A young woman who was taking a break from a road trip to Seattle stood and pondered an intricate Frida Kahlo sketch hanging on the tall, white museum wall.
She shook her head slowly, looking at the jigsaw of overlapping images, including Kahlo’s famous monobrow, fragmented body parts, flowers and a rising sun.
A minute earlier, a Blanton Museum of Art tour guide had told the group a story about how Kahlo had drawn the piece shortly after a spinal surgery following a bus accident. Kahlo had traveled to art shows in a hospital bed, and she emphasized that the abstract-looking work was not was not surrealism.
Kahlo, instead, insisted that she was depicting her reality.
“She said it wasn’t surreal?” the young woman asked.
“It’s very surreal,” tour guide Laraine Lasdon told her with a smile. But it also came at a time when many Latin American artists were distancing themselves from the European trends dominating the art world.
Overall, La Linea Continua collection donated by University of Texas alumni Charles and Judy Tate, is organized as if to tell a story about the creation of modernism in Latin America. Paintings and sculptures, spanning the early 1900s to present day, capture life in countries such as Argentina, Mexico and Uruguay without categorizing artists in eras or boxing them into political movements.
“It’s more about the artists and their personal and epic struggles to become known artists,” Lasdon told the tour group.
The Art of a $10 Million Donation
The University of Texas’ Blanton Museum of Art showed it was well ahead of the curve in highlighting the diversity of Latin American art when it hired a curator dedicated solely to art from the region in 1988. It was among the first in the nation.
But a jaw-dropping $10 million donation in spring 2014 from Charles and Judy Tate has made the museum among the most admired by art enthusiasts.
The world class art collectors began their collection in the 1990s, and their portfolio expanded quickly after they began working with a curator at the Blanton Museum of Art, who accompanied them on trips to exclusive art shows and auctions around the globe.
Now it’s available to the public. The extensive collection includes sketches by Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, as well as Wilfredo Lam, Pedro Figari and Carlos Merida.
The Tate’s donation included a $1 million endowment to fund the Latin American art curator position.
Get in Free on Third Thursdays
La Linea Continua collection will be on display until February 2015, before it returns to the Tate’s home and office in Houston.
The museum offers free access to the public during its Third Thursdays events, which have included yoga, bands, tours and more.
Beyond the exquisite Latin American art collection currently on display, the museum is now showing the James Drake “Anatomy of Drawing and Space (Brain Trash)” exhibit until January 4, 2015.
Drake sought to draw something every day, and the project grew and grew into what the museum calls “1,242 individual drawings depicting wild animals, landscapes, studies of human anatomy, scientific formulas, and representations of classical art and family photographs, among other subjects.”
One could lose hours imagining how the images lept from the artists’ mind to paper.