Baroque is a term used in the literature of the arts with both a historical and critical meaning, and as both an adjective and a noun. This entry will focus on defining and relating the term Baroque art as they are most relevant to the aspects towards the discussion of Latin American Art. It will concentrate on the idea of Baroque within the various mediums and styles.
The Online Encyclopedia refers to the term as having a long, complex, mainly as a synonym for “absurd” or “grotesque” (it derives from a Portuguese word for misshapen pearl). Primarily, it designates the dominant style of European art between Mannerism and Rococo. The style of Baroque originated in Rome and is associated with the Catholic Counter Reformation, its most noticeable characteristics-overt rhetoric and dynamic movement. The seventeenth century Rome was the artistic capital of Europe, and Baroque style soon spread outwards from it, undergoing modifications within other countries to which it migrated, as it had met with a variety of different tastes, outlooks and merged with local traditions. Within Latin America it became more extravagant, while others it was toned down to suit a more conservative taste.
The traveling exhibition “Ultra-Baroque: Aspects of Post-Latin American Art” took on the daunting task of defining the term Baroque through contemporary art from Latin America. It had two aims: the first having to do with the relationship of specific strands of contemporary artistic practices throughout Latin American. The second aim was to explore the idea of-Baroque as a sensibility resonating in the work of many current artists born or living in Latin America. Historically, the Baroque label was used derogatively to describe Latin American visual cultures. This show used the label strategically to generate a cross-cultural exchange and bring attention to contemporary Latin American art.
Baroque art is generally associated with the seventeenth century anti-reformation movement. It had been installed during colonization periods, however, Baroque mannerisms are still prevalent in today’s society.
In 2002: Ultra Baroque: Aspects of Post Latin American Art features work by 15 artists from 6 Latin American countries, the works explore complexity, and re-defies logic and unified systems. The prefixes “Ultra” and “Post” in the exhibition’s title suggests that the roots of Baroque in Latin American art are tangled, far reached, and by no-means a single and logical system. An artist featured within the Ultra Baroque exhibition is Cildo Meireles, (born in Rio de Janeiro-1948). He is a current artist that focuses on art and its correspondence to real life, he includes messages that convey social, political, cultural aspects and touches upon art as a constant unfolding process, that one can possess and refurbish, to make their own. Meireles’s conceptual installation piece entitled How to Build a Cathedral-1987, consists of 600,000 coins carpeting the floor, and are joined by a canopy of 2000 bones hanging from the ceiling, connecting the two are 800 communion wafers. His piece comments on the human cost of missionary work, and its connection with the exploitations of wealth in the colonies. Baroque churches were often created with gold, ornate decor and luxurious materials. The churches were of great value, worth and a common symbol of heritage. Baroque has always been defined and seen as ornate, irregular, eccentric, inharmonious, wild, and the new term Ultra Baroque, however, goes beyond the meaning of what should be regular, and adds a sense of empowerment for Latin American people. There is a notion of identity that is expressed through geographic sites and areas. Artists in the exhibition were not authentic, they redefined artists and their works; adopting and adapting to their own personal identity and style, which conveys a more personal meaning of their culture.
Baroque is complex, overall the term Baroque refers to a period of art prevalent in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century. Brazilian Baroque art also includes a large number of artifacts from religious decorative arts (for example: silverware, lamps etc), to devotional paintings and massive church statuary (alters). These objects are thought to display not only traditional European aesthetics and craftsmanship, but also the strength of the Catholic church.
According to the Oxford Art Online (OAO), towards the end of the seventeenth century a more homogeneous and prosperous society began to evolve in Mexico, and with it came the development of Mexican Baroque architecture. Local factors, including a love of ornament, also determined the strong colours and decorated surfaces typical of Mexican Baroque. The prosperity of the period was manifested in the building of several important parish churches and their subsequent elevation to the status of cathedrals. The early Baroque in Mexico was followed by a style usually described as “churrigueresque,’ although it is sometimes also called the Ultra Baroque.
To reference Cesar Augusto Salgado’s text Hybridity in New World Baroque Theory, he explains that the term Baroque was first used to designate a stylistic period of extravagant artificiality and ornamentation in the post-Renaissance European art and literature and to characterize the doctrinal and iconographic strategies of the Counter Reformation. More recently, it has come to describe particular instances of Latin American culture. In the discourse of what Salgado would call the “New World Baroque theory”. Baroque functions as a trope or adjective for the region’s complex ethnic and artistic “racial mixture” rather than as a reference to exclusively Western forms. To cross from the European Baroque into the Latin American Baroque is to move from a hegemonic, diffusion, and of language and literature is important on creating a grand picture of the word, style, ideas and form of Baroque.
On a closing note, Jessica Bradley states, “This hybrid state of art (Ultra Baroque) crosses borders, questions the legitimacy of excepted categories and often defies expectations. History will come out no matter how much we hide it.” Latin America is the “promised-land” for Baroque art, and it has helped opened up a new world of possibilities.
Calderón, Miguel, ed. “Ultrabaroque: Aspects of Post-Latin American Art,” Arts News. Absolute Arts, 2000. Web. 16 Oct. 2009. <http://www.absolutearts.com/artsnews/2000/09/26/27494.html>.
Sullivan, Edward. “Import/Export: The Borderless Baroque”, Traveling Exhibition Ultra- Baroque: Aspects of Post- Latin American Art, no.7 (2002): 36-41, http:// vnweb.hwwilsonweb.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/ (October 14, 2009)
Chilvers, Ian. “Baroque.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists. 2003.
Encyclopedia.com (November 2, 2009). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O3-Baroque.html
Noelle, Louise, “Mexico”, Oxford Art Online-Grove Art Online, (Sept 27, 1999), http:// www.oxfordartonline.com.subzero.lib.uoguelph.ca/subscriber/article/grove/art/T057538?q=Ultra +Baroque&search=quick&pos=1&_start=1 (November 12,2009).
Salgado, Cesar, “Hybridity in New World Baroque Theory”. High Beam Research. (July 1 1999). <http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-438206860.htlm> (October 7, 2009)
José Antonio Hernández-Diez Venezuelan: born 1964
C-print, ed. 5
190 x 140 cm
© 2001, José Antonio Hernández-Diez