Under the Same Sun: Art From Latin America Today

South London Gallery, until September 11

In what remains of middle-class Argentina, everyone is an artist. There is a studied indifference – or a contained pride, at being good at self-expression – when oils are displayed, or a poem excavated from a superannuated laptop. Looking deeper, perhaps there is a sense of disposability in it – that art is for the fainéant – or, a valediction, for an Eliot-like “hollow man”; wiling out his stretch, on that continent’s wasteland.

Latin American art has wavered in recent years: between “Pop Latino”, a knowingly kitsch look at the way commercial branding has meshed with underdevelopment, to interest in the Dirty War against communism in the 1970s, for example. This last could be a strange symptom of a separate problem – the fact that South American artists are having to stand by the inherent worth of what they do, in the face of a wider cultural discourse that promotes machismo, misogyny and provincialism. And as journalist Robert Fitch memorably asserted: “vulgar Marxism explains 90 per cent of what goes on in the world”.

The focus of this “vulgar Marxism” has centred itself, perversely, on the artists in Pope Francis’s Argentina. Art is a luxury that only the rich can afford, and afford to do. This attitude is typified by Rodrigo Cañete, owner of the influential art blog Love Art Not People. In the Argentine art world, the atmosphere is internecine, investment is on the floor.

In the South London Gallery’s Under The Same Sun, we see Runo Largomarsino’s ContraTiempos, a series of projected images collected when he walked under the Marquise, a concrete canopy that connects the Ibirapuera Park in São Paulo. The images show small fissures (which all take the vague shape of the South American continent) in the concrete design of the walkway. He sees this as the subconscious of South America – emerging through the cracks, the fissures in Niemeyer’s modernism.

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