edited by Esther Gabara. Duke University Press, October 2018. 216 p. Ill. ISBN 9780938989-24 (h/c), $39.95.
Reviewed September 2019
Melanie Emerson, Dean of the Library and Special Collections, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, firstname.lastname@example.org
The catalog Pop América 1965-1975, much like the exhibition itself, provides a thoughtful overview of how Pop Art evolved throughout Latin America. As both editor of the catalog and curator the exhibit Esther Gabara, professor of Romance Studies at Duke University, upends the typical narrative of Pop Art, which centers almost wholly on the United States and the United Kingdom. In this volume Gabara draws attention to artists, designers, and histories that have been largely overlooked in the usual telling of art history. Through a series of nine essays (in both English and Spanish) and over one-hundred plates, the well-designed catalog suggests an interconnectedness of artistic production, consumerism, mass media, popular culture, government propaganda, and political resistance during this ten-year period in Latin America. It also provides a serious investigation of the notion of America--specifically, the ways in which artists included in the exhibition were pushing against the idea of America being synonymous with the United States.
While the catalog covers a great deal of new ground, Pop América is not a comprehensive survey. Instead, it offers an expert investigation of a specific moment in contemporary Latin American art, through the particular lens of consuming, fashioning, liberating, mediating, and facing América. The organization of the catalog reflects these themes of the exhibition, and each section of the book is accompanied by an essay and a series of plates related to the theme. Often, the essays and plates situate Latin American artists among their well-known contemporaries from the United States. This adjacency offers readers the chance to see how the interplay between the hemispheres was made visible through the artists' work and actions.
The essays constitute a new volume of scholarship rooted in substantial primary source material, theoretical context, and archival research. The contributors to the catalog provide sharp analysis and thought-provoking insight into the artistic practices of those included in the exhibition. But more importantly, they present a new articulation of Pop Art in terms that go beyond the traditional canon.
The straight-forward design and layout of this volume allow for easy navigation that does not force a linear reading. The abundance of large-scale color plates and other illustrations make it a joy to flip through. While, each essay includes detailed notes, a more extensive bibliography would offer more opportunity for further research. Also included at the end of the publication is an exhibition checklist, a list of lenders, and contributor biographies. The catalog, along with other recent publications on Latin American contemporary art, contribute to a more inclusive discourse about art history, and should be considered a valuable resource to any library supporting research in the fields of art history, art, and design.