The rust-printed fabric of the US-Mexico border wall is so earthy and subtle — neither as flashy nor seductive as the art around it — that, says exhibition director Lora Fosberg, “You almost want to to reject.”
“But then you’re glad you didn’t,” she adds.
This reflects the reality of many overlooked Latinx artists that the DePaul University Art Museum in Chicago is trying to correct.
And, now, the same goes for the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City with the 41-piece exhibit featuring nearly 30 sculptures, cartoon, video, graphics, paintings and mixed media. artists, titled “LatinXAmerican,” which Fosberg excerpted from DePaul’s efforts. It is visible until June 11.
DePaul Museum director Laura-Caroline Johnson said the university had recently come to terms with its “appalling” portrayal of its own Latinx community. Of a collection of some 3,500 pieces, she says, only 70 to 80 works were by Latinx artists. That pales in comparison to Chicago’s more than 30% Latinx population and the 16% that make up the student body, she says.
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In Fosberg’s words, DePaul took the wrong record and “screamed it”. Johnson agrees with this description, adding, “To keep the museum relevant, it’s important to make sure you reflect the community you live in…(and show) that the artists here do important work.
In 2020, the DePaul Museum has committed to curating an all-Latinx exhibit and acquiring only Latinx art. Because it started as the pandemic did, the originally year-long exhibit extended through 2021. And Johnson says the acquisitions, which have so far added works by 25 artists, will run until 2024.
“LatinXAmerican” at the Lubeznik makes up nearly half of DePaul’s now closed exhibit. Fosberg says she chose pieces that were approachable — each with something that would intrigue an average person — as well as Fosberg’s own taste for humor. None of the pieces are traditional. They each talk about modern issues, from immigration to divided Latin American identity.
In Salvador Jiménez-Flores’ sculpture, “Nopales Hibridos,” or Hybrid Cactus, skillfully perched ceramic pieces form human heads on a cactus, including a masked Mexican wrestler with a cartoon speech bubble coming out of his mouth saying, ” Your existence is resistance.” It’s playful, says Fosberg, but it shows Mexican tenacity and the rise to power.
An elongated cartoon scene depicts the violent history of capitalism and imperialism, “Illegal Alien’s Guide to the Concept of Relative Plus Value”, by internationally renowned artist Enrique Chagoya.
“For me, it was really accessible,” says Fosberg. “A lot of people stay there for a while to figure it out.”
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And an acrylic painting from 1970 – a Vietnam War protesting portrait of a face that has a missile for a nose and an industrial building for a body – comes from Errol Ortiz, who was among the so-called Chicago Imagists. that mimicked pop culture images in the 1960s and 1970s.
“I studied the Chicago Imagists so much, and his name never came,” Fosberg laments. “We are all so careless. This reflects how history is recorded and who is missed.
Johnson says the Lubeznik exhibit is part of the ripple effect DePaul wanted to see — helping to offset a similar lack of representation elsewhere in Chicago and the Midwest. She noticed that a few Chicago galleries have also started recruiting Latinx artists.
“I felt it was important to bring it here,” Fosberg says, “even though we diversified the art.”
All the artists in the exhibition have a connection to Chicago and their Latin roots span both American continents. The word Latinx is used, rather than Latino or Latina, as a non-binary, gender-neutral way to describe people of Latin American descent who live primarily in the United States. As Lubeznik officials point out, some artists in the exhibition prefer to identify themselves. rather by their nationality, race or ethnic origin.
Mario Ybarra Jr.’s acrylic portrait of a man with a mischievous smile, “Dr. Jekyll,” is a neon-color-splattered image he uses to explore the divided identity of Mexican Americans.
“America’s Finest” by Vincent Valdez is a lithograph of a Native American boxer with a bruised face, tattered headdress, and arrows piercing his limbs, comparing Native Americans to the martyr Saint Sebastian.
Here, visitors also find art that uses discarded objects, like Edra Soto’s collection of cleaned cognac bottles she found in vacant lots in Chicago, or Derek Webster’s funky sculpture of “Seurat Lady”, adorned with bottle caps, beads and keys he had found while working as a caretaker in the city’s public schools.
A 24-minute documentary video airs in short episodes as Marisa Morán Jahn travels across the country telling stories of domestic workers.
In “America’s Wall”, Fosberg experiences the emotions aroused by the border wall. Tanya Aguiñiga had taken a small team of women who used cotton cloth and vinegar to make a rusty impression of the wall in a place the artist calls (perhaps as a nickname) Shroud of Turin.
This may seem like an absurd thing to do. But Fosberg says of the cross-border commuters, “You have to do something absurd to remind us that they exist.
• What: “Latin X American”
• Or: Lubeznik Center for the Arts, 101 W. 2nd St., Michigan City
• When: Until June 11
• Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. CDT on Saturdays and Sundays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
• Family day: This free day includes a tour, snacks and artistic creations from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. CDT on April 23.
• Visits: Free gallery tours are available for small groups and organizations in English and Spanish. To schedule a docent-led tour, contact Janet Bloch at [email protected] For children’s tours, contact Nelsy Marcano at [email protected]
• COVID protocol: Mandatory masks
• Admission: Free
• For more information: Call 219-874-4900 or visit lubeznikcenter.org.