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Retratos: 2000 Years of Latin America Portraits
This image released by the El Museo del Barrio in New York, shows a portrait by Colombian artist Fernando Botero titled "Joachim Jean Aberbach and his Family," painted in 1970. Photo by -/AFP/Getty Images.

NEW YORK.- El Museo del Barrio presents Retratos: 2000 Years of Latin America Portraits, on view through March 20, 2005. This exhibition, a collaborative effort between El Museo del Barrio, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the National Portrait Gallery, marks the first time a comprehensive exhibition of Latin American portraiture has been organized. It will show both the depth and breadth of the tradition and explore the meaning of this interesting art form for the societies represented, providing us valuable insight into the minds of both the artist and the sitter, as well as their time and place. Latin America has a long and rich tradition of portraiture. For over 2000 years, portraits have been used to preserve the memory of the deceased, provide continuity between the living and the dead, bolster the social standing of the aristocracy, mark the deeds of the mighty, advance the careers of politicians, record rites of passage, and mock symbols of the status quo. Comprised of approximately 100 portraits, in a variety of different media, this exhibition will contain examples from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the United States, from the pre-Columbian period through the Vice-regal era, Independence, and the modern and contemporary periods.

Early portraiture will be represented through the ceramics and codices of the ancient Moche of Peru, the classic Maya of Mexico and Central America, and the Mixtec painters. The Viceregal period (1520-1820) will present portraits symbolizing the Spanish Crown’s power in America, the wealth and social standing of particular men and women, and generic portraits which attempted to create an imagined ideal social order through “caste paintings.” As Latin American republics achieved independence from Spain, France, and Portugal, leaders such as Toussaint l’Ouverture, Simón Bolívar, San Martín, Hidalgo, and Morelos became symbols of the break, their portraits serving as emotional and political touchstones in the formation and maintenance of new governments and national identities. Only decades later, other bold individuals, such as Mexico’s Benito Juárez and Cuba’s José Marti, were commemorated. The final section of the exhibition will present twentieth-century Latin American portraiture—while it records deeply entrenched oligarchs, bold revolutionaries, and Nobel laureates—also presents the emergence of self-portraits and satirical portraits: popular commentaries on the self and the world.

This project and all related national and local programs and publicatios, are made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund.

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