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Taking a stand: A new exhibition of Latin American photography charts more than 50 years of soul-searching and political turbulence


They say a picture is worth a thousand words – but sometimes a juxtaposition of image and text can multiply potential meanings.

That's evident from a new collection of Latin American photographic art: a sweeping survey across decades and countries, it nonetheless finds connections through the different artists' use of words in, on or over pictures.

The language of advertising may be used satirically; the writing-on-the-wall of political graffiti, protest or newsprint may punch home a point.

America Latina 1960-2013 – an exhibition at the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain in Paris, from 19 November to 6 April – brings together the work of more than 70 artists from 11 countries.

Untitled, 1977-79, Guillermo Deisler

The show aims to display artists that – though big names in their native lands – are less well known in Europe, and shines a light on work from countries such as Colombia, Venezuela and Paraguay, which are rarely on the mainstream art scene's map.

The 50-odd years spanned by America Latina were ones of political upheaval, with many turbulent moments – dictatorships and disappearings, guerrilla movements and military juntas, economic booms and busts. The exhibition includes not only those working in fine art, but documentary photographers, too.

While stormy political times demand creative responses, they also require a creative approach to actually getting your work out there – many artists had to, at some point, confront or circumnavigate repressive regimes.

The Chilean artist Eugenio Dittborn's 'airmail paintings', for example, were folded up and sent around the world in the 1980s, swooping out from under the nose of Pinochet.

'Historia do Brasil - Little Boys & Girls', Anna Bella Geiger

Others were more confrontational, using that clashing of text and image to comment on or reformulate state narratives – witness Chilean artist-in-exile Guillermo Deisler's unsettling collage.

America Latina also confronts wider stereotypes. In To Be Continued... (Latin America Puzzle) Brazilian artist Regina Silveira jigsaws together images from magazines and tourist guides in a massive mural.

It could be a microcosm for the whole show: piecing together the many, and many-sided, images that make up the vibrant, varied puzzle that is Latin America.