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Monday, March 9, 2009

Transitioning Cultures

Art Review

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The fourth exhibition in the Culture in Transition Series at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) explores contemporary Latin American art. "Personal Culture: New Art from Latin America" features the work of five Latino artists in MIAD's Frederick Layton Gallery.

Two artists, Santiago Cucullu and Rafael Francisco Salas, reside in Wisconsin. Cucullu displays his 2008 video, Vapors, which depicts a shopping bag quietly sliding along a street. Perhaps the artist is reflecting on how consumerism can be channeled by mere whims¾an evaporating presence given today's economic uncertainty. Salas' 2008 oils demonstrate muted views of suburbia, which could recall his home environment in Ripon, Wis. While his meticulously defined landscapes incorporate everyday life, Salas diffuses certain elements in the paintings. In Migrant Bus, children are shown as a colored mist that suggests a hidden existence in American culture.

San Francisco's Victor Cartagena fashions an installation called Transparencies/X-rays, in which he fills a room with negatives and X-rays of portraits suspended from the ceiling. Pictures from yearbooks, driver's licenses and mug shots display a wide variety of subjects. A machine reflects more transparencies on the opposite wall, while a voice talks in Spanish about the men and women that people typically walk past, seeing through them instead of actually seeing them.

Mirta Kupferminc from Buenos Aires explores her Eastern European Holocaust history. An evocative etching on metal titled Nineteenfourtyfour speaks to premonitions of the atomic bomb settling behind a damaged doll, the background decorated with floral details over splattered fallout-reminders of the preceding event, 1944's Battle of the Bulge, which became the bloodiest battle of World War II.

In her "Fin y Principio" series, Tatiana Parcero uses photographic prints and processes to consider beginnings and endings through eggs, seeds and stamens, as well as cycles of life and death in which several images reveal her self-portraits.

These five artists help to dispel cultural stereotypes and preconceived notions through their compelling personal fragments. "Personal Culture: New Art from Latin America" runs through March 21.

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