Beyond Frida Kahlo: Covering Latino and Latin American Art in the U.S

August 28, 2014

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Daniel Alarcón talks to journalist and art critic Carolina Miranda, author of the Los Angeles Times blog ‘Culture: High & Low’. We wanted to tap into her vast experience covering art and culture to learn more about the Latin American and Latino art scene in the United States.

Carolina points out that although census reports keep showing a growing Latino population in the United States, “cultural institutions don’t necessarily reflect that change.”

But things seem to be looking up. In a recent article for ARTNews, Carolina writes that museums in the United States might finally be taking Latin American and Latino art seriously. "The fall of 2017," she writes, "will see the launch of 46 exhibitions and events around Southern California devoted to artists and designers of Latin American descent."

This growing attention to Latino and Latin American art is partly due to more Latinos holding key positions in the industry, like Rita Gonzalez, a curator at LACMA, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gonzalez curated the critically acclaimed exhibition Phantom Sightings, the largest Chicano Art exhibit ever presented at the museum.

Although Carolina covers a myriad of topics -from Islamic Art exhibitions to video game documentaries-  she is also playing a major role in helping put a spotlight on Latino and Latin American art. For example, in one of her first articles for ‘Culture: High & Low’ she discusses the work of photographer Ricardo Valverde, arguing that he should be considered “a critical part of the L.A. artistic canon.” In another article for the blog, Carolina writes about what the 9/11 museum can learn from two memorials in South America.

So, given her extensive knowledge of all things art and culture, we asked Carolina to give us a rundown of some artists we should be looking out for. She said it was like asking her to choose a favorite child, but she humored us and gave us these recommendations:

Camilo Restrepo: Carolina saw the work of this Colombian artist for the first time at Steve Turner Contemporary, a gallery in Los Angeles. She immediately recommended the show to her Instagram and Twitter followers. “He creates this absolutely phantasmagoric collages related to the culture of the drug trade, specifically the types of words that the drug trade has sort of made common in our society, like the nicknames. Like ‘El Chapo’”, she explains. “The drug war is such a big part of who we are politically as a culture, and he’s covering it from the other side. I want to see his stuff in a museum here in L.A. soon,” Carolina adds.

Natalie Bookchin: Carolina says she is “consistently enthralled” by the work of this L.A.-based artist: “She once created a video game out of a [Jorge Luis] Borges short story that to this day remains one of the most wrenching video games I’ve ever played in my life.” Bookchin has also done video installations, including one about race that Carolina says museums should show after the recent fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in Ferguson, Missouri. You can see a sample clip from that video installation below.

Hugo Crosthwaite: Carolina explains that this Tijuana native is not just an interesting artist, “he’s an interesting thinker, and I think that’s really important. He told me once: ‘I never had to learn English, I just grew up speaking it because if you live on the border American culture is your culture and Mexican culture is your culture.’ I think he’s one of those people who is perfectly positioned to sort of ride that divide of cultures, he gets it. He’s got one foot in each.”

Follow Carolina Miranda on Twitter at @cmonstah for more of her articles, recommendations and “artspeak.”

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