Latino-American Artists Meld History, Present

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"Death of Ruben Salazar" by Frank Romero.

A stunning art exhibit portrays the Latino experience in America – – work in all media of 72 artists that melds the culture’s history of immigration and integration, and clarifies its importance today. It represents a concrete, dramatic argument against the current right-wing scare tactics challenging immigration to the United States.

Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art, an exhibition of modern and contemporary Latino art from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is currently showing through Jan. 17, 2016 at the Arkansas Arts Center (AAC) in Little Rock.

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The AAC’s website summarizes the exhibit’s extent, as well as its historic and artistic significance:

The exhibition includes works by artists who participated in all the various artistic styles and movements, including abstract expressionism; activist, conceptual and performance art; and classic American genres such as landscape, portraiture and scenes of everyday life. The civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s galvanized Latino artists across the United States. They created new images of their communities and examined bicultural experiences. Many critically probed American history and popular culture, revealing the possibilities and tensions of expansionism, migration and settlement. Other Latino artists in the exhibition devoted themselves to experimentation, pushing the limits of their chosen medium. ‘Our America’ presents a picture of an evolving national culture that challenges expectations of what it means to be ‘American’ and ‘Latino.’

Showcasing artists of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican descent, as well as other Latin American groups with U.S. deep roots, the eye-inspiring exhibit has led E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to say:

The relationship between Latino art and the larger world of American art in the post-War period is not simple or clear cut. Some artists, influenced by the activism of Latino civil rights movements, turned away from pure formalist discourse to tackle the pressing issues of the day. Other artists wholeheartedly embraced abstraction. An even larger group inhabited multiple worlds, infusing avant-garde modes with politically and culturally engaged themes.

The exhibition features art created since the 1950s, and includes themes ranging from reframing the past and present to the graphics boom and the portrayal of everyday people.

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“Man on Fire” by Luis Jimenez.

Peculiar Progressive attended the exhibit last Friday, and reveled in the artworks’ colors, textures, and creative depictions of the Latino experience, the courage of migration to escape violence, repression and economic hardship, and the dedication to protection of civil rights in a new land.

We’ve been frustrated for a while with the Pseudo-Christian White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (PCWASP) opposition to and degradation of other Americans, and angrily expressed it in a recent column (Two Flags Gone Bad: Say It Ain’t So, Uncle Sam) in reality: a world of views. So we were both aesthetically gratified and socially grateful to experience the current art exhibit and its celebration of creativity, diversity, and courage.

You can see other images of the exhibit on both the AAC and Smithsonian websites.