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Material Presence

Jan 18 2024–ongoing

Seattle Art Museum

The art historian Darby English recently noted that a focus on the formal qualities of a work of art has been eclipsed by an emphasis on content in the last two decades. This turn away from questions of form is especially pronounced in North America, but many artists in Latin America are taking a different approach.

The works in this gallery were made by Brazilian and Mexican artists who meld questions of form and content. In diverse ways, the artists wrestle with profound social, economic, and political challenges: labor struggles, poverty, violence, corruption, the search for new futures, and the quest for freedom. Rather than express these pressures through stories or detailed accounts of a single event, they use everyday materials to bring us close to these issues, making associations that are conceptually understood or viscerally felt. The resulting sculptures maintain a tangible relationship to lived experience while transcending a singular event to speak to social, economic, and political ills beyond the confines of time and geography.

Installation view of Material Presence at Seattle Art Museum, 2024, photo: Alborz Kamalizad.

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