When Latin America Became the Seat of Modernity

Lina Bo Bardi, the great Italian-Brazilian architect, liked to say we all invent architecture just by climbing a stair, crossing a room, opening a door or sitting down in a chair. All of “these little gestures,” she said, along with the objects they involve, are richly endowed with meaning and memory.

Design is life. Life is design. We are its designers.

Bo Bardi, of course, was hardly alone in thinking this way, as “Crafting Modernity,” a new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, makes plain.

The show is a gem. It focuses on domestic design from six countries (Colombia, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Venezuela), produced between 1940 and 1980. Latin America had entered a period of transformation, industrial expansion and creativity. Across the region, design was becoming institutionalized as a profession, opening up new avenues, especially for women.

Modernism was the aesthetic throughline.

It fueled a push for national identity, improved conditions for the working poor and enabled a marriage of native crafts and mass production. It became a means of celebrating the region’s ecological diversity.

And yes, it also provided fresh excuses to design, say, an airy, low-slung chaise in which to snooze briefly under the tropical sun, next to the cool earth.

Related Articles

Back to top button