Smithsonian Center for Lation Initiatives
The Interpretation and Representation of Latino Cultures: Research and Museums Conference Documentation
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Aranda-Alvarado, Rocio

Challenging Traditional Curatorial Practices

Historicizing Narratives

Borders and Diasporas

Aesthetics Beauty

The Body: The Real and the Symbolic

All Abstracts



Integrating the Museum: Contemporary Latino Art in Context

In museum practice, there was a tendency, particularly during the 1990s, to do ethnic exhibitions of the work of artists considered “outside the mainstream.”  Some exhibitions focused on one particular group, others mixed artists from several countries under the rhetoric of multiculturalism.  This became increasingly problematic when discussions arose surrounding the terms “Latino” and “Latin American” and the relationship between the two.

This paper will explore the themes and the work of artists in two exhibitions I am currently organizing at the Jersey City Museum: Superfly (2003) and Tropialismos/Tropicalisms (2006).  The concept for the Superfly exhibition came from the influence of urban culture in Jersey City and New York City.  The confluence of urban style, urban music, the mass media, and contemporary art makes for a powerful system of signs in which identity plays an important role. 

The Tropicalismos/Tropicalisms exhibition will include several Latino artists and artists from other groups with work that explores the long and problematic history of the construction of the tropical landscape as a paradisiacal space. 

It is my belief that to separate the work of Latino artists for exhibition, however tempting, is less useful than exploring the work within its larger context of contemporary art.  The new generation of Latino artists working today are interested in exploring many different subjects with a variety of new media, in ways similar to their African American, Asian American, Native American, and Anglo American counterparts.  It is with this in mind that I seek to explore powerful ways in which to contextualize their work as innately Latino, contemporary, and American.

Copyright © 2003 Smithsonian Institution