Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
"Art and politics obviously do mix very well," said chief of the Institute for policy studies, Marcus Raskin, as he made his way into the mob that jammed the three-story townhouse that is now Fonda del Sol, a Spanish-American art gallery and workshop at 2112 R St. NW.
The occasion, clearly more political than esthetic, was the opening Tuesday of "Latin America: the Other Image . . ." an exhibition of 72 powerful and first-rate works of art by 30 painters and sculptors in exile - either voluntary or involuntary - from Chile,Brazil, argentian and Uruguay.
"Above all, we want to challenge the Latin American dictatorships now in power with our work," said artist Isabel Letelier. There was more than a little irony in the fact that the event was taking place less than a block from the embassy of the Chilean regime she opposes, andonbly a few blocks from Sheridan Circle, where her husband, former Chilean diplomat Orlando Letelier, was martyred when his car was blown up in September 1976.
Earlier in the day, Isabel Letelier and Chilean artist-in-exile Rene Castro, who organized the show, spoke of the days after the 1973 military coup that overthrew the Marxist government of President Allende. So does most of the art on view.
On a pre-opening tour of the exhibit. Letelier stopped to cast her large, dark eyes on the drawings of Myrian Holgade of Argentina. "I really understand these drawings," she said. "That is what dictators do to women. I saw with my own eyes."
On the second floor was a room full of poignant images by Rene Castro, who was arrested the day of the coup and released only after two years of imprisonment. "That is called 'Capitan Is Looking for Someone.'" Castro said, explaining his painting of a dog standing over the half-shrouded body of his master. "All dogs in Chile are called 'Capitan.'"
At the center of the room was a powerful bronze sculpture by Guido Rocha of Brazil depicting five figures conducting a mock inquiry into the matter of a missing citizen, now reduced to a skeleton. Over a nearby fireplace decorated with two winged cherubs at play hung Juan Downey's reworked "Map of Chile," an actual map he had found in the trash. A large hole is cut out of the center.
"Even art cannot express the horrors of Chile today," said poet-lawyer Tom Jones, a former president of Amnesty International who spent the rest of the evening trying to find Downey to negotiate the purchase of the piece.
Downey, who began his career in Washington and now lives in New York, was only one of several artists in the show with Washington connections. There are several fine and inexpensive pieces by Carlos Salazar and a small and beautiful clay nude by Isabel Letelier, one of the few works she has made since her husband's assassination.
On the third floor is a poignant wall collage of photos by Marcelo Montecino, who with his brother photographed Santiago after the coup. His brother was killed in the aftermath.
At the opening Tuesday night, Letelier was lost in the crush of embracing guests, including French cultural attache Roland Husson, head of the French cultural mission in Chile at the time of the coup and who, according to Letelier, "saved many lives."
The biggest hug of all was for Rose Styron, one of many from Amnesty International and the author of the introduction to the exhibit's catalog. The show continues through Dec. 20.