Major Exhibition To Explore Modern and Contemporary Latino Art Opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum Oct. 25

Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art”, now open at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, presents the rich and varied contributions of Latino artists in the United States since the mid-20th century, when the concept of a collective Latino identity began to emerge. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s pioneering collection of Latino art and explores how Latino artists shaped the artistic movements of their day and recalibrated key themes in American art and culture.

Melesio ‘’Mel’’ Casas, "Humanscape 62", 1970, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 1970, the Casas Family

Melesio ‘’Mel’’ Casas, “Humanscape 62”, 1970, acrylic, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 1970, the Casas Family

The exhibition presents works in all media by 72 leading modern and contemporary artists. Of the 92 artworks featured in the exhibition, 63 have been acquired by the museum since 2011, representing its deep and continuing commitment to collecting Latino art. “Our America” will be on view from Oct. 25 through March 2, 2014. Following its presentation in Washington, D.C., the exhibition will travel to six cities across the United States. The exhibition is organized by E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Olga Albizu, "Radiante", 1967, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of JPMorgan Chase

Olga Albizu, “Radiante”, 1967, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of JPMorgan Chase

“The exhibition ‘Our America’ is the culmination of a major collecting initiative, still underway at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to build a significant collection of Latino art in the nation’s capital,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “It is particularly exciting to debut so many artworks newly acquired for the museum’s permanent collection.”

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. Latino artists across the United States were galvanized by the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s and 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 is meant by “American” and “Latino.”

María Magdalena Campos-Pons, "Constellation", 2004, instant color prints, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 2004, María Magdale

María Magdalena Campos-Pons, “Constellation”, 2004, instant color prints, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. © 2004, María Magdale

The relationship between Latino art and the larger world of American art in the post-War period is not simple or clear cut,” said Ramos. “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. Others artists wholeheartedly embraced abstraction. An even larger group inhabited multiple worlds, infusing avant-garde modes with politically and culturally engaged themes.” Continue reading