In South of the Border, a series of twenty-nine ink-on-paper drawings, Fernando Bryce renders an illustrated pamphlet from 1958, published by the U.S. Department of Defense to introduce employees to highlights of Latin American countries they might visit during their tours of duty. Each drawing reproduces a page from the original publication, which comprises introductory texts and photographs. Bryce's work appropriates imagery from mass culture, using decontextualization and irony to question cultural stereotypes. In carefully rendering the printed pamphlet as individual ink drawings, the artist emphasizes his technical ability and individual subjectivity and simultaneously draws attention to the language, images, and function of this type of tourist literature.
The choice of a Department of Defense pamphlet from the Cold War period is not accidental. The text combines descriptions and illustrations of architectural landmarks, ethnic types, and natural resources designed to educate American military person nel about cultural norms and the economic importance of the region for the United States. From our contemporary perspective these representations of Latin America as a potential economic resource for the U.S. government—one populated by flamboyant dancers, picturesque Indians, and rural laborers—open themselves up to varied interpretations. Rather than attempting to copy the pamphlet's appearance exactly and risk confusing his duplicate with the original, Bryce has purposefully reproduced the 1958 standardized typeface in ink by hand. Likewise, rather than emulating the slick, hard-edged appearance of the printed photographs, he has used a range of brushwork to create the effect of light and shadow. Through such intentional contrasts between the original and his renderings, he calls attention to his technical repertoire and mastery of the medium. Bryce has referred to his working method as "mimetic analysis," underscoring his subjective response to his sources.1 Thus the specificity of his point of view invites the viewer's own participation in the interpretation of such works, as both artist and spectator question the often-taken-for-granted "neutrality" of tourist literature, in this case the 1958 pamphlet South of the Border.
- Fernando Bryce, quoted in Christoff Tannert and Jorge Villacorta, Fernando Bryce (Berlin: Verlag Thumm & Kolbe, 2003), p. 3.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Miriam Basilio, in Miriam Basilio, Fatima Bercht, Deborah Cullen, Gary Garrels, and Luis Enrique Pérez-Oramas, eds., Latin American & Caribbean Art: MoMA at El Museo, New York: El Museo del Barrio and The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, pp. 159-60.