Central America, South America, Mexico, and the Caribbean covers Latin America's collective artistic expression.
The art originated from the various indigenous cultures that lived in America in the 16th century before the conquest of Europe. Each of the multiple cultures developed complex artistic styles strongly influenced by religion and nature. Their art is classified as Pre-Columbian and is commonly known.
America's European exploration, colonization, and occupation, which started in 1492, created considerable shifts in the region's indigenous cultures. When the Europeans arrived, mostly from Spain and Portugal, they went back to ancient times with painting and design practices.
For generations, Native American populations had also developed societies with their distinct cultural traditions, varying from the Aztec and Inca empires' immense political structures to more dispersed existence of smaller groups of Neolithic peoples.
Latin America has experienced significant cultural and political changes after contact with Europe in the 16th century. These changes would contribute to the independence movements of the 19th century and the social revolutions of the 20th century.
Such developments reflect in the visual arts production of that region Latin American artists often have embraced simplistic American and European styles, applying them in a way that suits their culture and traditions. However, these artists often preserved other elements of their native practices.
Latin America, while searching for its identity, has tasked its artists into looking at their past, religion, history, culture, personal imagination, and political surroundings for creativity.
In the latter half of the 19th century, Latin American art's interest and development started as a nationalistic project, influenced partially by separatist movements around the turn of the century. The visual arts were first generally explored by educated amateurs, often architects or priests, or by experienced foreigners. These explorations, which were mainly in writings, often had the structure of a travelogue describing in quite poetic and non-technical terms, the essential statues at each spot.
The explorers usually had no definite knowledge of art history but were also conscious of their experience in Europe and the sculptures they saw, which were influenced by plays in several Latin American countries.
Originally, indigenous art historians had to travel overseas for training, but in the 1930s, national art research organizations were part of the government or significant universities in Latin America. When Latin American historians researched their cultural background, they preferred to concentrate on that of one country and would not analyze the history of another.
Several European intellectuals escaped colonial oppression in Latin America during the Second World War. They applied the European methodology of education to their cultural resources and established a cultural chronology that connected Latin American artistic styles with those in Europe. Most scholars from America were also using their methods for Latin America and got prohibitions from undertaking the study in Europe. European and American authors continued to emphasize similarities in Latin America through regional and national boundaries.
At the turn of the 20th century, Latin American art was becoming more globalized. It entered the center stage of global art criticism, and artists, whether they resided as expatriates abroad, became popular. The internet has helped worldwide connections in more ways than we can imagine, and international museums are always on the lookout for Latin American artists. In that same manner, Latin America art centers like Mexico City, with their own established galleries and museums, formed influential national art sites.
Several Latin American artists shifted to more abstract and figurative depictions in keeping with a worldwide trend at the end of the 20th century. Figurative style of art has been pivotal for Latin American artists, as evidenced by its use for compassion and humor. Armando Morales, who grew up in Nicaragua, became renowned for his boldly colored geometric abstractions in the 1960s. In the 1980s, he created classically inspired images that recalled Giorgio de Chirico's proto-surrealistic style. Although Morales lived in Europe, his painting applied to the political revolution in his own country that brought Sandinistas to power in 1979 (so-called César Augusto Sandino for Nicaragua's revolution).
During this period, there were new trends of Latin American artists. In Chile, during the Augusto Pinochet military dictatorship in the 1970s, women memorialized their loved ones who are victims of abuse, arrested, disappeared, or supposedly murdered by the government— with pieces of cloth sewn on burlap, also known as arpilleras. Another form evolved in the central Andes, where enthusiasm from tourists created a market for portable wooden altars and Indian textiles.
Trained artists frequently adopted folk patterns of artistry from the invasion, an approach assisted by a government denial of European high culture at the end of the century. Oswaldo Viteri from Ecuador stuck tiny, brightly-colored dolls from highlands obtained from the Indians in the 1970s. He painted them systematically dark but left untouched, often regimented and other times arbitrarily positioned them— thereby reflecting the exploitation of indigenous population by institutional powers.
All through the 20th century, many artists from Latin America became expatriates abroad in the quest for artistic inspiration, better economic opportunities, and political stability. However, Latin America began maintaining more artists and offering more economic opportunities, with democracy returning to nations such as Brazil and Argentina and the fruitful transition of power to civilian rule in most other countries.
Latin American art took a remarkably prominent place in the global art discourse at the turn of the 21st century, when the international art community concentrated on political and social issues that had previously dominated artists from the area.
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