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Museum of Fine Arts, Houston unveils first-of-its-kind digital space for Latin American art

MFAH unveils first-of-its-kind digital space for Latin American art

MFAH Sybil Venegas, “Conditions for Producing Chicana Art,” Chismearte, 1977
Pieces such as Sybil Venegas' Conditions for Producing Chicana Art are now available via the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Image courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the arts community’s ability to reach audiences via traditional methods, museums are forced to take their programming to the digital arena. Perfect timing, then, for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, to release what is considered the first and only digital humanities initiative in the fields of Latin American and Latino art.

The MFAH and its research institute, the International Center for the Arts of the Americas, launched a redesigned and enhanced website and database for the Documents of Latin American and Latino Art Digital Archive project.

The project, available here, offers free access to source materials critical to the study and understanding of these major fields of 20th-and 21st-century art, per the MFAH. The digital archive is fully bilingual and provides English and Spanish-speaking students, scholars, researchers, collectors and art enthusiasts full access to more than 8,200 letters, manifestos, newspaper and journal articles, exhibition reviews, and other key theoretical, critical and art-historical texts.

Art enthusiasts will find a wealth of information covering evidence of how artists, writers, and intellectuals sought to define or challenge notions of a national art and how Latin American and Latinx artists contributed major theoretical insights to the early stages of global avant-garde movements and initiated novel tendencies.

Significant archival documents include:

• The most significant collection of documents related to Brazilian Constructive Art from the archives of São Paulo collector Adolpho Leirner.
• The most complete collection of documents related to one of the most significant site-specific works of Venezuelan artist Gego (Gertrude Goldschmidt), her 1969 Gran Reticularea.
• Manuscripts, notebooks, and diary entries by artists including Carlos Mérida, Abraham Palatnik, León Ferrari, Antonio Berni, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Beatriz González, and Tucumán Arde.
• Correspondence and seminal articles from Latinx artists’ collectives, including La raza, Chicago Artist’s Coalition, and MARCH (Movimiento Artístico Chicano).
• Articles and correspondence by Latinx artists Lorenzo Homar, Antonio Martorell, Amalia Mesa-Bains, and Raphael Montañez Ortiz.

In order to make the entire project fully functional and actually usable, the MFAH has allowed users to browse by “author,” “title,” “date,” and “topic,” and then download, print, save their results. Information can also be shared with friends on social-media outlets.