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Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean

Works of art from Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean range from ancient cultures to cutting-edge artists of today. Among the highlights are the Glassell Collection of Pre-Columbian Gold and the museum’s growing collection of modern and contemporary art by Latin American and Latino artists.

© Tunga / Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York
Brazilian, born 1952
Iron, copper, magnets, and embroidered silk

196 7/8 x 315 x 137 3/4 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the
Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

Arts of Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean

The contemporary artist Tunga makes enigmatic sculpture and installations that combine traditions of Brazilian Constructivism and Surrealism to create a unique visual language. Lezart is a highly complex installation that is constructed of elemental substances such as copper, iron, and magnets. Its forms—combs, lizards, strands of hair—bear metaphoric and narrative links rooted in fictional writings by the artist. This piece is strongly related to a recurring text and performance involving the tale of Siamese twins, joined by the hair, who are sacrificed at puberty. Their salvaged scalp is passed on to a woman who extracts blond hairs from it to embroider an image from her dreams. As she does this, the threads turn to gold. The title of the piece, Lezart, refers directly to the cast-metal lizards that are found throughout the work and that continue the Siamese twin motif through a hybrid creature whose body ends in two heads or two tails. Tunga’s compelling vision, as it plays out in sculpture, installation, text, and performance, relies on age-old symbols, evocations of childhood fairy tales, and alchemical transformation that engage the viewer in the seductive materiality of the artist's sculpture and the myth surrounding its creation.