Why does the Inter-American Development Bank have an art collection?
Art transforms our impression of reality. Art pushes us to explore new ideas. Art and culture can transform our perception and understanding of the world, and the IDB Art Collection exists to harness the power of creativity to positively impact development. Art – and any creative endeavors – are windows into the experiences and ideas of others, building bridges of empathy and pushing the boundaries of our own preconceptions, driving innovative thinking for the future. Creative people have a unique way of viewing the world and impacting their environment. We seek to harness this talent in order to better address the challenges our society faces.
This exhibition features works of the IDB Art Collection that have been recently acquired. Each piece carries with it a unique development narrative. We are all limited by our own experiences and we hope that this showcase will broaden your own knowledge of how art can actively participate in shaping the future of the Latin American and Caribbean region.
More highlights from and information on the IDB Art Collection are available online on Google Arts & Culture.
Felipe Secco (Montevideo, 1964) studied under the renowned Uruguayan artist, Jorge Damiani. His works were greatly inspired by the Optical Art movement with flat colors and shapes containing clearly defined contours. The works are strictly geometric and non-figurative. His work, and Optical Art more generally, can be viewed as both an art movement as well as a predecessor to modern day graphic design. By tracing the visuals of the 20th Century, we can see the relationship between science, technology, art, and design. By understanding the connections between technology and creativity – and their shared history – we can better appreciate their symbiotic relationship in driving new ideas and future-thinking.
Correa’s documentation of the fringes of human civilization explores the limits, isolation, and precariousness of the nature of existence - highlighting composition and beauty within unknown or inaccessible spaces. From the remotest mountains to the wealthiest of families, Correa applies a pseudo-academic approach of study, fieldwork, and publication of a sort of anthropological exploration of the extremes of human experience. The artist is interested in raising awareness about human lives in difficult and inaccessible places, highlighting their existence. In these works, Correa exposes an aspect of human existence in Antarctica as well as gold miners in La Rinconada, a town in the Peruvian Andes that is highest permanent settlement in the world.
Griffith began his art career in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, where he was known as a mas man – or someone who designed for Carnival. This background deeply shapes his work as a contemporary visual artist. Griffith seeks to explore contemporary culture by drawing on mas’ performative elements, while also seeking to generate new narratives that, as he states, “respond critically and poetically to our socio-cultural environment.” Louis repurposes traditional practices brought from Africa of powdering the neck with patterns. Here, he applies high-end brand logos on to a semi-faceless, vocational school student – a person that may be seen as low-class and uneducated. Griffith not only offers a sense of vulnerability into a seemingly private moment, but also uses this custom to highlight issues surrounding socio-economic disparities, status, and globalization.
Joscelyn Gardner is a Barbadian-Canadian visual artist working primarily with printmaking and multimedia installation. As a descendent of a family that settled in Barbados in the 17th century, Gardner explores her own complex identity through the intersecting lenses of her creole heritage, post-colonial legacy, and feminist perspective. This hand-painted lithograph is part of the series Creole Portraits III: Bringing Down the Flower, composed of images of plants, braided hairstyles, and instruments of torture creating fantastic formations as a result. Gardner explains that her work “aims to address the repression and dissociation that operate in relation to the subject of slavery and white culpability in the wider post-colonial world.” Her work is an expression of her personal research of plants used by slave women to either terminate unwanted pregnancies or commit suicide. On the other hand, the slave collars reference punishments related to these abortions. Each of the metaphorical titles she uses for her work describe one these plants, which is then followed by the name of a slave.
A British painter of Jamaican descent, Hanson now calls Jamaica his home, having relocated to the island in 2009 and pursuing a full-time career as an artist since then. This work is part of the series of Jamaica: Home From Home, which is a collection of images of life in his new home. Hanson’s work responds to the popular culture of Jamaica with a sense of social awareness and activism. Hanson specifically addresses the large migration of men of African descent from the Caribbean to the United Kingdom since the end of colonialism. The men in his portraits are a statement of anti-establishment combating the colonial legacy. The posture and expression of the young man in Salute evokes the issue of being out of place as the artist aims to create an open dialogue of the realities of inclusion and exclusion in a multicultural society.
Giha, born in Peru but raised in Asuncion, is an emerging talent in Paraguay in the fashion and advertising photography industry. Unlike its fine art counterpart, this photographic form aims to celebrate a specific object or focal point and, quite often, visually enhances it in the process. Giha’s series was exhibited in the IDB’s exhibit Designing Paraguay: Emerging from the Heart of South America (2017). The exhibit featured the emerging talent of Paraguay, led by young artists shining light on the path of future innovations and potential for economic diversification in the country through the creative industries. Nandu, The Cycle of the Spider celebrates the ñanduti (Guarani for “spider web”), which is a traditional form of intricate lacework. Here, the lace is presented in a contemporary high-fashion manner, alluding to the potential to harness Paraguay’s indigenous knowledge and skill and reapply it into a contemporary context.
Following the abolishment of slavery, the migration of new, cheap labor from Japan to South America began largely in Brazil. From there, Japanese communities grew in many of the surrounding countries. While the Japanese communities in South America are mostly urban, the community in Paraguay has remained rural and agrarian. This community has, in many ways, established a parallel society with its own schools, religious institutions, and infrastructure. These images by Ricardo Nagaoka, once part of the IDB Cultural Center exhibition Designing Paraguay: Emerging from the Heart of South America (2017), challenge that separation. The landscape and buildings in these images may as well be in Japan; however, they are, in fact, in Paraguay. Nagaoka’s work simultaneously explores notions of otherness and sameness and complicates our perception of Paraguayan society. Nagaoka states that these works document the community as they “undergo a generational transition - a meditation of cultural delineations, historical frameworks, and the effects of rapid globalization.”
One constant throughout Casarino's artistic career has been the representation of the female figure in domestic space. Paradoxically, Casarino alludes to the female presence through the very absence of her physical form by constantly returning to the visual motifs of female silhouettes and empty dress forms. The photographic series of six images, Inside, removes the physical presence of the woman from domestic spaces and replaces her silhouette with transposed fragments of the room from the following image. The woman is thereby dually inscribed within the very framework of the domestic space while also escaping it. This work challenges established conceptions of the role of the woman in society both inside and outside of the home through political, social, and personal lenses. Casarino is currently director of the Fundación Migliorisi in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Shi was born in El Salvador to Chinese parents and moved to the United States in 1980 to attend university. Shi believes that many children in El Salvador are faced with poverty, an unsanitary environment, disease, and gang violence. With this portrait of a young Salvadoran boy, the artist suggests, “if the world is concerned with economic growth, gender equality, and justice then any efforts should include health, safety, and educational programs targeting underprivileged children. In doing so, there is commitment to offering these children better living conditions, safer surroundings, and a basic education… in a few words, a hope for a better future.”
This mural is part of the project Vida Nueva (New Life) that Francisca Valenzuela has been working on since 2010. The project is a collaboration of the artist with the Corporation Maria Ayuda, an institution that helps boys, girls, and families who are at risk. The project exposes some of the mistreatment and sexual abuse in Chile. Valenzuela generated the base layer of the painting and then invited girls that are victims of abuse to intervene the canvas. The process becomes a strong bonding experience for these girls by allowing them to open and share their experiences together and publicly. Máscara (Mask) was displayed in the World Bank’s exhibition on gender violence entitled 1 in 3.
Sheena Rose of Barbados is passionate about art advocacy and explores her own sense of belonging (or not belonging) through art. Rose uses self-portraiture as a lens to explore her culture. Interested in the dual identities of private moments and public life, she opens her personal life and home to the public through her art. Speaking about her characterization of Afro-Caribbean identity, the artist states in the New York Times, “It wasn’t just about the skin. It was about claiming, grabbing my history, my culture, and I’m proud of it.” Rose acts to expand on the expressions of Barbadian culture beyond the familiar stereotypes of beaches and sun, and rather looks at the way Barbadians speak and relate to one another. In this painting, the artist references some stereotypes but repositions them into places within everyday situations. This work is part of the Sweet Gossip series - a collaborative project that looks at the Pop culture of Barbados and the phrases or comments that Barbadians use when gossiping.
Mexican visual artist and photographer Dulce Pinzon’s Superhero series recasts the Mexican migrant worker in New York City as a superhero in the context of them completing their job. Pinzon explained to Wired Magazine that “it is common for a Mexican worker in New York to work extraordinary hours in extreme conditions… for very low wages which are saved at great cost and sacrifice and sent to families and communities in Mexico who rely on them to survive.” By elevating the migrant worker’s status to an “everyday hero,” Pinzon’s work personalizes questions surrounding migration, immigration status, socio-economic class, and national identity. Portrayed here, these men and women lacking power have the determination and strength to contribute to persevere for the well-being of their families.
Celebrated street artist turned pop culture phenomenon, Keith Haring, was also a dedicated social activist. He vigorously advocated for the LGBT community, particularly those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, and condemned racism, inequity, and social injustices. Haring, therefore, found himself joining the international anti-apartheid movement against the oppressive and racially based power of the South African government. Haring wrote that “Control is evil. All stories of white men's ‘expansion’ and ‘colonization’ and ‘domination’ are filled with horrific details of the abuse of power and the misuse of people,” in a journal entry from March 28, 1987. His poster Free South Africa originated from a painting in 1984 of the same design (currently exhibited at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam). In 1985, he transformed the painting into lithograph and added the text “Free South Africa” to the lower border of the composition. It is said that Haring distributed around 20,000 poster versions of this print in New York City in 1986 in an effort to mobilize support against the apartheid.
Palma is a contemporary Guatemalan visual and conceptual artist who works on photography and installation. His poetic portraits of Mayan Indians combine elements from European visual culture and pre-Colombian spirituality, reflecting on the hybrid nature of Guatemalan cultural identity as both the legacy and the tragedy of colonization. In this work, the artist juxtaposes layers of meanings in order to structure the image as a point of encounter between two cultures, sharing iconographic and spiritual codes within a system that perpetuates colonial structures of power. The sepia tone recalls nineteenth-century photographs of native subjects as both documents of ethnographic interest—also suggested by the headdress made out of measuring tape—and records of a confrontational and dignified presence. Here, González Palma conveys the complexity underlining the encounter with the "other" as an emotional response as well as an imposed set of categories. The four names of Spanish origin appearing on the right side evoke a sense of indeterminacy and displace the subject’s identity, while the golden, engraved letters on the red fabric recall both Catholic and pre-Columbian sign systems. Across his work, González Palma bridges past and present in order to call attention to indigenous people and their ongoing struggle for social justice and cultural preservation.
This text was created in collaboration with the University of Maryland Department of Art History & Archaeology and written by Patricia Ortega-Miranda.
Enrique Collar began his art career through drawings and as a graphic designer. His first works focused on exploring costume and traditional beliefs related to his identity and myths. Later, a more complete sense of history and symbology began to be intertwined with popular imagery and dream allusions. Collar’s work evokes the mystery that towns feel in their magical and mythical traditions throughout the Americas. This, at the same time becomes the way in which Collar perceives the world, wherever he goes, appreciating the reality of the myths that surround him. Popular legends, dreams, and fantasies transform into his vision of the world. In Curandera, characters are framed by metaphysical sceneries. The piece is an invitation to explore the contemporary persistence and importance of superstitions and ritual, while at the same time it serves as an immersion into the collective unconscious of the region.
Uprootedness was the first photograph Barroso made in Canada after two years of exile. Coming from an island with a very strong sense of identity, she states that she felt “uprooted” deep inside; looking for reference points that would help to connect with her new reality. This work is a part of the Manufactured Emotions series, where Barroso uses imagery of nature and the environment to communicate a sense of displacement and emotionality. This contextualization of nature depicts the interconnection between humanity, migration, and the planet.