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Urbanist Art Connects Latin America and Art Toronto

Hammocks hang between public buildings and traffic lights. Tapestries are woven out of construction-site debris. Mobiles are created from the bent rebar and busted concrete of demolished buildings.

These are just some of the works made by artists featured in a special section of Focus: Latin America at Art Toronto 2016.

Curated by New Yorker Isabela Villanueva, this attention-grabbing series of installations is not only designed to delight and surprise—it’s also intended to connect with a Canadian populace that is increasingly city-based in general, as well as a Toronto context that has embraced urban activism and engagement in recent years.

“I think when you are presenting works, it needs to be something the viewer can relate to and understand,” Villanueva says. “And I think this theme of the city and urban space, and how the city is constantly evolving and changing, is being discussed in Toronto.”

Villanueva is on target when she says city change is being discussed in Toronto. The recent popularity of fake condo-development proposals, and current shows on the Toronto scene at the University of Toronto and the Art Gallery of Ontario as just a few examples of intersections between art and city dynamics at the moment.

Among the artists Villanueva has selected for Focus: Latin America are Guatemala City’s Buró de Intervenciones Públicas, which is responsible for the hammocks hanging throughout the fair; São Paulo’s Vivian Caccuri, who shreds materials from construction sites and transforms them into large geometric designs; and Bogota’s Frederico Ovalles-Ar, who has travelled to Toronto to create an installation that refers to architecture in a fragile or provisional way.

Villanueva notes that Buró de Interventions Publics has staged hammock installations in the past in their hometown as well, and they “are very interested in creating recreational spaces or social spaces because specifically in Guatemala City, where they both live, there are very few places for people to meet and relax—they don’t have many parks.”

Positioning this hammock installation in Toronto, a city whose mayor recently pushed forward the creation of a Rail Deck Park—green space to be planted on top of an expensive, as-yet-unbuilt railway roof downtown, has its own kind of local resonance.

Also in Focus: Latin America, look for a map-based installation by influential Cuban artist Carlos Garaicoa, benches by Argentinian Luciana Lamothe, mobiles by Mexico’s Mario Novarro and art pieces by Peru’s Ishmael Randall Weeks.

“The theme that I started to work with is about urban architecture and the ever-changing city,” says Villanueva. “I wanted to give a very thorough understanding to the people who are going to be visiting the fair about how this issue is dealt with different artists of the region.”

That understanding has been furthered by the fact that the majority of the artists in Focus: Latin America have travelled to Toronto to create or install their works in situ, some of them even using local materials.

“I live in New York, and I think Toronto is very similar,” Villanueva says. “I feel that same sort of energy; it is a very cosmopolitan city.”

This article has been adapted from the Art Toronto guide in our Fall 2016 issue. To read the entire guide, download a PDF here or read the issuu link below.

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