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American Art. Smithsonian

Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck

Didactic Panel and Model of Alexander Calder's Vertical

Constellation with Bomb, 1943. (Panel detail)

From the series Cultural Diplomacy: An Art We Neglect, 2007-2009

In collaboration with Media Farzin

In 2009 an exhibition by the Venezuelan born artist Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck in collaboration with Media Farzin drew striking connections between Cold War politics and the work of Alexander Calder. The exhibition presented a fabricated history that speculated on the political use of Calder’s art in Latin America, juxtaposing extensive factual evidence with appropriated Calder sculptures. One didactic label connected Nelson Rockefeller’s role as Coordinator for Inter-American Affairs and his responsibilities for “the cultural and propaganda side of wartime diplomacy” with his funding of the Hotel Avila in Caracas, completed in 1942. The wall text described how the Harrison and Abramovitz–designed building, which contained a Calder mobile at its heart, “projected the image of open democracy . . . that literally jeered at totalitarianism.” Another work linked Calder’s 1953 ceiling for Caracas’s university auditorium with the major Cold War summit that took place there two years later.

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