On the corner of 4th and Congress, I witnessed for several weeks the making of a new art gallery in Austin: Volitant. They started by renovating the interior, added movable walls, high ceilings and a lovely marble floor. A couple of days ago, I finally had the chance to go and visit their opening exhibit, and I was thrilled to find out it was a contemporary Latin American art exhibit.

Presente Perfecto curated by Juan Puntes, founder & director of Whitebox in NY, was a refreshing look at some of the work being produced in Latin America. In an age when people are begining to discuss the term Post-Latin American art, I felt that Puntes offered an interesting curatorial approach to this exhibit. It was not based on identities relating to geography and place, but the overall connections in culture and communication that this group of artists explores.

As one approaches the gallery with its window store front, you get the impression of walking into a boutique. Leather-like coats, hand bags and high-heeled shoes are on display, but a closer look reveals nipples, hair follicles and even references to penuses. Nicola Constantino toys with the idea of bringing the interior to the exterior world. The approach of encountering nudity as an everyday object is revolutionary in terms of the sexual taboos that still exist in parts of Latin America.


Constantino's other piece Savon de Corps is self-reflexive, quiet, and a breakthrough for the artist. The installation is setup like a marketing campaign for this new soap (Soap of the body). It includes a video projection of a commercial, and a sampling station with the actual soap, which is shaped in the form of a torso and bottom. The soap was made from the fat of the artist, after undergoing liposuction. It is a critical commentaty on our perceptions of beauty, the role of the media in shaping this perception and the utter physicality of what we designate as ugly. The fat is transformed into a function that also serves beauty. The artist is demonstrating the full cycle. I can't imagine how liberating it would be to create a work of art such as this. Her use of fat as a medium, also brought memories of Joseph Beuys.

I also enjoyed the Pop Latino photography series by Marcos Lopez. It was a funny, yet artistic way of challenging the stereotypical Latino male: the soccer player, beer drinker, cigarette smoker, with a glorified penus. The photographs felt staged, but comfortable and almost film-like. There was so much personality in each of the characters.

Not every piece featured in the show was a winner, but overall the exhibit was very well-crafted. Everything was perfectly present and optimisim resounded in the room.