The exhibition Géométries Sud, from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego could not find a better setting than the premises of the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, located at 261 Boulevard Raspail Paris XIVème, an architectural lighthouse where the geometry of space is constantly being questioned and a partner for Latin American artists. Armed with this experience and convinced that Latin America is asserting itself as a great center of artistic creation, the Foundation has launched this ambitious exhibition that brings together nearly 250 works produced by 70 artists from 12 countries and designed according to the following logic: to explore the diversity and richness of creation in Latin America and to offer a new perspective on the appropriation of geometry in space. For this reason, it decided to honor the neo-Andean style, a combination of the geometric codes characteristic of pre-Columbian indigenous communities and the bright colors of Aymara ceremonial costumes, and to welcome the visitor with the work of its greatest representative: Freddy Mamani, a bold and controversial Bolivian artist who is the author of daring architectural achievements. Thanks to the neo-Andean style, the buildings signed Mamani is the very embodiment of syncretism and mestizaje.
The over-representation of Brazil in the exhibition, which alone presents more than 30 artists, reminds us of the refuge of thousands of Europeans and Jews fleeing World War II and Nazism, among them, many artists, the country that has the largest indigenous population and the region of Latin America most studied by scientists, all disciplines combined, has allowed Brazil to develop a deep reflection on the geometry of art and space, capable of ensuring its leadership within the exhibition.
Among the most impressive Brazilian works, because they demonstrate both the mastery of a wide chromatic range and a certain appropriation of space, the paintings of Luiz Zerbini and Beatriz Milhazes stand out in particular. Whether it is A primeira missa or São Cosme e Damião, both take the visitor into full contemplation, catching his eye; their geo-circular forms and bright colors leave no possibility for him to turn towards them and ignore their call.
Another strong point of Milhazes and Zerbini's works is the allusion to an ethnic vision of space and form; the numerous arabesques and geometric details that can be seen in their compositions refer to the body paintings of the Kadiwéu, an indigenous people who live in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso du Sud. The incredible graphic complexity of these proudly wooded body paintings, as well as the remarkably executed ceramics, has always fascinated scientists and artists throughout the 20th century. These geometrical patterns, far from fulfilling a simple decorative function, above all, translate the cosmogony of the Kadiwéu and their vision of social relations.
This kaleidoscope of shapes and colors is a rather revealing example of the journey that the Foundation seems to offer to visitors, most likely marked by European and French references, on two levels: pushing them to question their relationship with space and its population and enriching themselves in contact with different visions. Moreover, the staging of the plays has also been worked on to serve this purpose. From the color pigments that explode on the canvases, to the proudly built granite blocks, glass, and carbon plates needed to fix the various ethnographic photographs presented, all the works invite the viewer to become aware of their minerality.
All these works lead us to understand that, from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego, art assumes this primordial function of the constructor of space and forms, the architect of its own environment. Peoples and epochs discuss face to face, forms, and space are reinvented, colored, combined at all times. Past, present, future, everything is accepted, as long as dialogue and exchange can give freedom to their creative passions. Lévi Strauss and France played a decisive role in drafting this relationship. Without the pioneering work of anthropology, no one on this side of the Atlantic would have known so closely the cultures and traditions of Brazil's indigenous communities, among others. Even less so if France had not been able to count on a scientific and cultural infrastructure to raise awareness and share, as far as possible, the fruits of this research. Since then, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art has, in a way, perpetuated this tradition of creation, questioning, and research.