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Experience the continuous present

Phoenix Art Museum presents Order, Chaos, and the Space Between: Contemporary Latin American Art from the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection from February 6 through May 5

By James K. Ballinger

Carlos Amorales (Mexico, b. 1970), Black Cloud, 2007. 30,000 paper moths, dimensions variable. Diane and Bruce Halle Collection.

Carlos Amorales (Mexico, b. 1970), Black Cloud, 2007. 30,000 paper moths, dimensions variable. Diane and Bruce Halle Collection.

Throughout time, there are moments of happenstance that can result in profound changes and innovations, instances when the flutter of wings initiates a series of events with major implications, half a world away. Sometimes, those moments result in something that is incredibly meaningful and impactful, and such is the case with the art collection of longtime Valley residents and supporters of the arts, Diane and Bruce Halle.

The Halles’ art collection, a part of which is on view in Phoenix Art Museum’s Steele Gallery in the new exhibition Order, Chaos, and the Space Between: Contemporary Latin American Art from the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection, is one of the most important collections of contemporary Latin American art in the United States and internationally. Previously exhibited in Houston in 2007 and in Tucson more than a decade ago, this exhibition is a kind of homecoming, as the Phoenix Art Museum (PAM) was the original site of its conception.

In 1995, Diane Halle was a Museum docent and trustee. It was in a series of discussions with Clayton Kirking, then librarian and subsequently the Museum’s first curator of Latin American art, that the idea for the Halle Collection first emerged. That same year, the exhibition, Latin American Women Artists 1915-1995, opened at Phoenix Art Museum, and introduced Mrs. Halle to many fascinating artists who would later become the core of the collection, such as Mira Schendel, Lygia Clark, Liliana Porter and Ana Mendieta.

What grew from that early introduction was the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection, consisting of diverse works that pertain to the most significant artistic trends in Latin America from the mid-twentieth century to the present. The Halle Collection has become an investment in a region long under-recognized, and often under-appreciated, for the scope and value of its artistic contributions to art and culture on the global scale.

Félix Gonzalez-Torres (Cuban-born American, 1957-1996), Untitled (Rossmore II), 1991. Green candies, individually wrapped in cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions variable. Diane and Bruce Halle Collection.

Félix Gonzalez-Torres (Cuban-born American, 1957-1996), Untitled (Rossmore II), 1991. Green candies, individually wrapped in cellophane, endless supply. Dimensions variable. Diane and Bruce Halle Collection.

The Halles collected art of this region to explore not only for themselves, but also to make the public more aware of the remarkable art production of Latin America. As such, this exhibition offers many opportunities for educational engagement. Hundreds of students from Valley schools will be visiting the exhibition, along with ASU students who will be working with artist Carlos Amorales on the installation of Black Cloud, a work consisting of 30,000 black paper moths and butterflies that will weave its way from the Museum’s Greenbaum Lobby to the Steele Gallery. PAM will also host a series of lectures by artists whose works are featured in the show, including Carlos Amorales (Mexico), Luis Cruz Azaceta (Cuba), Alessandro Balteo Yazbeck (Venezuela) and Jorge Macchi (Argentina).

In addition to these activities, the exhibition will introduce members of our community to outstanding artists working throughout Latin America over the past sixty years. The cutting-edge, contemporary works will surprise and intrigue visitors of all ages, who may have come with fixed expectations of what Latin American art has been and can be; these works will inspire any visitor to leave those preconceived notions behind. 

 Co-organized by PAM’s Beverly Adams, Ph.D. (Curator of the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection) and Vanessa Davidson, Ph.D. (the Shawn and Joe Lampe Associate Curator of Latin American Art), Order, Chaos, and the Space Between is an expansive look at contemporary works from across Latin America. It includes more than 50 individual works from renowned artists, such as Doris Salcedo, Gego, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jorge Macchi and Hélio Oiticica. Together, the curators selected works by artists who actively question the nature of the creative process, thereby entering into a dialogue with fellow artists working across the globe. Whether working on canvas, in sculptural media, photography or installation, these radical innovators have helped forge new artistic languages in their home countries. The collected works showcase the diverse means by which artists working in Latin America have overcome their geographic marginality in relation to global centers of artistic innovation to initiate new aesthetic currents with international resonance.

Since its opening in 1959, PAM has exhibited the art of Mexico and Latin America. Order, Chaos and the Space Between brings much more South American art to the fore, including works from Argentina, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela, in addition to works from Cuba and Mexico. The exhibition will introduce our audience to a wider range of artists from this part of the world. 

Among the artists that will be exhibiting at PAM for the first time is Antonio Dias, a Brazilian artist whose eponymous work, The Space Between, provided not only the title for the exhibition, but a metaphor for both the Halle Collection and the role of Latin American art at PAM. In 1970, Dias’ seemingly simple work is composed of two cubes, the granite cube bears the words, “THE BEGINNING,” and the marble cube the words, “THE END.” Its title, The Space Between, evokes a continuous present, a space and time in a latent state of becoming. Through this work, the artist reminds us that all things in life have a beginning and an ending, but that it is the space between that really counts.

Antonio Dias (Brazilian, b. 1944), The Space Between, 1970. Marble and granite cubes. Collection of Diane and Bruce Halle.

Antonio Dias (Brazilian, b. 1944), The Space Between, 1970. Marble and granite cubes. Collection of Diane and Bruce Halle.

This is a worthy metaphor for Diane and Bruce Halle’s collection, which continues to grow, evolve and expand in new directions. This exhibition is a snapshot of the Collection at this particular moment in time – still growing, still becoming. But it is also a worthy metaphor for Latin American art at PAM. It is the second exhibition of contemporary Latin American art in less than a year’s time. Like the 2012 exhibit, Politics of Place, featuring photography from Latin America, Order, Chaos, and the Space Between is a sensitively built exhibition of compelling works from areas that exert tremendous influence on the Southwestern United States and beyond. The Museum plans to develop more opportunities, not only to present great works of art, but also to create connections that will enhance our understanding of the contributions that Latin American arts and culture bring to our city and state.

It is exciting to realize that a conversation that began in the library at PAM became the spark that led to one of the most important collections of Latin American art today, one that continues to create new conversations, build awareness, change perceptions and effect change throughout Arizona and the world.

For more information about lectures, films and other exhibition programming related to Order, Chaos and the Space Between, visit phxart.org/exhibitions/orderchaos

James K. Ballinger has been the Sybil Harrington Director of the Phoenix Art Museum since 1982, and has been with the Museum since 1974. 

Order, Chaos, and the Space Between is presented through the generous support of the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation, APS (Arizona Public Service) and JPMorgan Chase, with additional support provided by Joan Cremin. Promotional support is provided by The Phoenician and US Airways.

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This Article appears on the February 2013 issue of LPM under Features

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