Tangled Alphabets: León Ferrari and Mira Schendel, at MoMA through June 15, includes the above example of what Ms. Schendel called Graphic Objects. (Museum of Modern Art)

From review of “Tangled Alphabets: León Ferrari and Mira Schendel” at the Museum of Modern Art:

“Tangled Alphabets” is the Modern’s latest attempt to explore modernisms beyond the narrow Euro-American version that it did so much to lock in place. Organized by Luis Pérez-Oramas, the museum’s curator of Latin American art, it is essential viewing for anyone interested in 20th-century art and often displays a taut aesthetic repartee. But it also sometimes feels halfhearted.

The news release lauds Ms. Schendel and Mr. Ferrari as “two of the most important South American artists of the 20th century.” But the combined retrospectives suggest an unwillingness to commit. Wedging a double survey into galleries usually occupied by single ones doesn’t help.

Still, “Tangled Alphabets” brings together more work by Ms. Schendel and Mr. Ferrari than has been seen in a North American museum. It opens a window on a complex regional artistic history similar to that of the United States in its assimilation of European models, embrace of both abstraction and popular culture and oscillation between purity and politics. Expect to find analogies here to Abstract Expressionism, Fluxus, word art, Arte Povera, appropriation art and even Neo Geo.


Roberta Smith
New York Times