Mariola V. Alvarez

Theme: Commensurability – Incommensurability

Calligraphic Abstraction and Postwar Art

I trace the influence of calligraphy on the development of the abstract art of three Japanese immigrants to Brazil—Manabu Mabe, Tomie Ohtake, and Flavio-Shiró. Their art is examined within the competitive national context over the privilege to represent a modern Brazil and the transnational context of the experimentations with ink art in Japan and Informalism in France. This project proposes a global, decolonizing modernism that unites artists in Latin America, East Asia and the Islamic world through the calligraphic mark and its invention of abstract art, and therefore upends an art history based in national styles that has favored the U.S. as the natural inheritor of modernism.

Mariola V. Alvarez is an Assistant Professor of Art History, modern and contemporary Latin American art in Tyler School of Art at Temple University. She received her doctorate from the University of California, San Diego and was an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the Humanities Research Center at Rice University. She is currently editing a book on postwar abstract art in Latin America.