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Peruvian Art Critic Juan Acha Commemorated at the Museum of Modern Art

The critic and theorist was a MAM sub-director in the 1970s
By The News · 22 of September 2016 14:36:23
The exhibit is now open at the Museum of Modern Art, No available, photo: The News/Martha Pskowski

“Por una nueva problemática artística” (For a New Artistic Problem) is a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) showcasing the Peruvian art critic and theorist Juan Acha, who was born 100 years ago in 1916. He served as a Sub-Director of the MAM from 1972 to 1976 and played a critical role in theorizing and distributing Latin American modern art of the era.

Natalia de la Rosa curated the exhibit, with support from the “Los Yacuzis,” a group of art critics, students and journalists. The exhibit curators delved into the MAM archives to bring to life the dynamic 1970s Latin American art scene and the key role that the museum played in the region. Acha was born in Sullana, Peru in 1916 and worked extensively in South America before arriving in Mexico at the start of the 1970s. He died in Mexico City in 1995.

The exhibit is divided into two themes, theoretical and critical, the two arms of Acha’s work. Acha related his artistic theories and criticism to the political and economic discourses of the era. He was well-read on the theory of underdevelopment and the ideas of center-periphery in development economics. He was committed to developing a movement of Latin American art that, “had the periphery as the starting point,” in the words of the exhibit curator de la Rosa.

He facilitated regional dialogue and exchange through Artes Visuales a ground-break Latin American art magazine that published articles from around the region. Acha was a guest editor and frequent contributor. Archives of Artes Visuales are available on the MAM website.

"Dos Fridas" memorabilia authorized by the Bank of Mexico (which owns the rights to the piece), bought for 4,000 pesos de at Frida Kahlo Museum. Photo: The News/Martha Pskowski

“Dos Fridas” memorabilia authorized by the Bank of Mexico (which owns the rights to the piece), bought for 4,000 pesos de at Frida Kahlo Museum. Photo: The News/Martha Pskowski

Acha also explored theories of art production and distribution. The exhibit is scattered with conceptual diagrams, the format that Acha used to theorize and organize his work. His reflections on copyright and production are brought alive in the exhibit, which includes a reproduction of the famous Frida Kahlo painting “Dos Fridas,” the most important piece in the MAM permanent collection. There is a display case on each side of the reproduction, one with Frida memorabilia authorized through the Bank of Mexico, which owns the rights to the painting and its reproduction. On the other side of the painting is a display case with un-authorized reproductions purchased at an artisan market in Coyoacán.

The display cases reflect the commercial interests behind national art production and question the rigid definition of art and design in post-colonial countries such as Mexico.

The "Dos Fridas" artisan products bought at the Artisan Market in Coyoacan. Photo: The News/Martha Pskowski.

Un-authorized “Dos Fridas” artisan products bought at the Artisan Market in Coyoacán for 4,000 pesos. Photo: The News/Martha Pskowski

The exhibit is an eclectic but thoughtfully-organized snapshot of 1970s Latin American art and its theorization. One room highlights David Alfaro Siquieros, while another has a map illustrating Acha’s interventions across North and South America. 

Por una nueva problemática artística” is a window into the visually and theoretically rich modern art movement of the 1970s in Latin America and the key roles that Acha and the MAM’s played in bringing together artists from around the region.

The MAM exhibit is the first in a series of events to mark the 100th anniversary of Acha’s birth. The National Fine Arts Institute (INBA), the University Museum of Contemporary Art (MUAC), the Tlatelolco University Cultural Center (CCUT), the National Center for Visuals Arts Research and the Documentation and Information Center (Cenidiap) are all taking part in the commemoration and have exhibits and events planned.

“Por una nueva problemática artística” is at the MAM until February 29. The museum is located on the corner of Paseo de la Reforma and Gandhi in Bosque de Chapultepec.
The MAM opens Tuesday through Sunday from 10:15 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Admission is 60 pesos, except Sundays, when admission is free.
The MAM’s phone number is 55 8647 5530.