The first thing that will strike pedestrians this month as they approach the Maison de l’Amérique Latine in Paris is the riot of colour – vivid reds, yellows and blues on a massive banner announcing a special kind of party.
|One of the posters for the exhibition.|
Until May 7, the Maison (or MAL) is hosting Fiesta Gráfica, an exhibition of pulsating graphic artwork by French artist and curator Michel Bouvet and his 26 “friends” who hail from nine Latin American countries.
The show is the fruit of Bouvet’s travels throughout Latin America and of the collaborations and friendships he has formed over the past 30 years. The wide-ranging exhibition includes political posters, graphic novels, cartoons, advertisements and other forms of graphic art, and it highlights a variety of techniques and perspectives, across decades and borders.
Bouvet’s own designs are regularly visible in the Paris Metro and on the city’s Colonnes Morris, announcing La Fête de la Musique or Les Rencontres d’Arles, and he has been a fixture in French graphic art since the 1970’s.
|An art fan views works by Cuba's Idania del Rio.|
Alongside some of his most well-known affiches, Fiesta Gráfica offers works of diverse artists, 11 of whom work in collectives.
The countries represented include Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico and Paraguay, and the artwork provides commentary on social and philosophical issues, among other themes. A notable feature is the presence of many women artists (so often missing from group exhibitions), with striking works by Bebel Abreu of Brazil, Idania del Rio of Cuba, and Marta Granados of Colombia, for example.
As visitors enter the lobby of MAL’s imposing building, they are first greeted by a joyous poster of bold lines and the words “FRIDA & DIEGO” against a yellow background. Meanwhile, the rooms on either side of the lobby are filled with giant-sized works by Bouvet, “in dialogue” with works by artists from a range of countries.
Crowds packed these rooms on a recent Saturday, among them Paris-based artist Randy Dims who gazed intently at each poster, as if absorbing their energy.
|Paris-based artist Randy Dims at the exhibition.|
The exhibition fills the vast downstairs spaces of the MAL as well. Here, the collage pieces of the collective El Fantasma de Heredia (Argentina), the satirical images of Bebel Abreu (Brazil) and the lyrical, surreal compositions of Celeste Prieto (Paraguay) comprise just a small sampling of the dozens of works by the effervescent community of graphic artists active in Latin America.
Socially engaged and provocative, these artists believe, as the Uruguay militant Pablo Irturralde puts it, that “the poster is a poem”, and a weapon in the fight against injustice. This show is a visual fiesta of colour and content and well worth the visit. – Susan Hamlin / SWAN
FIESTA GRAFICA, MAISON DE L’AMÉRIQUE LATINE, PARIS. More information: www.mal217.org