Brazilian art is emerging as a major player in top international museums, the art market, and histories of modern and contemporary art. This group will research these circuits, ask which Brazilian artists are featured and why, and pay close attention to the interplay between art and popular culture (print and industrial design, music, and new media) that has made it possible. We will study visual languages of mass media and consumer culture beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, a period when Brazil and other Latin American countries were the rehearsal ground for today’s political and economic structures of globalization and neoliberalism. While these words are often attached to ideas of “freedom of movement” and “free markets,” Brazil and many of its neighbors entered this era under severe military dictatorships.
One component of this study will be the opportunity to create a collective archive and plan an exhibition that offers a continental, American look at that seemingly quintessential U.S. style: Pop Art. Much more than Andy Warhol’s soup cans, we will examine work by Brazilian artists and the Caribbean, South and Central American, and the Latino/a and Chicano/a artists with whom they were in conversation. The Pop Art they produced registered and resisted dictatorial oppression— it was part of broad countercultural movements such as Tropicália— even as it reconfigured the relationship between elite art, design, entertainment, sports, and mass media. We will work collaboratively with the Instituto Rubens Gerchman, dedicated to this important Brazilian artist, teacher, and designer, and with the Nasher Museum at Duke. By tracing the development and circulation of Pop Art in the Americas more broadly, the students involved in this research will rethink key questions of modernity and postmodernity, consumer culture and neoliberal economics, freedom and values.