Art: Escaping The Provincial Trap

South America's 20th century abstractionists found a way to be local--and universal

When Americans interested in art are asked what they have heard of from South America, the answer tends to be pretty much the same: two dead Mexicans and one live Colombian. The Mexicans are, of course, Diego Rivera, a great artist by any standard, and his wife Frida Kahlo, not a great painter by any reasonable judgment, but a tough and gifted woman who, owing to her hagiographic suffering (not to mention being ardently collected by the likes of Madonna), has become Exhibit A, by now somewhere above Artemisia Gentileschi in the pantheon of feminist art-saints. The live Colombian is probably...

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