Logos can signify many things at once. They can conjure up brand identity, evoke self-congratulatory histories of advertisements, and point to personal associations with products. All three are at play in artist Minerva Cuevas’ logo installation, Del Montte—Bananeras, on view at the Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today exhibition at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City as part of The Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative.
The large-scale work appropriates the Fresh Del Monte Produce Inc. logo to call out the fraught political and commercial industries histories of Latin America. “I work altering and playing with logos and in general with branding,” says Cuevas of her social justice-oriented artworks. “For this specific campaign some friends, who were human rights observers, were going to Guatemala, and they asked me to do a visual campaign about the land struggle in Guatemala that is connected to the regional exploitation of natural resources in the area,” says Cuevas. “I developed the main logo as a part of their campaign.”
By altering the Del Monte logo to read “Del Montte” and superimposing the logo on a black and white drawing of bananas, the artist loads the logo with the violent history of José Efraín Ríos Montt's dictatorship in Guatemala in the early 80s. In tampering with institutional and corporate identities, the logo, allows for new narratives to be considered. Del Montte—Bananeras is part of a much larger body of work entitled, The Del Monte Campaign, which includes relabeled tomato cans, murals, stickers for fruit, and other installations, rethinks the relationships between local politics, labor, and consumerism. In the large wall installation Del Montte, Minerva expands on the main logo so that it includes the words “criminal” and “pure murder” underneath the original Del Montte logo and overlaided the sign on top of bloody red tomatoes. In this way, Cuevas' larger campaign also reexamines how capitalism, aided by authoritarianism, has impacted not just Guatemala, but Latin American broadly over the last several decades.
The general use of graphic images by the artist is connected to a strategy of advertising that make the aesthetic side of her political work more popular. “These are images that we are, through the media, very familiar with,” explains Cuevas who has continued her art campaign since 2003 because the companies are still active in Latin America. “I use these [images] as a channel to shock and provoke a different kind of intellectual exercise. Most of the research I do is already public but it doesn’t have a public face and this work balances that.”
Under the Same Sun: Art From Latin America Today continues through February 16 at Museo Jumex. For more information, click here.