Date of Degree

9-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

Katherine Manthorne

Keywords

conceptualisms; intervention; Latin American Art History; los grupos; Mexico; Performance

Abstract

Throughout the 1960s and 70s, Mexican artists employed art interventions in commercial galleries, cultural institutions, and city streets to facilitate a renegotiation of the role of art (and the artist) in society. The art intervention, a mode of conceptualism, served to circumvent traditional spaces for the display of art and to destabilize and expose the hierarchies or power structures that shaped the art world and society at large. Artists began to explore alternative definitions of the artist and the art object as early as 1961, when progenitors of conceptualism such as Mathias Goeritz, José Luis Cuevas, and Alejandro Jodorowsky produced art interventions in galleries, theaters, art schools, museums, and public spaces.

These new interventionist practices were forged within the context of local and global social revolutions. In Mexico, widespread repression and censorship at the hands of the state culminated in the 1968 student and workers' movements. Tragically marked by the government-initiated massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Tlatelolco, the movement accelerated incidents of protest, police and military brutality, and a crisis within cultural institutions. Though the Mexican government presented itself as aligned with socialist causes, the 1970s saw an unofficial dirty war launched against perceived radicals to quash the momentum activists had gained in 1968. This heated environment found artists in a continuing struggle to find new forms of expression as well as spaces for the display of their work. Many turned to collectivization and conceptualist tactics in what has come to be called the movimiento de los grupos or the 'Group Movement' that flourished between 1973 and 1979.

Despite the proliferation of art interventions across the two decades (and within similar socio-political conditions) connections between the 1960s generation and the Grupos of the 1970s have not been adequately addressed. Accordingly, this project examines the ways in which strategies of intervention served as a form of resistance for both generations. I argue that the intervention served as a primary tool in the renegotiation of the social role of art and the artist. As a vehicle of conceptualism, interventionist practice served to introduce institutional critique, new media and mass communication, as well as performative actions as artistic modes, irreversibly altering the cultural landscape of Mexico.

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