Five months ago, the AMA | Art Museum of the Americas of the Organization of American States (OAS) was forced into a transformation due to the COVID-19 crisis. Overnight, the physical exhibition space left the picture, and with few tools available, we adapted to communicating entirely through virtual platforms. The same virus that has us in social isolation has also allowed for AMA to expand our reach on social media.
Now five months into the pandemic-caused social isolation, the AMA is launching its first contemporary photography exhibition fully dedicated to the impact of COVID-19 on everyday life. Conceived by multimedia artist Geandy Pavón, Quarantine: 40 Days and 40 Nights, with essay by Lynette M F Bosch ‘40 Plus In Buffalo’: Geandy Pavón’s Photographs Of The Covid Lockdown is a collection of 40 photographs captured during his lockdown in Buffalo, NY, showing the vulnerability and resilience of the artist, who found himself away from home and without his equipment. In this endeavor, not only did Pavón improvise his equipment, which he cobbled together from what he could find in the few essential stores that were open, but he also set the stage using what was available at his partner’s home, where he was confined. Through an intimate exploration embodied by his partner, his images are a recreation and an appropriation of classical art and mythology, religious beliefs, and popular culture, shining a light onto health and socioeconomic issues resulting from the pandemic.
In this sense, the exhibition is tightly related with the AMA’s mission, which, through cultural diplomacy, promotes the four pillars of the OAS, with a current focus on supporting the organization’s member states during and after the crisis. Pavón’s vulnerabilities and resilience echo those of the region, which was not prepared for the sudden impact of the pandemic. By way of the Summit of the Americas process, its Joint Summit Working Group (JSWG) has been holding conversations and exchanges with high-ranking authorities, showing the importance of multilateralism in coordinating and tackling the region’s health and socioeconomic issues addressed in Pavón’s work.
Some of these issues are portrayed in pieces such as Day 18 (Pandora), a perfect example that conveys how COVID-19 has exacerbated problems associated with equity and social health in the region. Recreating one of the most important works of the Italian Renaissance, Day 13 (The Pietà) uses the mask of the Virgin Mary to shed light on the health crisis caused by the virus. Americana depicts how social inequality during the pandemic is intensified by racial discrimination.
Through this photographic series, the AMA is joining the efforts of the OAS in working and reflecting around the pandemic through art. Pavón’s work embodies contemporary photography, where recreation and artistic appropriation become a methodology for social criticism and for the unveiling of current issues.
The AMA has developed into a virtual museum thanks to the efforts of its small team, which continues to be committed to the museum’s mission, and who under the leadership of its director Pablo Zuñiga created #AMAatHome / #AMAenCasa, with social media as exhibition walls. I hope you enjoy the show.
Curator of Collections
OAS AMA | Art Museum of the Americas