This fall, the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) will present the first American museum group exhibition dedicated to contemporary Latin American design. Featuring more than 75 designers, artists, craftspersons, and collectives, New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America will survey the innovative, cross-disciplinary collaborations and new directions in creative production that have been occurring throughout Latin America since 2000. On view from November 4, 2014 through April 6, 2015, the exhibition focuses on work emanating from a number of key cities that serve as cultural hubs for some of the most pertinent new ideas about art, design, and craft.

Organized by Lowery Stokes Sims, MAD's William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator, New Territories is part of the Museum's Global Maker's Initiative—a series of exhibitions, launched in 2010 with The Global Africa Project, that highlights creation from parts of the world often under-represented in traditional museum settings. New Territories was organized in conjunction with a Curatorial Advisory Committee that included noted experts in the field: Regine Basha, Marcella Echavarría, Susana Torruella Leval, Ana Elena Mallet, Nessia Leonzini Pope, Gabriela Rangel, Mari Carmen Ramírez, and Jorge Rivas-Pérez.

"New Territories represents an important first for MAD, examining the dialogue between contemporary trends and artistic legacies in Latin American art and design today," said Glenn Adamson, MAD's Nanette L. Laitman Director. "At MAD, we are committed to exploring making across all creative disciplines, and New Territories in its scope and ambition will bring together a broad cross section of skills, techniques, heritages, and creativity, revealing the universality of craftsmanship, whether practiced by a design professional or someone working within a long-standing craft tradition." The exhibition title New Territories takes its name from a phrase coined by Italian architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, referring to the state of making in today's globalized society, where the boundaries between art, design, and craft have become increasingly blurred. Among the trends the exhibition will reveal is the commitment of Latin American designers and artists to work with indigenous craft persons to preserve their national heritage of skills. Many of these collaborations result in dynamic new work addressing a wide range of issues facing the region, from commodification and production, to urbanization, displacement, and sustainability.

"Design in Latin America today manifests a number of interesting aspects, from the direct translations of traditional craft skills into contemporary production to issues around upcycling and repurposing. New Territories will highlight a range of compelling cultural and economic trends impacting design in the region, offering a platform for exploration of these issues," said Sims. "In addition, the exhibition will feature many artists, artisans and designers not well known in the US, bringing exciting new talent to the fore, for both design professionals as well as general museum visitors."

Exhibition Organization and Highlights

New Territories focuses on several cities in Latin America that serve as cultural hubs and laboratories for some of the most pertinent new ideas about art, design and craft. The exhibition demonstrates how trends identified with a hub surface in other regions, including:

  • Caracas, Venezuela (conversations with artistic legacies)
  • São Paulo/Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (upcycling and repurposing objects)
  • Santiago, Chile/Buenos Aires, Argentina (cultivating collectivity and experimentation)
  • San Salvador, El Salvador/San Juan, Puerto Rico (developing new markets)
  • Havana, Cuba (navigating personal and civic spaces)
  • Mexico City/Oaxaca, Mexico (moving craft into the future through collaborations with artists and designers)

Conversations with Artistic Legacies

This section will focus on Caracas, Venezuela, where artists are integrating designs into their work that are central to the cultural and aesthetic histories of their home countries. In Caracas, artist Pepe López incorporates the strong legacy of Venezuelan geometric art into Geometrias marginales (2014), a wall installation that isolates the geography of poorer neighborhoods in Caracas known as "ranchos". Similarly, in Brazil the designer Leo Capote references the work of Charles and Ray Eames and Victor Pantone in his Tulip Bolts Chair (2013) and Panton Chair Bolts (2013) respectively, made entirely out of repurposed hardware. This homage to international design icons is also seen in the contributions of artist Deborah Castillo and designer Carolina Tinoco, who will present their streamlined Panton-Vias (2013) and Panton Catuche (2013-14) which came out of their design collaboration ReD (Resign, Reinvent, Redeem).

Upcycling and Repurposing Objects

Works in this section will explore upcycling and repurposing as a quickly emerging and dynamic artistic practice, particularly in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This is exemplified by Rodrigo Almeida's work that bridges art and design as he remixes preexisting elements into new forms; Zanini de Zanine's MOEDA chair (2010), created from sheet of metal left over from the manufacture of national currency; and designer Mana Bernardes whose imaginative approach to recycling plastic is illustrated through her Môbiluz lamp (2011). Also notable in this section is Green Transmutation Chandelier (2010) by French-Mexican designer Thierry Jeannot, who creates exquisite chandeliers from recycled plastic bottles, as well as the works of such makers as the Venezuelan artist Rolando Peña who has created new seating from oil barrels especially for this exhibition.

Cultivating Collectivity and Experimentation

Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina have emerged as hubs where artists are experimenting with new ways of storytelling through the creation of objects. Santiago-based gt2P highlights issues around production in Latin America by fusing traditional craftsmanship with cutting edge technologies seen in their ambitious project Losing My America in which they investigate a hybrid production by digitizing the work of traditional folk artisans. Meanwhile, vacaValiente and Satorilab from Buenos Aires have created works that examine the narrative of design as a transformative element in Latin American society by exploring the notion of play. Also included in this section are works by Chilean designer Angello Bassi, whose Cubotoy (2013) uses figures derived from popular toy imagery as vehicles for design.

Developing New Markets

The works in this section will demonstrate how nascent contemporary design scenes in San Salvador, El Salvador and San Juan, Puerto Rico are working collectively to bring design into the lives of their publics and thus create a local market through education, work, and social interaction. The collaborative The Carrot Concept in San Salvador, and design in Puerto Rico in San Juan reflect the ambition and vibrancy of emerging design centers and at the same time draw inspiration from the local lifestyle.

Navigating Personal and Civic Space
The works under this theme address the process of reclaiming civic spaces and personal integrity within the ever-shifting Latin American political climate. Cuban photographer Ernesto Oroza's series Architecture of Necessity documents how individual citizens retrofit existing structures and objects to address common needs. Also featured in this section are: La Plaza Vacia (2012), a video by Cuban artist Coco Fusco; Carlos Garaicoa's Fin de Silencio (2010), an installation of floor tapestries woven in pavement patterns; and clothes that explore narratives of gender by Peruvian clothing designer Lucia Cuba.

Moving Craft into the Future through Collaborations with Artists and Designers

This section will explore the trend of collaborations between designers and traditional craftspersons, which have emerged as a prominent theme in Mexico City and Oaxaca. Artist Liliana Ovalle, who worked with the Colectivo 1050º (a collective of traditional potters in Oaxaca) to create works that evoke urban sinkholes; designers Carla Fernandez, Raul Cabra (Oax-i-fornia) who are working with craftspersons in Puebla and Oaxaca, respectively, to create fashion and designs for a global market that marry the traditional and the contemporary; and DFC, who is working with artisans in a number of locales - Oaxaca, Morelia, the Sonoran Desert, and small towns around Mexico City - to create the inventory for their home accessory company. Similarly, Rio de Janeiro-based artist Maria Nepomuceno works with indigenous craftspersons from northern Brazil to create her intricately woven, biomorphic sculptures.

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