Fourth Annual Symposium of Latin American Art

IFA-ISLAA, Erasures: Excision and Indelibility in the Art of the Americas

About this Conference

What can and cannot be erased? This question emerges when monuments are destroyed, cultural artifacts vanish, or the faces of the disappeared continue to interrogate government violence and corruption. Though the recent fire at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro resulted in the devastating loss of approximately twenty million objects, the impact goes beyond physical destruction. Marina Silva, Brazil’s former Minister of the Environment, went so far as to call the fire a “lobotomy of the Brazilian memory.” Alternatively, this past October Israeli artist Yael Bartana demonstrated the power of the void with her Monumento a la ausencia, in which footprints left in cement attest to lives erased and commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Tlatelolco Massacre in Mexico City. Observable in these examples as well as countless others, is that the excision—willful or unwitting—of objects and histories can be both destructive and productive, open and heal wounds, obfuscate and expose memory, and challenge and reinforce the permanence of indelibility.

Tragedies such as those noted above and subsequent actions to confront them shape this year’s symposium theme. Erasure is commonly understood as an obliteration of content or removal of all traces, often forcefully. And yet, as demonstrated by Horacio Zabala’s burned maps from the 1970s or Jacques Bedel’s erased Cordillera (1972), visual art maintains an uncanny ability to demonstrate resilience in the void of visible content. Erasure can manifest through strategies of elimination, cleansing, or effacement as aesthetic practice, or it might instead emerge in issues surrounding medium, as in the ephemerality of site-specific or performative work. It can likewise be invoked through cartographic, historiographic, or archival omissions, or as a result of natural and man-made disasters or iconoclasm. Yet it is imperative not to neglect erasure’s productive and emancipatory potentials. Through broad and interdisciplinary contributions from a diverse group of scholars, the symposium will promote conversations about the risks, rewards, and knowledge that arise when absence comes into contact with socio-political realities. Beyond physical and spatial considerations, we must also interrogate history and the void that is left by historical silence, highlighting the unsaid, the unspoken, and the invisible.

With keynote lectures by Barbara Browning, Professor, Department of Performance Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, NYU, and Ken Gonzales-Day, artist and Professor of Art, Scripps College.

The symposium is coordinated by Professors Edward J. Sullivan, Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the History of Art at the Institute of Fine Arts; Anna Indych-López, Professor of 20th- Century Latin American and Latinx Art at The Graduate Center; and Katherine Manthorne, Professor of Modern Art of the Americas at The Graduate Center. The symposium is organized by current PhD candidates Brian Bentley, Madeline Murphy Turner, and Ana Cristina Perry, and PhD students Francesca Ferrari, Sonja Gandert, and Tie Jojima.


Thursday, April 11, 2019
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 5th Avenue, New York City
The Skylight Room


Welcome and Introductory Remarks
Ana Cristina Perry, Ph.D. Candidate, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Katherine Manthorne, Professor of Modern Art of the Americas, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Panel 1: Embodying the Void

Moderator: Tie Jojima, Ph.D. Student, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Discussant: Pedro Erber, Associate Professor of Luso-Brazilian Studies, Cornell University

“A Politics of the Archive: Rosângela Rennó’s Books and the Secret Files of the Dictatorship,” Marina Bedran, Ph.D. Candidate, Princeton University

“Regarding Permanence and Invisibility in the Work of Adriana Corral,” Emily Butts, M.A. Student, University of Texas, Austin

“Não ouço, não vejo, não falo”: Estratégias e políticas do desaparecimento nas narrativas soropositivas de Leonilson,” Yuji Kawasima, Honorary Research Fellow, Universidad Complutense Madrid


Panel 2: Destruction and Disappearance

Moderator: Sonja Gandert, Ph.D. Student, The Graduate Center, CUNY

Discussant: Carla Macchiavello, Assistant Professor in Art History, Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY

“Llevando “La Calle” al cubo blanco: la destrucción como liberación en la instalación del Grupo SUMA durante la Sección Anual de Experimentación del Salón Nacional de Artes Plásticas (1979)” Marcela Torres Martínez, M.A. Student, Universidad Iberoamericana

“El Enigma del Huevo,” Elise Chagas, Ph.D. Student, Princeton University

“Traces in the Absence: Carlos Cruz-Diez’s Kinetic Art in the Time of Venezuelan Migration,” Natalia Sassu Suarez Ferri, Associate Lecturer, University of St Andrews

Coffee/Tea Break

Keynote Lecture

Introduction: Anna Indych-López, 2018–2019 Stuart Z. Katz Professor in the Humanities & the Arts, City College of New York, CUNY; Professor of Latin American and Latinx Art, The Graduate Center, CUNY

O Brasil sob rasura: Effacement and the Trace of Violence, Barbara Browning, Professor in the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, NYU

Reception in the James Gallery

Friday, April 12, 2019
The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU
1 East 78th Street, New York City
Lecture Hall

Morning Coffee

Welcome and Opening Remarks

Madeline Murphy Turner, Ph.D. Candidate, The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

Edward J. Sullivan, Deputy Director; Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the History of Art; The Institute of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences, NYU

Panel 3: Narrative Displacements

Moderator: Brian Bentley, Ph.D. Candidate, The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

Discussant: Yasmin Ramírez, Ph.D., Independent Curator

“Latent Traces: Archival Vulnerability and Embodied Memory in Nicolás Guillén Landrián’s documentary Desde La Habana ¡1969! Recordar,” Patricia Ortega-Miranda, Ph.D. Student, University of Maryland, College Park

“Si no pudiera hacer arte, me iba: Aesthetics of Disaster as Catharsis in Puerto Rican Contemporary Art,” Carlos Rivera Santana, Research Associate, Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños, Hunter College, CUNY

“Performando Ficciones: Recreaciones de la Memoria Migrante,” Ana María Garzón, Curator and Research Professor, Universidad San Francisco de Quito


Panel 4: Erasure and Power

Moderator: Francesca Ferrari, Ph.D. Student, The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

Discussant: Marisa Lerer, Assistant Professor of Art History, Manhattan College

“Deliberate Confusion: Abstraction as Iconoclasm,” Katie Ligmond, Ph.D. Student, University of California, Santa Cruz

“Saving Face, Saving Place: Visual Occupation of the Zocalo in the Aftermath of the U.S.-Mexican War,” Erika Nelson Pazian, Ph.D. Candidate, The Graduate Center, CUNY

“From Colonial Celebration to Contemporary Critique: Barcelona’s Columbus Monument and Daniela Ortiz’s Ofrenda,” Ivana Dizdar, M.A. Student, Columbia University

Coffee/Tea Break

Keynote Lecture

Introduction: Christine Poggi, Judy and Michael Steinhardt Director; Professor of Fine Arts, The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

The Erased Lynching Series: Art at the end of absence, Ken Gonzales-Day, Professor of Art, Scripps College


RSVP required for Erasures: Excision and Indelibility in the Art of the Americas [opens in new window]


Super/Natural: Excess, Ecologies, and Art in the Americas, 2018

Join us for "Super/Natural: Excess, Ecologies, and Art in the Americas," the Third Annual Symposium of Latin American Art Presented by the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) and the Rewald Endowment and co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY on Thursday, April 19th at the Graduate Center, CUNY, in the Martin E. Segal Theatre from 2:00pm to 5:30pm (reception immediately following in the James Gallery, 5:30-7:3pm) and on Friday, April 20th at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University from 9:30am- to 7:30pm. Featuring keynote lectures by Daniela Bleichmar, Associate Professor of Art History and History, University of Southern California; and Eduardo Kac, artist and Professor of Art and Technology Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

The recent natural disasters, environmental destruction, and mounting scientific evidence for the immediate dangers of climate change throughout the Americas have inspired this year’s symposium theme: Super/Natural. The supernatural is what exceeds nature and what is excessive in nature through the insertion of human or mystic interventions. Super/Natural, however, is not just the otherworldly, but the critical interstices between the human abstraction of nature, the tangible natural world, and that which exists around it.  

The complex relationship between humanity and its surrounding environment has been amply explored by artists and peoples in the Americas. Examples include pre-Columbian art and architecture embedded in the landscape, such as the Incan fortress of Sacsayhuaman near Cusco, eighteenth and nineteenth-century traveler artist’s tropical fantasies of the land, and contemporary projects in which the human body intervenes directly in the environment. All of these practices demonstrate artists’ and communities’ preoccupation with contesting the often incomprehensible structure of the natural world. By presenting multidisciplinary case studies from a diverse group of scholars, this symposium seeks to open a conversation about the role of cultural production in understanding and complicating our relationship with the environment. The proceedings will historically situate these narratives while keeping in mind current debates on climate change and sustainability throughout the Americas. In what ways do artists engage with and intervene in nature and the land to create extraordinary perspectives? Under what conditions do spiritual practices related to nature and land become visualized in art? When, if ever, are we forced to intervene in the natural world, and what are the risks of such endeavors? 


Thursday, April 19 
The Graduate Center, CUNY 
365 Fifth Avenue 
Martin E. Segal Theatre  

2:00-2:30pm  Welcome and Introduction by Gillian Sneed, Ph.D. Candidate in Art History, Graduate Center and Anna Indych-López, Professor of 20th-Century Latin American Art, The Graduate Center and City College, CUNY  

2:30-4:00pm  Panel 1: Agricultural Imaginaries  

-Paper 1: Lesley Wolff, "Mister Watermelon/Señor Sandía: Fruitful Anxieties in Rufino Tamayo's Naturaleza muerta (1954)", Ph.D. Candidate, Florida State University  

-Paper 2: Javier Rivero Ramos, “Radicalizing Cybernetics: Chilean Nitrate, Talking Forests and Juan Downey’s Ecopolitics,” Ph.D. Candidate, Art and Archaeology, Princeton University  

-Paper 3: Caroline Gillaspie, “Harvesting the Tropics: Representing Brazil's Nineteenth-Century Coffee Plantations,” Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, Graduate Center, CUNY  

-Discussant: Katherine Manthorne, Professor of Art of the United States, Latin America, and Their Cross-Currents, 1750-1950, Graduate Center, CUNY  

4:00-4:30pm  Coffee Break  

4:40-5:30pm Keynote: Daniela Bleichmar, Associate Professor of Art History and History at the University of Southern California  

6:15-7:30pm Reception in the James Gallery at the Graduate, Center, CUNY 

Friday, April 20 
Institute of Fine Arts, New York University 
1 East 78th Street, Lecture Hall   


Introductions by Professor Edward J. Sullivan and Ph.D. Candidate Juanita Solano Roa, The Institute of Fine Arts, NYU

Panel 2: Peripatetic Ecologies

-Paper 1: Mara Polgovsky Ezcurra, "Steps for an Ecological Aesthetics," Junior Research Fellow, Queen's College, Cambridge  

-Paper 2: Kevin Buist, “The Missing Meteorite: The Irreconcilable Subjectivities of People and Rocks,” Master's Student, Kendall College of Art and Design, Ferris State University  

-Paper 3: Emily Sessions, “The White Atlantic of Ramon de la Sagra’s Histoire Physique, Politique et Naturelle de l’Ile de Cuba,” PhD Candidate, History of Art, Yale University  

-Discussant: Mariola Alvarez, Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art Tyler School of Art, Temple University  


Panel 3: Divine Nature (bilingual panel)  

-Paper 1: William T. Gassaway, “On the Edge of Glory: Death, Disease, and Divinity at the Margins of Aztec Art,” Ph.D. Candidate, Art History, Columbia University  

-Paper 2: William Contreras Alfonso, "Talismanes - Sculpture as an spiritual tool in the work of Alicia Barney and Linda Pongutá," Artist, critic, curator, Bogotá, Colombia  

-Paper 3: Agustin Díez Fischer, “El Apocalipsis según León Ferrari: condena divina y guerra de Vietnam en los años 60,” PhD, Art History, University of Buenos Aires  

-Discussant: Ananda Cohen-Aponte, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of the History of Art Department, Cornell University  

3:00-3:15pm  Coffee break  

3:30-5:00pm Panel 4: Extractions and Erosions  

-Paper 1: Gabrielle Greenlee, “Natura in Excelsis: Sacred Mountains as Producers of Culture, Wealth, and the Supernatural in the Colonial Andean Mining Space,” Ph.D. Candidate, History of Art and Visual Culture, UC Santa Cruz  

-Paper 2: Sean Nesselrode Moncada, “Killing the Well,” Assistant Professor, Rhode Island School of Design  

-Paper 3: Marcelo Nogueira, “Sonic Matters: Cildo Meireles' Sound Sculptures,” Ph.D. Candidate, Romance Studies, Duke University  

-Discussant: Rachel Price Associate Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, Princeton University

5:00-5:15pm  Coffee break  

5:30-6:30pm Keynote: Eduardo Kac, Professor, Art and Technology Studies, School of the Art Institute of Chicago  

6:30-7:30pm Reception at Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

The symposium is organized by current PhD candidates Brian BentleyGillian SneedJuanita Solano RoaDanielle Stewart, and Madeline Murphy Turner, PhD student Horacio Ramos, and M.A. student Julián Sánchez González; in conjunction with Anna Indych-López,Katherine Manthorne, and Edward J. Sullivan.

Presented by the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA) and the Rewald Endowment and co-sponsored by the Center for the Humanities at the Graduate Center, CUNY and the Grey Art Gallery, New York University.

Beyond the Symbolic: Art and Social Engagement in the Americas
April 14–15, 2017

Part 1 of 5. Watch the entire symposium.

In the aftermath of the 2016 US Presidential Election, Tania Bruguera issued the following call to artists: “The time for the symbolic has ended. Art is now a tool—not to make the system work better, but to change the system.” This symposium interrogates the relevance of merging art and politics in the Americas, especially in works that explicitly seek to resist political oppression, economic imperialism, and legacies of colonialism through public discourse. We aim to address not only contemporary works that marshal “relational aesthetics” at a moment of profound geopolitical crisis, but any intervention that has sought to target the body politic and yield political or social transformation. Less interested in quantifying the efficacy of such works, this symposium hopes to examine larger questions regarding the potential ability of artistic practice to produce concrete results—that is, the compatibility of art and activism. What constitutes success or failure? When, if at all, must art bear the burden of achieving sociopolitical change? For whom is this art produced, and to whom is it responsible? Might failure be a desired outcome?

Organized by Institute of Fine Arts PhD candidates in Latin American art: Brian Bentley, Madeline Murphy Turner, Sean Nesselrode Moncada, Blanca Serrano Ortiz, and Juanita Solano Roa; in conjunction with Edward J. Sullivan.


Friday, April 14, 2017

6:00 pm
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Edward Sullivan (Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the History of Art, The Institute of Fine Arts)

6:15 pm
Keynote Lecture
Andrea Giunta (Tinker Visiting Professor, Columbia University, and Professor of Latin American Art, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, Universidad de Buenos Aires)
People, Mass, Multitude
Introduced by Sean Nesselrode Moncada (PhD candidate, The Institute of Fine Arts)

7:45 pm

Saturday, April 15, 2017

9:00 am
Panel 1: Alternative Structures
Moderated by Brian Bentley (PhD candidate, The Institute of Fine Arts)

Pablo Santa Olalla (PhD candidate, Historia del Arte, Universitat de Barcelona)
Not Only Mail Art: From “Inobjetual” Experiences to Performance. Clemente Padín, Performativity and Activism, 1971–1977

Amanda Suhey (PhD, Art, Art History and Visual Studies, Duke University)
Gold Standards/Legacies of Failure

Jessica M. Law (PhD candidate, Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, University of British Columbia)
All A are B, or No A is B, but what about C? Notes on Amalia Pica’s Diagrams

10:30 am
Coffee and Tea

10:45 am
Panel 2: Art/Action
Moderated by Blanca Serrano Ortiz (PhD candidate, The Institute of Fine Arts)

Mya Dosch (PhD Candidate, Art History, The Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Mobilizing the Aesthetics of Bureaucracy: Grupo Suma’s October 2, 1978 Interventions

Paulina Varas (Researcher and professor, Campus Creativo, Universidad Andrés Bello and Coordinator, CRAC Valparaíso, Chile)
Desobedecer la Escena de Avanzada: Una lectura contextual de CADA en el Chile de los años ochenta

María del Carmen Montoya (Assistant Professor of Sculpture and Spatial Practices, Corcoran School of the Arts and Design, George Washington University)
Ghana Think Tank: Creative Problem Finding on the US-Mexico Border

12:15 pm
Lunch Break

1:30 pm
Panel 3: Distributed Objects
Moderated by Madeline Murphy Turner (PhD candidate, The Institute of Fine Arts)

Philomena López (PhD student, Art History, Theory and Criticism, University of California San Diego)
Señor Suerte: A Critique of Antagonism

Lorna Dillon (Associate Lecturer, Modern Languages, University of Kent)
Textile Art, Collective Memory and Transitional Justice

Manuela Ochoa (Curator, Museo Nacional de la Memoria, Bogotá)
When Memory Surrounded Justice

3:00 pm
Coffee and Tea

3:15 pm
Keynote Lecture
Coco Fusco (Andrew Banks Endowed Chair, College of the Arts, University of Florida)
The Art of Intervention: Performance and the Cuban Public Sphere
Introduced by Juanita Solano Roa (PhD candidate, The Institute of Fine Arts)

4:45 pm
Closing Remarks
Edward Sullivan (Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the History of Art, The Institute of Fine Arts)

Realisms: Politics, Art, and Visual Culture in the Americas, 2016

Part 1 of 4. Watch the entire symposium.

Recent attempts to synthesize and narrativize Latin American art, while instrumental in raising the profile of this field, inherently risk constructing an idealized history of visual culture, in which the realities of art-making in the Americas recede or are otherwise mystified. This conference considers “realism” in the Americas not as a stylistic mode pertaining to figuration, mimesis, or authenticity, but rather as a strategy for critically addressing social, political, and economic conditions. From the struggles for independence circa 1800 to contemporary actions addressing political violence and exclusionary immigration policies, the problem of reality has proven central to representations of life across the hemisphere. At a moment in which “global art history” has gained increasing prominence, and in which Latin American art has moved from the marginal to the canonical, how can we address the specificities of lived experience, both local and hemispheric, while also acknowledging broader connections?

Organized by IFA PhD candidates in Latin American art: Sean Nesselrode Moncada, Juanita Solano Roa, Susanna Temkin, Lizzie Frasco, Blanca Serrano Ortiz, Priscilla Bolaños Salas, Emily Lyver, Brian Bentley, and Madeline Murphy Turner; in conjunction with Edward J. Sullivan.


9:00 am
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Edward Sullivan (Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the History of Art, Institute of Fine Arts)
Sean Nesselrode Moncada (PhD candidate, Institute of Fine Arts)

9:15 am
Keynote Lecture
José Luis Falconi (Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University)
Reality Lies Elsewhere: One Avatar of Realism

10:45 am
Coffee Break

11:00 am
Panel 1: Photography and Document
Moderated by Juanita Solano Roa (PhD candidate, Institute of Fine Arts)

Rodrigo García Boníllas (MA candidate, Filosofía y Letras, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México)
On Nota RojaConsidered as One of the Fine Arts: Enrique Metinides’ Tragedies

Ileana Selejan (Curatorial Fellow, Davis Museum at Wellesley College)
Incandescent Realisms: Documentary Photography in Central America in the 1980s

Michel Otayek (PhD candidate, Spanish and Portuguese Language and Literature, New York University)
Canaima, Recreated: Photography, Timelessness, and the Economic Conquest of the Venezuelan South—Or, The Splendid Photobook That Never Was

Discussant: Shelley Rice (Arts Professor of Photography and Imaging, Tisch School of the Arts)

12:30 pm
Lunch Break

1:30 pm
Panel 2: Violence and Memory
Moderated by Susanna Temkin (PhD candidate, Institute of Fine Arts)

Devon Zimmerman (PhD Candidate, Art History and Archaeology, University of Maryland) Corroding Geometries: Elsa Gramcko, 1955–1965

Rachel Mohl Duke (PhD candidate, Art History, Rice University)
Displaced Order: Undercurrents of Violence in Eduardo Ramírez Villamizar's Dieciséis torres

Florencia San Martín (PhD candidate, Art History, Rutgers University)
Neoliberalism, Memory, and Temporality in Alfredo Jaar's The Kissinger Project(1984–2016)

Discussant: Kent Minturn (Visiting Assistant Professor of Fine Arts, Institute of Fine Arts)

3:00 pm
Coffee Break

3:15 pm
Panel 3: Body and Performance
Moderated by Madeline Murphy Turner (PhD candidate, Institute of Fine Arts)

Gillian Sneed (PhD candidate, Art History, Graduate Center, City University of New York)
Anthropophagic Assemblages: Identity, Subjectivity, and Resistance in Brazilian Women's Performances-for-Camera

Tie Jojima (independent curator and MA, Art History and Arts Administration, School of the Art Institute of Chicago)
X-Rated: Xerox Art in the Context of Movimento de Arte Pornô

Jez Flores (PhD candidate, History of Art, UC Berkeley)
Chicano Resistance: Asco’s Use of Camp

Discussant: Iván A. Ramos (President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Ethnic Studies, University of California, Riverside)

4:45 pm
Closing Remarks
Edward Sullivan (Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the History of Art, Institute of Fine Arts)

5:00 pm