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UNC Latina/o Studies Program Undergraduate Symposium: LatinX Art, Public Spaces, and the Question of Value
November 8 @ 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
UNC Latina/o Studies Program Undergraduate Symposium:
LatinX Art, Public Spaces, and the Question of Value
November 8, 2021 at 5PM
This symposium asks us to explore how art is employed, consumed, assessed, interpreted, and felt, so all proposals that analyze Latinx art and consider its relationships to history, colonialism, coloniality, politics, aesthetics, the aesthetics of politics and the politics of aesthetics, capitalism, class, gender, sexuality, ethno-racial heritages, identities, and identifications, or the intersections of any of these factors are welcomed. We are also interested in recuperating Latinx art in the U.S. Southeast that may or may not be known, so we furthermore invite discussions from undergraduate students interested in Latinx artists as well as their art in the context of the U.S. Southeast.
- Latinx art and rebuilding or deconstructing
- Latinx art in public spaces
- Latinx art and activism
- Latinx art and environmental justice
- Latinx art and performances of identities, identifications, and disidentifications
- Latinx art and belonging and/or not belonging
- Latinx art and civil rights
- Latinx art and human rights
- Latinx art and nonhuman rights
- Latinx art and educational institutions
- Latinx art in relation to particular locations
Visual art has for decades been an integral part of Latinx experiences and expression, both in political spheres and alternative spaces. As early as 1962, the United Farm Workers waved their iconic red banner flag with the black Aztec eagle while they protested chemical pesticide use on fields to convey, according to Cesar Chávez, “dignity” and symbolize “a strong, beautiful sign of hope.” The Young Lords, a multiethnic Chicago-based internationalist civil rights group comprised of majority Puerto Rican but also Dominican, Cuban, and African Americans, also drew from the power of art to display and resist political and social injustices. In their Palante newspaper, the Young Lords produced revolutionary art work alongside their anti-imperialist rhetoric. Along this same vein, during the 1970s, The Puerto Rican Workshop, a Nuyorican collective “known for its cultural empowerment and political activism” established a printmaking studio that enabled them to circulate “hundreds of prints by artists” that “centered on issues of Puerto Rican independence, workers’ rights, and anti-imperialism both locally and in the Caribbean and Latin America.” When Rafael Montañez Ortíz founded El Museo del Barrio in 1969 as an alternative space to mainstream, hegemonic museums, he was given this opportunity after the superintendent of school district 4 responded to the demands of African-American and Puerto Rican parents and concerned community members in Central and East Harlem who demanded an education for their children that acknowledged their diverse cultural heritages. El Museo del Barrio’s recent “Taller Boricua” exhibition (September 12, 2020 — January 17, 2021) demonstrates the continued relevance of Latinx art productions in our times and additionally shows the vital role that art history and curating can have on offering alternative histories. El Taller Boricua’s centering of Latinx art, with an attention to the mediums (printmaking) by which so many Latinx artists disseminated their work during the 1960s and 1970s, also brings up questions about privilege, value, and accessibility, important topics that Arlene Dávila, New York University anthropology professor and founder of the school’s Latinx Project, explores in her book, Latinx Art: Artists/Markets/Politics (2020).
Despite the rich histories of Latinx art productions in social, political, and public spaces, Dávila notes, however, the general lack of institutional support for Latinx art and an increasing invisibility of Latinx art as it has been conflated with and therefore eclipsed and absorbed by Latin American art. Often defined by its anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist aesthetics, it is not surprising that Latinx art work has not generally been featured in more popular venues. Dávila points out, additionally, that racism and elitism have limited Latinx art and notes, “It’s obvious that certain categories sell more than others.” Actively working against this, Dávila promotes Latinx curators, as well as artists, and presses mainstream museums to incorporate Latinx art into their spaces. Dávila’s work gets to very basic ideas about art production and labor and the fact that artists, as human beings, are marked by intersectional disparities that enable some to flourish artistically and economically while others struggle or fail. Dávila’s commendable call for more Latinx art in the “art world,” however, is not without its issues and it brings up questions about the dangers of incorporating Latinx art into more mainstream venues. The public art project, Mapping Resistance: The Young Lords in el Barrio offers one such subject of study. The project displays former New York Young Lords’ official photographer Hiram Maristany’s photographs of The Young Lords, which were placed in the same locations as their events unfolded five decades before. The images transformed a twenty-first century Harlem space by taking spectators back to history and politicizing as well as aestheticizing the public space. Mapping Resistance is at once historical, educational, and political, and yet it demands that we consider how such radical thinking and arts might be mis-read or distorted—or defaced—in these mainstream public spaces.
Keywords: Latinx Art, Latinx History and Politics, Latinx Art and Museums