Los Carpinteros (Cuba), José Gabriel Fernández (Venezuela), Magdalena Fernández (Venezuela), Víctor Grippo (Argentina), Carmela Gross (Brazil), Grupo Mondongo (Argentina), Guillermo Kuitca (Argentina), Oscar Muñoz (Colombia), Roberto Obregón (Venezuela), Gabriel Orozco (Mexico), José Alejandro Restrepo (Colombia), Miguel Ángel Ríos (Argentina-Mexico), Miguel Ángel Rojas (Colombia), Teresa Serrano (Mexico), Regina Silveira (Brazil), Javier Téllez (Venezuela), and Tunga (Brazil).

The artists in Contingent Beauty intertwine aesthetic refinement with biting critiques of timely issues grounded in the complex realities of Latin America and its long history of colonization, political repression, and economic crisis. These issues range from poverty, violence, gender, government corruption, and globalization, to the war on drugs and the legacy of colonialism. The “beauty” of these works is contingent upon contextual interpretation. Each piece harbors a tension between opposing elements, such as beauty and violence, seduction and repulsion, or elegance and brutality.

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