Latin American conceptualism and the problem of ideology : the Centro de Arte y Comunicación at the São Paulo Bienal, 1977
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In 1977, a group exhibition of the Argentine Centro de Arte y Comunicación (CAYC), won the Itamaraty Grand Prize at the XIV São Paulo Bienal, the first given to a Latin American entry in the Bienal’s 27-year history. Though the group had refused to participate in prior years, the Bienal’s organizing body had this time solicited its participation with the objective of “securing a more prominent presence of Latin America through [CAYC’s] participation in the São Paulo Bienal.” The award was controversial, sparking allegations of government cooperation and the withdrawal of works by some artists. It also reveals much about the politics of production, circulation, and display at this under-examined moment in Latin America. As a peak of international recognition for a group that had, since its formation, explicitly aimed to insert its work (and that of its “region”) into global circuits, CAYC’s exhibition at the São Paulo Bienal illuminates both the history of a group that is often overlooked and its important relationship to narratives of Latin American conceptual art. So what was the Centro de Arte y Comunicación, and why was its presence so critical to the success of the XIV São Paulo Bienal? This project focuses on CAYC’s exhibition at the XIV São Paulo Bienal as a lens through which to examine the group’s fundamental role in the development of a “Latin American” brand of conceptual art and its absorption into international narratives of display and criticism. By historicizing CAYC’s role as an institutional space for conceptual practices in the 1970s, I hope to draw larger conclusions about its important role in the construction of an international narrative about the development of Conceptualism and/in Latin American art history.