Discontinuing this blog Friday, Aug 10 2012 

It should be obvious from the dates on these blog posts that I am no longer continuing to update this blog. The PhD program has me focused on lots of other projects. If you need to contact me you can reach me via facebook message at https://www.facebook.com/tati.reinoza

Response: Latino Art Now Conference 2008 Sunday, Mar 2 2008 

It had been seventeen years since I had returned to NY. There must be a law against that for art enthusiasts. I remember walking around as a kid and feeling the size of an ant in that concrete jungle. Despite the fact that I’m older and aware that Manhattan Island is only 24 square miles, I still got that same feeling. Central Park was as beautiful as ever and I managed to get lost there on Friday morning.

Tati in NYC

I am still trying to process everything from the conference. The time flew by and there was so much to be said, it was almost overwhelming. I will only attempt to highlight the aspects that were memorable for me, meaning the good, the bad and the ugly.

My absolute favorite presentation was the contribution by the Cuban-American art historian Alejandro Anreus titled “Contranotas.” I wish I had recorded his talk–it was brilliant. He began by giving us the current Grove Art Dictionary definitions of “Latino artist” and “Latin American artist.” And through the course of his 20-minute lecture he managed to expand their definitions and create a complex web of relationships that revealed their commonalities and their context in the global arena. Often times we forget that art movements are not created in a vacuum, they are part of a larger cultural moment or reaction, and that cultural production is not bound by national or physical geographies. One of the things that really struck me was his call to learn from the African American experience. I believe he is right, as their struggle runs parallel to ours. Since the late 70s, Hampton University has published the International Review of African American Art, a platform for the discussion of African American art, artists and collections. This is something that we are really lacking in our field, a scholarly journal dedicated solely to the documentation of Chicano and Latino art. Aztlan has in some ways filled this void, but it is an interdisciplinary journal dedicated to Chicano Studies.

I was really impressed with the curatorial presentations. Elvis Fuentes, Curator at El Museo del Barrio, gave an excellent talk on Cuban artists from Miami. The same was the case with Carmen Ramos, Curator at the Arts Council of Princeton, who spoke on Dominican artists. The lunch workshop offered by Natasha Bonilla-Martinez on “Appraising Your Art Collection” was really eye-opening and very useful for artists, art historians and collectors. She is one of a handful of certified art appraisers with a specialization in the Latino field. She explained the intricacies of appraising and some of the difficulties within the Latino field because of the lack of documentation and published material on artists, particularly catalogue raisonnés.

One of the aspects that I found disappointing at the conference was that everyone came with their own agenda. And I’ll be more specific, Chicanos came to represent Chicano interests, Salvadoreños for Salvadoreños, Dominicans for Dominicans, Latin Americans for Latin Americans, etc. Most of these groups showed a great deal of resistance to the homogenization of the term Latino, which is perfectly understandable. However, in the grand scheme of things it is defeatist to come to a conference such as this one and bring along your own nationalist or ethnocentric agenda. The purpose of these gatherings is to come together and form a national coalition of artists, art historians and cultural workers.

It makes me so upset to think that we spend so much time pointing out all the differences amongst ourselves, and yes, there is beauty in all that difference but there is no power. How can we bring about institutional change when we waist our time on these ridiculous discussions? A great case in point is Jose Falconi’s divisive rhetoric and his new book What About the Other Latinos? I’ve not had the time to read this Peruvian intellectual’s work, but when I do I’ll make sure to publish a review on this site.

I must clarify that not everyone in attendance came with this frame of mind. There were many young people in their 20s and 30s who really embrace a Pan-Latino, Pan-Latin American, or even hemispheric view of our cultural production. There were also elders and visionaries like Tomas Ybarra-Frausto whose interests move beyond borders and colonial constructs. These are the people that give me hope.

Another highlight for a print junkie like myself was the Latino Printmaking Panel on Saturday morning. The panelists were all part of Consejo Gráfico, a national network of ateliers that focuses on the preservation and advancement of Latino printmaking. One of the hot debate issues was the use of digital printing technology. Some of the participants, such as Pepe Coronado favored the use of a hybrid technique, while others kept to more traditional printmaking.

In conclusion, Latino Art Now 2008 was a terrific conference, I learned a great deal and feel very lucky to have attended. I want to acknowledge the organizing committee: Yasmin Ramirez and Pedro Pedraza from Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños (CUNY), Gilberto Cardenas from the Inter-University Program for Latino Research, and Tomas Ybarra-Frausto for this massive undertaking on a shoe-string budget. Dr. Cardenas mentioned that Latino Art Now 2010 will most likely be held in Los Angeles. I hope the next stop is Austin, TX.

Fifteen Under Forty: Tanya Aguiñiga Saturday, Feb 16 2008 

I recently came across this artist, Tanya Aguiñiga, a designer and installation artist. She was selected as a United States Artists Fellow in 2006 and the organization produced a wonderful video on her work.
Play Video

aguiniga birds

The following bio comes from her website, www.aguinigadesign.com

Tanya Aguiñiga (b.1978) is a Los Angeles based furniture designer/maker raised in Tijuana, Mexico. Tanya’s work is informed by border experiences: the interconnectedness of societies, the beauty in struggle and the celebration of culture. She uses furniture as a way to translate emotions into a three dimensional objects and tell stories trough color and touch. Her work encourages users to reconsider the objects they use on a daily basis by creating work that explores an objects’ unseen aspect, such as half chairs that rely on the wall to function and whose image is only complete as its shadow is cast upon the wall.

Aguiniga Charis

She has also dedicated much of her time to using art as a vehicle for community empowerment. She has been a member of Border Art Workshop BAW/TAF, a bi-national artist collaborative for ten years. Through BAW/TAF she helped to build and run a community center in an impoverished area of Tijuana built on trash from the US. For the 6 years she worked there, she focused on bringing national and international attention to the community’s plight through arts only based programs.

In the US, she worked on diversifying audiences through arts education at the San Diego Museum of Art and at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum through outreach programs. She has also done a great deal of work for migrant rights through art installations across Mexico and the US.

Tanya is now working on ways to combine furniture design and community activism. Her formal education includes a BA in Furniture Design from San Diego State University and an MFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She was recently awarded a prestigious United States Artists Fellowship and was named a USA Target Fellow in the field of Crafts and Traditional Arts. Her work has been exhibited from Mexico City to Milan and included in major international publications such as Wallpaper magazine and “Pure Design, Objects of Desire” published by Monsa Editions in Spain. A permanent installation of her work will be part of the new Children’s Museum of San Diego as a “Texture Forest” for toddlers, scheduled to open in May 2008.

 

Fifteen under Forty: Vincent Valdez Monday, Jan 28 2008 

Kill the Pachuco Badtard!
Kill the Pachuco Bastard!
Oil on canvas, 41″ x 80″, 2001.
Courtesy of www.thechicanocollection.net

Recently on a trip to San Antonio, I visited the Museo Alameda, the first Latino-museum affiliate to the Smithsonian Institution. I had heard many negative comments about the Alameda, primarily that their shows did not reflect the voice and the cultural vibrancy of San Antonio’s Chicano/a and Latino/a communities. Considering the latter, I was thrilled to find an exhibit by Vincent Valdez and Alex Rubio. The show was titled San Anto: Pride of the Southside, En el Mero Hueso and was curated by Benito Huerta, professor of Painting at the University of Texas at Arlington.

As I walked around the Cortez Gallery in the Museum, I noticed a young man, short in stature, walking around with a cell phone. He looked very determined and continued to talk on the phone and described the way the artwork had been hung. I thought how rude, to be on the phone, did he not get the memo. Well it turned out to be the young Vincent Valdez, who had just flown in from LA to see the exhibit.

Born in 1977 in San Anto’s Southside, Valdez became acquainted with art at an early age. His great-grandfather was an artist and by the age of 10 Valdez had already been selected to participate in the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center Mural Project. The lead artist for the project was Alex Rubio, who became a mentor and friend for Valdez. Both artists have collaborated on a number of public art commissions. Upon graduating high school, Valdez was awarded a scholarship and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. I’m not certain, but I’ve been told that his tour de force painting, Kill the Pachuco Bastard! was done as part of his senior thesis exhibition. The work is now owned by the Cheech Marin Collection.

Pride of the Southside
Pride of the Soutside
Pastel on Paper, 59″ x 36″, 2004
Courtesy of http://www.sacurrent.com

In Pride of the Southside, Valdez depicts his brother as a boxer in active pose. The Southside neighborhood is in the background with a glowing sunset that fills the entire picture with a dark and sensual mood. His boxer stands fierce, yet his eyes reveal fear. There are several pictorial elements central to Chicano iconography in the work: the roses, the title painted on the actual work, the tatoos and gold chain, and they way the sun is depicted can almost be a Mexican or Aztec reference. Pride of the Southside is really a mesmerizing portrait of more than just his brother, it is a portrait of his neighborhood. The dynamic stance of the boxer, the palette and the layout of the composition creates a captivating experience for viewers.

El Chavez Ravine
El Chavez Ravine, 2005-07.
Photo by Genaro Molina.

This past August, Valdez completed his largest project to-date, El Chavez Ravine, commissioned by Ry Cooder. The project raises awareness of the story of Chavez Ravine, a Mexican American working-class neighborhood that underwent violent gentrification to make room for Dodger’s Stadium. With a 1953 Chevy ice cream truck as his canvas, Valdez set out to depict the history of Chavez Ravine. You can find a nice flash movie narrated by Valdez on the LA Times website. Valdez currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

San Anto: Pride of the Southside is on view till March 23, 2008 @ Museo Alameda

Interview with Vincent Valdez and Alex Rubio published in the San Antonio Current.

Blog resolution 2008 Tuesday, Jan 22 2008 

I know I haven’t been very good at maintaining my blog on a regular basis, so I recently came up with an idea to get me to write at least once a month. The project is titled Fifteen under Forty (I’m borrowing the title from an African American exhibit), and every month I will feature one or two Latino/a artists under the age of forty who are emerging or establishing themselves in the art world. I will try to choose from a variety of disciplines and regions.

The first artist I chose to begin this project with is Vincent Valdez, whom I recently met at an exhibit in San Antonio. Stay tuned for his profile.

Latino Art Now 2008 Tuesday, Jan 22 2008 

I’m very excited about this conference. Here are the details:

Latino Art Now banner

January 31-February 2, 2008 @ The Americas Society

In the spring of 2005, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and the Inter-University Program for Latino Research hosted the first national Conference on the Assessment and Valuation of Puerto Rican, Chicano, Latino and Hispanic-Caribbean Art.

Due to the success of the 2005 event, Centro and IUPLR along with The Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA, The Americas Society and El Museo del Barrio will host the Latino Art Now! Conference on January 31- February 2, 2008 at the College School of Social Work and the Americas Society in New York City.

Conference Title
and Theme

The Latino Art Now! Conference will explore the valuation of Latino art within a global context. Lectures and panels will address such topics as: the historical evolution of Latino art; the artistic manifestations of specific geographic areas; Central America, South America and U.S. Latino/a artistic expression and the inter-relations among them and their entanglements with North American visual culture; critical evaluation of the production of individual artists and artists’ groups; the U.S. Latino art infrastructure; theoretical and cultural frameworks in the presentation/reception of Latino art and media.

 

For more info visit:

http://www.nd.edu/~iuplr/LatinoArtNowConference.htm

 

Artists and students with valid ID: $25

 

 

 

 

Transnationalism, Sexuality, and the State Thursday, Nov 15 2007 

On October 26, the Center for African and African American Studies at UT Austin hosted a lecture by Dr. M. Jacqui Alexander from the University of Toronto. Quite possibly one of the best lectures I have seen this year, Alexander began her talk by asking us some difficult questions—Are we living our lives in the service of what we believe and are we attuned to the reasons we came here for? She denounced the current U.S. state as a culture of enemy production based on empire building.

Alexander’s research centers on transnational feminism with particular focus on the United States and the Caribbean. She urged scholars to dislodge notions of cultural relativism, and to address time from tradition (then and there) to modernity (here and now) and vice versa. The importance of addressing time was an ideological traffic of processes, such as these: colonialism <-> neo-colonialism <-> neo-imperialism.

Alexander gave us three examples where this notion of time takes place: 1) the Balboan Carnage of Panama and its parallel to U. S. gays in the military, 2) the criminalization of lesbian sex in Trinidad and Tobago and its parallel to the US Defense Marriage Act passed into law in 1996,  and 3) the Neo-Imperial war moment and how sexuality is deployed in the formation of the enemy. She reminded us that all states have an investment in heterosexualization and that categories such as citizen, patriot, immigrant, carry ideological heterosexualism.

In one of her most poignant remarks, Alexander reminded us that academic disciplines are implicated in state violence. She noted that as intellectuals we carry ethics of accountability. Alexander asked, “We go along calling ourselves radicals, but are we complicit in the context of hegemony?”

The Racial and Cultural Politics of Reclaiming Cherokee Kin Thursday, Nov 15 2007 

The Indigenous Studies Speaker Series at UT Austin hosted a lecture by Dr. Circe Sturm from the University of Oklahoma. Her research centered on the growth of the American Indian population since the 1960s and the shifts in racial demographics. She focused on an interesting phenomenon called racial shifting, which entails a person of a certain race choosing to switch over to another racial category on the census data. Since the 60s, a growing number of Whites are claiming Native American heritage, a majority of which claim Cherokee kin.

If we have approximately 500 federally recognized Native American tribes in the continental United States, why would someone choose to claim Cherokee heritage? Sturm mentioned the following reasons: Cherokees have a reputation for civilization and cultural syncretism, high rates of exogamy, lenient tribal enrollment policies, and the fact that Cherokees are understood as potentially being White.

Sturm described the current scholarship in racial shifting as focused on reasons of economic gain, and she agreed that would account for some of the shift. However, her research led her to believe in other themes that could influence such decisions. As she interviewed some of the self-identified Cherokee tribes certain patterns began to appear. Many of them addressed their Whiteness as cultural emptiness and they found the social or communal aspect of Indian culture most appealing.

Sturm concluded by reminding us of how culture is a social construct that has been racialized. Her lecture and the discussion that followed was intellectually stimulating and reminded me of my experience at the National Museum of the American Indian. I recalled how most of the museum-goers were White and how many of the exhibits felt romanticized, even though they had been curated by tribal community members. Sturm’s work poses interesting questions for the politics of museum display.

Project Rowhouses Wednesday, Oct 24 2007 

On September 18, the lecture series on Art in the Black Diaspora at The University of Texas at Austin hosted a lecture by Rick Lowe, a political activist and installation artist. Lowe discussed his background and career path, though most of the lecture was devoted to his flagship work Project Row Houses. Lowe was born and raised in rural Alabama. He grew up with inequality, poverty and racism. His work has always encompassed these social aspects. Through the 1980s he primarily worked on ephemeral works. Little documentation remains of these, except for newspaper clippings that document his Amnesty International installation and his community organizing work.

Around 1990-91, one of his high school students gave him a critique that would forever change the course of his work. The student told him, and I paraphrase, “Rick, its great that you paint what goes on in our neighborhood, but what solutions are you offering?”. This critique sent Lowe into a search for new answers and eventually led him to Joseph Beuys’ Energy Plan for Western Man.* From Beuys, he extracted the concept of social sculpture and along with the guidance of his mentor John Bigger, he began to conceptualize a project for the Third Ward in Houston.

Project Row Houses was established in 1993 as a revitalization project. The initial phase consisted of 13 units of low-income housing and an artist in residency gallery space. Lowe’s vision was based on four principles for community development: good and relevant architecture, art and creativity, education, and developing a social safety net. Lowe concluded the lecture by stating that the success of this project is based on effective community partnerships.

* Energy Plan for Western Man was a lecture tour that Joseph Beuys embarked on in 1974. The tour, organized by Ronald Feldman and Jon Stoller, consisted of a 10-day, three city circuit with stops at colleges in Chicago, New York and Minneapolis. “Joseph Beuys: Energy Plan for the Western Man.” Walker Art Center. <http://www.walkerart.org/archive/C/9C4315B360BFDC526167.htm>

Puerto Rican Art at the Smithsonian Tuesday, Aug 14 2007 

Written by Sonia Zayas and Tatiana Reinoza

This report was produced as part of our practicum at the Latino Museum Studies Program hosted by the Smithsonian Latino Center. (July 2007) Note: The endnotes are marked by an asterisk.

INTRODUCTION

Our project consisted on enhancing collections-based research of Latino and Latin American collections at the Smithsonian with a focus on Puerto Rican art, history, culture and natural science. Due to time constraints we quickly narrowed our research to focus on Puerto Rican art from the 18th to the 21st century. Our educational background is in Latino and Latin American Art History and Museum Studies. Therefore, we have chosen to focus on Puerto Rican visual arts and have expanded our research into the Division of Community Education (DIVEDCO) Poster Collection from the National Museum of American History.

Since the Smithsonian Latino Center is planning to dedicate a year of programming to Puerto Rico, we identified four topics, which can serve as the conceptual framework for exhibits. The four suggested topics are:

Military Life and Contributions of Puerto Rican Soldiers *1,
Historical Photography of Puerto Rico *2,
Puerto Rican Women Artists *3, and
the DIVEDCO Poster Collection.

METHODOLOGY

Our first task was to get acquainted with the Smithsonian library resources and databases. As we looked through exhibition catalogs, art history books, videos and ephemera, we began compiling a list of notable Puerto Rican artists. We used this list as a basis to expand our research into the new Siris Cross Catalog Searching Database. This database provided all library and archival information related to our artist list. The findings have been incorporated into our listing (see List of Puerto Rican Artists).

In order to identify works of art in the Smithsonian Collection, we chose not to use the Siris Cross Catalog Search. This database is too broad in scope and encompasses all works of art that have at one point been exhibited at the Smithsonian, but are not part of the Smithsonian collection. Instead, we used the National Museum of American Art and the Hirshhorn Museum’s online databases to search their collections. In addition, we also had access to the Hirshhorn’s internal object database, The Museum System. All art objects found were integrated into our findings.

Semana del Emigrante 40th Anniversary of DIVEDCO Buena Alimentacion 4 de Julio
All images – Copyright © 2007, Smithsonian Institution, All rights reserved.

DIVEDCO POSTER COLLECTION

In 1948, the Democratic Popular Party assumed power in Puerto Rico and for the first time the people of Puerto Rico elected by direct vote a Puerto Rican governor, Luis Muñoz Marín. The strategy and government program of Luis Muñoz Marín created a new social reform program called “Manos a la Obra” (Hands at Work) *4. As a consequence, the DIVEDCO became active by law in May 14, 1949. The first directors were Jack and Irene Delano *5.

The objectives of DIVEDCO were to produce didactic material to be used in massive communication for the new government programs. Two workshops were integrated for the development of collective work, the film and graphic departments. The posters were widely displayed throughout Puerto Rico and reflect key trends in the social history of Puerto Rico. Some of these included events, festivals, social service programs, economic initiatives and employment programs.

The serigraphy technique was the most commonly used and appropriate for the production of posters. During his tenure as director of the graphics workshop, Lorenzo Homar masterfully integrated text and image, which began a new Puerto Rican graphic tradition. The decade of the 1950’s was a decade of cultural renaissance in Puerto Rico and the DIVEDCO was an important factor in influencing this cultural movement. Artists began to work collectively and new cultural centers were formed, an example of this is Centro de Artistas Puertorriqueños.

As a result of the transformation of the economy, the drastic social changes, development of cities and overpopulation, and modernization of systems that Puerto Rico has witnessed in the last fifty years, the need for an institution as DIVEDCO has changed. The realities that gave life to DIVEDCO are no longer the realities of the island. In the early 1990’s the DIVEDCO program was closed.

This important poster collection was donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History by the Archivo General de Puerto Rico through Nelly V. Cruz Rodríguez on May 19, 1997 *6. The Smithsonian Institution has an important collection of books, catalogs and didactic material, which would support the development of an exhibition of the DIVEDCO Poster Collection. Due to the limited time of our research project, we were unable to fully explore all possibilities of the DIVEDCO poster collection. Since the primary mission of the Smithsonian Institution is the diffusion of knowledge, we hope the Smithsonian Latino Center will lead the way in researching this collection and creating opportunities for exhibition.

CONCLUSION

As a result of our research and findings we believe the Smithsonian holds an important collection of books, catalogs, and interviews of Puerto Rican artists. However, it is evident that very little effort has been made to collect works of art by Puerto Rican artists. Among the handful we found in the collection are works by José Campeche, Pepón Osorio and Juan Sánchez. In general, there are very few works of art by Latino and Latin American artists in the Smithsonian collections. We hope that the Smithsonian Latino Center makes an effort to earmark a percentage of Latino Pool Funds for new acquisitions of Latino and Latin American art.

In our research we came across many spelling errors in the catalog entries related to Puerto Rican artists. There are also errors in the birth dates of some of these artists. In addition, one of the difficulties in researching Puerto Rican artists in the Smithsonian collection is the fact that they are often times labeled as American. We hope careful cataloguing and guidelines are established to prevent these errors.

We would also like to encourage the digitization of the Puerto Rican Video Project at the Archives of American Art. It is currently available in VHS format and is only accessible at the library of the Archives of American Art. If a digitization process were not possible, publishing the transcripts of the videos would be sufficient.

We want to thank the Smithsonian Latino Center for offering us this research opportunity through the Latino Museum Studies Program. The program has been insightful in demonstrating the status of Latino and Latin American art at the institutional level. It has also inspired us to continue our research on building Latino and Latin American collections. We hope the Smithsonian Latino Center is able to use some of our research findings in developing the programming for the year dedicated to Puerto Rico.

Endnotes:

1* Smithsonian Collections hold World War II photographs, oral history, memorabilia and surveys of U. S. bases in Puerto Rico. Since the Jones Act of 1917, all Puerto Rican males who are 18 years or older are required to register with the armed forces. Many Puerto Rican men and women have served in the US military since WWI, but rarely are they acknowledged for these contributions.
2* See Helen Hamilton Gardener Photography Collection.
3* In our research, we found many books, catalogs, interviews and ephemera related to Puerto Rican women artists. However, we have not found a single work of art by a Puerto Rican woman artist in the Smithsonian collections. This omission merits an exhibition and should also encourage the acquisition of works of art made by these artists.
4* Cupeles, David J. Lorenzo Homar: Artista Ejemplar de la Gráfica Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico, 1992.
5* Jack Delano was a Soviet born photographer that immigrated to Puerto Rico. His wife, Irene Delano was a U.S. born designer that served as and artistic director of DIVEDCO.
6* See Finding Aid for DIVEDCO Poster Collection at Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.

Attachment: Puerto Rican Artist List and Resources at the Smithsonian



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