On this episode of the Artmatcher podcastMichael Goodman speaks with María Gaztambide, the inaugural director and chief curator of Public Art of the University of Houston system. Maria shares her views on the importance of Latinx representation in the art community, along with how her heritage influences her work. She touches on how she’s integrating technology into the realm of public art, and how she aims to make that art more accessible to the average person.

About Maria Gaztambide

Maria C. Gaztambide, Ph.D., is the inaugural director and chief curator of Public Art of the University of Houston System. Her work over the years has focused on the intersection of art, technology, and the public realm.

Prior to joining UH, Dr. Gaztambide served as associate director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for over a decade. There her work straddled administration, research, publications, and long-term exhibition projects such as Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975 (2018), Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America (2015); and Intersecting Modernities: Latin American Art from the Brillembourg Capriles Collection (2013). Previously, she was a curator and taught at Tulane University; worked for the Smithsonian Institution (Archives of American Art) in Washington, New York, and Puerto Rico; as well as for the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico during its gestational phase.

Dr. Gaztambide has been at the forefront of deploying digital imaging and online technologies in the visual arts since the onset of related breakthroughs, spearheading landmark projects for the MFAH and Tulane. She also publishes regularly on modern and contemporary art and recent books projects include El Techo de la Ballena: Retro-Modernity in Venezuela (University of Florida Press) and On Site: 50 Years of Public Art at the University of Houston System (Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers), both from 2019. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dr. Gaztambide holds M.A. degrees in Art History and Arts Administration as well as an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Latin American Studies (Art History) from Tulane University.

Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975

This fascinating exploration of Venezuelan Informalism charts the movement’s history from its beginnings in the mid-1950s to its last manifestations in the 1970s. Essays by an esteemed group of scholars discuss the variety, richness, and complexity of Informalism and examine the ways in which Venezuelan artists embraced many of the abstract, gestural tendencies contemporaneously developed in Abstract Expressionism, Tachism, and Art Informel.

El Techo de la Ballena: Retro-Modernity in Venezuela

The work of the 1960s Caracas-based art collective El Techo de la Ballena (The Roof of the Whale) was called subversive and seen as a threat to Venezuela’s national image as an emerging industrial power. This volume details the historical and social contexts that shaped the collective, exploring how it used the visual arts to expose the depths of injustice hidden beneath the façade of Venezuela’s rapid modernization.

On Site: 50 Years of Public Art at the University of Houston System

The book commemorates the 50th anniversary of Public Art of the University of Houston System, including works by esteemed artists such as Carlos Cruz-Diez, Margo Sawyer, Alyson Shotz, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. It highlights about 40 of the collection’s most notable works, illustrated with all-new color photography and accompanied by entries written by artists, scholars, curators, and other members of the arts community. The book gives readers access to the nearly 300 artworks on view to the public every day throughout the University of Houston System.

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Key Moments

  • 00:30 Getting to know Maria and her work
  • 11:50 Latinx representation in the art world
  • 18:10 Technology and public art
  • 22:45 Making art accessible to the general public
  • 32:05 Informalism in Venezuela