12 septiembre 2010

Latin American artists & Latin@ artists

I first want to start by saying that I love the art of Frida Kahlo. As commercial as this sounds, I even have a light switch plate with her art on it because I am very touched by it. I love the photographs I have seen of her and I can see that although my students have wrinkled their nose at her facial hair, she was such a strong woman whose presence I imagine would have been so powerful. It comes through the photos. She's a storm, and a woman like me admires that, loves it.

Apart from her art on display and reproduced in books and other prints is her home. The home is a work of art that is constantly in a state of progress - I say this as a home owner who regularly has her eye caught by something: a dresser, a picture frame, a lamp, a set of tiles. When I first saw Frida's kitchen, I looked at my own and thought '¡No la aguanto más!' Her beautiful kitchen highlighted how claustrophobic mine feels and now I am dead set on this section of my own 'work of art.'

Before I stray any further from my original intention, let me say that while I love and admire Frida's art, I have noticed that there are a good many people whose knowledge of Latin American & Latin@ artists stops with Frida. Maybe I notice this because I teach Spanish entry level courses at the university & any chapter on art focuses on (1) only paintings and (2) mostly Spaniards. They know Goya (sometimes), Picasso, & Dalí. The books almost always include Velázquez's
Las Meninas but beyond the Peninsula there is little attention given to Latin American artists. I'm sure someone will offer counter examples, but with regard to the books I've been given to use in the classroom and those I've had as supplementary materials, the focus was generally the same.

I'm not necessarily asking that Spanish teachers be held accountable for being a walking catalogue of Latin American artists. Trust, I've met some secondary & elementary Spanish teachers (OK, and some in college too) who had to work on their knowledge of the language before anything else. Still, it would be nice if more people knew something about art. Art may not be everyone's passion, but I'd think that peole studying & eventually teaching language would be some of the most likely to learn about it. If art is used to represent or question societal values, as a form of protest, or even as a form of documentation, one would think teachers would jump at the chance to incorporate it into their classrooms. But I guess another problem is who is - or isn't - teaching teachers. In many cases it seems we are left on our own to 'discover' art.

A particularly memorable instance for me was meeting a college student who was studying art and Spanish who said that Latin America was lacking in artists. Whether she was referring to painting, ceramics & pottery, photography, etc, I don't know, but none of it was - or is - true. I wonder if she remembers her statement; it is one I will never forget! What is lacking isn't art, it's exposure to that art. Were there even any professors in that small Missouri college town offering lectures on Latin@ artists? How many universities - even liberal art schools - do just that? Where are our Latin@ contemporary artists represented?

In Los Angeles we are very fortunate to have access to Latin@ specific museums such as MOLAA (Long Beach) and The Latino Museum (Downtown Los Angeles) but even with these museums specializing in Latin@ art, so many are unaware of their existence. They are not MOCA, LACMA, the Getty, the Hammer, or any other enormous, well-known museum located in the 'cultural hot-spot' of West Los Angeles. At the very least we have them, which is more than I've been able to say about other locations in the US.

What is promising is that currently The Latino Museum has an exhibit from now until the 14th of October that features various up & coming artists including yours truly and the exhibit is free. If you are in the Los Angeles area, please do check it out! The address & list of artists can be located here on the museum website.

Anyway, it's not an entry about Latin@ artits without some name dropping & links to enjoy! Here are the names (and some websites) of artists I've admired:

Lucía Pizzani, Mayra Barraza, Keiko González, Elmar Rojas, Oswaldo Guayasamín, Fernando Rodríguez Falcón, Carlos Montes de Oca (cubano), Pedro Coronel, Manuel Felguérez Barra, Lilia Carrillo, Miguel Ángel Ruiz Matute,Wifredo Lam, Antonia Eiríz, Marta María Pérez Bravo, Noemí Ruiz, Gego, Santiago Cárdenas, Fernando de Szyszlo, Maria de Lourdes Martins Pereira de Souza, Antonio Bandeira, Flávio Shiró Tanaka, Jorge Guinle, Enrique Arnal, Osvaldo Salerno, Luis Solari (uruguayo), Luis Camnitzer, José Balmes

Additionally, the Latin Art Museum website provides a number of examples of different Latin American artists and is a great resource when considering the fact that many artists alive and deceased have not had their own websites.


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