In Search of Art

Library of Congress Looks to Build Collection of Latin American Works

Posted October 22, 2003 at 2:33pm

Drawing on inspiration from a recent printmaking exhibition it hosted, the Library of Congress is collaborating with the Embassy of Mexico and a host of other Iberian and Latin American nations to expand its collection of Latin American artwork.

The Latin American Graphic Art Project will focus on supplementing the Library’s collection with the works of contemporary artists.

“We wanted to keep it very open and not specify certain creators,” explained Katherine Blood, associate curator for fine prints in the Library’s Prints and Photograph Division. “We also really want to build on the expertise of our colleagues at the embassies who have their own cultural programs. … We want to learn from them.”

In addition to the Mexican Embassy, the Library will work with the cultural attachés of 20 Iberian and Latin American countries.

Although it maintains an extensive collection of early- to mid-20th century Spanish and Mexican art, Blood noted, the Library’s holdings are sparse for later years, despite recent acquisitions of works like that by Mexican-born artist Enrique Chagoya.

“We really want to have contemporary work to marry to this existing strength,” she said.

The Library is not listing artists it would like to collect work from, Blood explained, but instead will look for “artists who are known to have had an impact on graphic arts, or who are expected to.”

The art project is inspired, in part, by the recent exhibition of printmaker Robert Blackburn’s works, Blood noted. The exhibit, “Creative Space: Fifty Years of Robert Blackburn’s Printmaking Workshop,” included work by Diogenes Ballester of Puerto Rico, Roberto DeLamonica of Brazil and Antonio Frasconi of Uruguay, as well as those of Americans Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White, who worked at the Taller de Gràfica Popular in Mexico.

Following the exhibit, specialists from the Library’s Hispanic Division and its Print and Photographs Division met with the Mexican Embassy’s minister for cultural affairs, Ignacio Durán-Loera, and other officials. (Durán-Loera did not return calls seeking comment.)

The Library plans to display its newest collection in about one year. Blood added: “We’d like to celebrate this right away with something that people can see and consider and use.”