Pop América, 1965–1975 opens September 21 at The Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University
Chicago audiences will discover an expanded history of Pop Art when The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University opens the exhibition Pop América, 1965–1975, this fall. Running September 21 through December 8th, 2019, the bilingual exhibition challenges and reframes familiar notions of Pop Art by bringing together artists from North and South America, as well as the Caribbean.
The Block Museum is the final and largest metropolitan area venue for the touring exhibition, which was organized by Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art.
Winner of the inaugural Sotheby’s Prize, awarded to exhibitions that explore overlooked or under-represented areas of art history, Pop América is the first exhibition to unify Latin American and Latinx expressions of Pop.
The exhibition examines how Pop Art’s bold and colorful imagery, references to mass culture, and representations of everyday objects, signs, and symbols were embraced by artists working across the hemisphere. Pop América makes a timely and critical contribution to a deeper understanding of this period and the impulses behind Pop Art from the mid-1960s through the mid-1970s.
“We are proud to bring this groundbreaking exhibition to the campus of Northwestern University and to Chicago audiences,” said Lisa Corrin, The Block Museum’s Ellen Philips Katz Director. “It feels timely to consider the ways in which ideas, politics, and culture have long cross-pollinated across the Americas resulting in innovative and beautiful works of art. Pop América expands the canon of art history and our understanding of Pop, shifting the focus away from what was happening in London and New York, to include other expressions of Pop sensibilities.”
Exhibition artists: new revelations and familiar faces
Pop América features nearly 100 artworks by more than 40 artists working in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and the United States, sparking an expansion and reconsideration of Pop as a U.S. and European phenomenon. The exhibition reshapes debates over Pop’s perceived political neutrality and aesthetic innovations.
The artists in the exhibition create vital dialogues that cross national borders and include Antonio Dias, Rubens Gerchman, Roy Lichtenstein, Marisol, Cildo Meireles, Marta Minujín, Hugo Rivera-Scott, and Andy Warhol, among others. United by their use of Pop’s visual strategies, these artists have made bold contributions to conceptualism, performance, and new-media art, as well as social protest, justice movements, and debates about freedom.
“This exhibition will expand both the idea of what Pop Art was, and for many visitors will bring to light what was happening in Latin America in the mid-1960s-1970s,” notes Corinne Granof, The Block Museum of Art Academic Curator.
“A lot of the artists included in the exhibit will be familiar, especially Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, and Latin America artists, such as Marisol. However, the exhibit also includes work by Brazilian artists Rubens Gerchman, Amaral, and Cildo Meireles, Columbian artist Beatriz González, Raul Martinez from Cuba, and Marta Minujín from Argentina and many others. Many of these artists are not as widely known, and it will be a revelation to encounter their impactful works that play off Pop in compelling and powerful ways.”
Global Pop, global modernisms
Pop América reinforces trends within art history to think globally and across borders and to find commonalities among artists in different regions. The exhibition is one of several in recent years that have reexamined Pop Art and put it into a global context, including International Pop (Walker Art Center, 2015) and The World Goes Pop (Tate, 2015–16). Pop América also compels visitors to rethink concepts of “America,” a question that is especially relevant today. The addition of the accent over the é in América contests the presumed primacy of the United States in artistic, economic, and political realms, and reinforces a greater sense of transnational unity. At the same time, the exhibition has the potential to open up conversations about nationality, borders, and migration.
The Block Museum of Art has announced that the entirety of its 2019–2020 exhibition schedule will be devoted to the idea of “Global Modernisms,” and this exhibition is the first within that framework. “Pop América is one of several exhibitions that explore new ways of looking at modernist approaches that were thriving beyond Europe and the United States.
Upcoming exhibitions include aesthetic innovation throughout the Arab World and the Middle East, Turkey, India, and—with Pop América—Latin America” says Granof “The Block Museum is committed to looking at art across time, culture, and place, and the 2019–2020 schedule promotes new vantage points from which to consider artists response to modernity.”
The politics of Pop
The exhibition title is drawn from a 1968 print by Chilean artist Hugo Rivera-Scott with its verbal cue to “pop”—or to explode—the idea of America. While the print itself uses familiar visual strategies from iconic Pop artworks, such as Roy Lichtenstein’s Explosion (1967)—including an animated comic book-like stylized text, flat colors, and BenDay dots—the emphasis on action that Rivera-Scott conveys through the expression “Pop América” is highlighted throughout the exhibition.
The works are divided into sections that allow visitors to think in active terms, including Facing América, Mediating América, Consuming América, Liberating América, and Fashioning América. In many cases, Latin-American and Caribbean Pop art movements engage with material culture in ways familiar from the U.S. context, but reveal different political weight in the context of oppressive military regimes, state censorship, economic challenges, and leftist resistance movements. The exhibition sheds light on these stylistic parallels, as well as the specific political circumstances of the individual countries it represents.
The exhibition is groundbreaking in its exploration of the way in which Pop Art was used throughout the Americas as an intentional strategy for communicating sensitive, politically challenging content.
“In North America, Pop Art often emphasized the superficial, surface and appearance, an idea reinforced by such iconography as celebrities and fashion, consumer products, Coke bottles, and Campbell’s soup cans, comic books—any motif that comes from the world of popular culture. This playful spirit of Pop Art is also apparent in iterations of Pop from the Global South. However, using similar frames of reference, there is sometimes a more political inflection or outright critique that comes through in the Latin American expressions of Pop. At the same time, looking at this work through a different lens, we start to see the stronger political tendencies in U.S. Pop Art,” says Granof
Pop In: Public tours and programming
Free tours of the exhibition will be held Sundays at 3 p.m. and on select Tuesdays at noon. Spanish-language tours will be held Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 and Nov. 9. More information on “Pop América” tours is available on The Block Museum website.
A full season of free cinema and programming will delve deeper into the topics of the exhibition, including many presented in a unique partnership between The Block and Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA). NMMA stands as one of the most prominent first-voice institutions for Mexican art and culture in the United States.
This fall, the NMMA team, lead by Cesareo Moreno, Director of Visual Arts & Chief Curator, presents an interpretive lens on the politics and aesthetics of Pop América, taking the exhibition as a starting point for considering contemporary issues and ideas about Mexican culture. This collaboration is planned as the first in an ongoing partnership between the institutions, one which expands NMMA’s reach to Chicago’s Northshore, and shares the wealth of NMMA’s cultural knowledge with audiences at Northwestern University.
Select Exhibition Programs Include:
Opening Celebration: Pop América Pop In
Saturday, September 28 12PM to 4PM
An opening day all-ages celebration includes printmaking with Instituto Gráfico de Chicago, Radio broadcast with Yollocalli Arts Reach, live son jarocho music, and exhibition tours
Opening Keynote: Contesting Freedom: “Pop América, 1965–1975” Curator Conversation with Esther Gabara
Wednesday October 2, 6PM
Hear directly from Esther Gabara, curator of Pop América, about the artists from across the hemisphere who shared dreams and struggles over the idea of a singular América.
Cesáreo Moreno: Mi Casa es Su Casa
Wednesday, October 16, 6PM
A guided tour to examine select works in Pop América created by Mexicans on both sides of the border and uncover similarities among them.
América Now: Chicago Artists in Dialogue
Wednesday, October 30, 6PM
An in-depth conversation with three Chicago artists considering how ideas and approaches from Pop América remain relevant in our contemporary moment.
Ism, Ism, Ism: Experimental Cinema in Latin America
October 3 – November 1, 2019
A groundbreaking touring film series that offers the first comprehensive survey of Latin America’s vibrant experimental film history.
Download the museum’s Fall 2019 program
Credits and Catalogue
Pop América, 1965-1975 is co-organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, and the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas. The exhibition is curated by Esther Gabara, E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Romance Studies and associate professor of Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University. At the Block Museum the exhibition is curated by Corinne Granof, Curator of Academic Programs.
Pop América, 1965 –1975 is a recipient of the inaugural Sotheby’s Prize and is supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional thanks to the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) and to its President and Founder, Ariel Aisiks. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. The Block Museum of Art’s presentation of the exhibition is supported in part by the Alumnae of Northwestern University.
Pop América, 1965–1975 is also a bilingual (English/Spanish) 216-page catalogue published by Duke University Press that explores Pop art as a hemispheric art movement. Reconstituting a network of artists who were active some 50 years ago, Pop América explores how Latin American and Latino/a/x artists adapted familiar languages of mass media, fashion, and advertising to create provocative artwork in a range of mediums.