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09thequestionimage_arias 08lewisdesotohr 01manuelnerihr 02juanfuenteshr 03raymondsaundershr 06clarerojashr 05jameslunahr 04rupertgarciahr Liliana_porter__
'rak'rüm (noun);
the back room of an art gallery
where artists and art lovers hang
The Question is Known: (W)here is Latin American/ Latino Art?, Adrián Arias, MCCLA Multimedia DepartmentAdrián Arias, MCCLA Multimedia Department,
The Question is Known: (W)here is Latin American/ Latino Art?

© courtesy of the Artist and MCCLA
Pakhan-gyi, Lewis deSotoLewis deSoto, Pakhan-gyi,
2003, digital pigment print on paper, 33 x 64"
© courtesy of the Artist and MCCLA
Remaking of Mary Julia #6, Manuel NeriManuel Neri, Remaking of Mary Julia #6,
1987, bronze, oil-based pigments, 51 x 17 x 29"
© courtesy of the Artist and MCCLA, photo by M. Lee Fatherree
Luis de las Flores, Juan FuentesJuan Fuentes, Luis de las Flores,
2006, linocut, 12 1/4 x 18"
© courtesy of the Artist and MCCLA, photo courtesy Luis Barraza
Walking in Oaxaca, Raymond SaundersRaymond Saunders, Walking in Oaxaca,
2005, mixed media on board (triptych), 80 x 36"
© courtesy of Stephen Wirtz Gallery
Untitled (27.22), Clare RojasClare Rojas, Untitled (27.22),
2007, gouache and latex on banjo, 21 x 7-1/2 x 2-1/2"
© courtesy of Gallery Paule Anglim
Apparitions 1, James LunaJames Luna, Apparitions 1,
2008, light box, 30 x 24 x 6"
© courtesy of the Artist and MCCLA
1970, 1971, 1997, 2002, Rupert GarciaRupert Garcia, 1970, 1971, 1997, 2002,
2002, archival pigmented inkjet on canvas with acrylic, 63 x 45"
© courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery
Penguin, Liliana PorterLiliana Porter, Penguin,
2007, archival digital print, mixed media
© courtesy of Hosfelt Gallery
Humblebaek, Denmark, Miguel FariasMiguel Farias, Humblebaek, Denmark,
2004, pigmented ink print, 50 x 40"
© courtesy of the Artist and MCCLA
The Question is Known: (W)here is Latin American/Latino Art? aims to interrogate the significance of “Latin American and Latino Art” by problematizing, reformulating, and re-presenting “Latin American/Latino Art” as an ideological construct that has subsumed the complexity and diversity of art practices by a range...[more]

Interview with Anthony Torres

San Francisco - ArtSlant's DeWitt Cheng met Anthony Torres, the curator of The Question is Known: (W)here is Latin American/Latino Art?,  at Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts shortly after the show opened.  They talked about the show as they strolled through the galleries. Torres was kind enough to clear up some points via e-mail later. This interview is the result of those conversations.

DeWitt Cheng - This is a wonderful show. You have pieces by 30 artists, mostly from the Bay Area, I believe. How did the show come about? Did MCCLA ‘s Patricia Rodriguez approach you with the idea, or was this something you’d wanted to do for a while?

Anthony Torres - This is a show that I had developed conceptually and theoretically, and thought it was important that it be presented by a Latino-based organization, so I approached the Mission Cultural Center, and they came on board. It came about as the result of issues I’ve been addressing and an orientation I have been formulating for some time. By proposing the show at a Latino community-based organization, I meant to assert in The Question is Known: (W)here is Latin American/Latino Art? that the answer could be: it is “here", elsewhere, and in a range of imaginary spaces. Patricia and MCCLA supported the idea of presenting the show and having me serve as a guest curator, and for that I am thankful.

DC - MCCLA has had, of course, an illustrious history showcasing the work of Latino artists, so this is the perfect venue. How did you choose the artists and, from among their work, the pieces we see here?

AT - Some of the artists, and their work, I have been familiar with for some time. In other cases, I selected work that I thought fit the overall orientation, which was concerned with making what I thought should be a simple and obvious statement — that Latino artists and art practices are diverse. In order to do so, I assembled work that I thought could articulate Latin American and Latino Art as an ambiguous area of inquiry, work that I thought, when presented together, was capable of challenging curatorial positions and that could formulate an expanded and inclusive redefinition of "American" art in an interconnected global dialogue for greater cross-cultural communication. Also, it’s important to mention a number of the artists are not from this area, but from other parts of this country or Latina America, for example Luis Camnitzer, James Luna, José Bedia, Ana de la Cueva, and others, and their work is not often seen here.

One thing I wanted was to demonstrate how specific art works evidence linkages between artists’ aesthetic choices and the diverse histories and intellectual discourses that inform them, and how the artists’ utilization of formal vocabularies and techniques referenced NOT a particular “type” of work or group of artists, but instead, would demonstrate the artists/works’ multi-cultural exposures and the specific cultural hybridity of the work. This may be constituted historically by contact, conflict, experience, or sympathetic identification with issues that relate to Latin America and Latinos, as sources of inspiration, personal associations, fantasy construction, and work that spoke of appropriated formal vocabularies that are mobile and fluid.

Another important part of this project was the Symposium held on April 19 at the San Francisco Art Institute, which included the participation of Judith Bettelheim, Alma Ruiz, Gerardo Mosquera, Claudia Bernardi, and Hou Hanru, again each with a unique perspective on the issues raised in this exhibition.

DC - Were there any aesthetic or stylistic guidelines beyond quality? There are many types of work here. It would seem that your goal was a snapshot of current artistic practice along the whole spectrum.

AT - Well, quality was a definite consideration and to a certain extent, I think it should be. However, it is not the only consideration nor is it the only issue. That being said, I want to be very clear, this exhibition was NEVER conceived as being representative, exemplary, indicative of anything that would speak to “essences” or generalities, as a survey, and definitely NOT, with presenting work and images that could simplistically be thought of as bound to geography or ethnicity. In fact, I was concerned with just the opposite — I was concerned with artistic “specificities” and therefore the show is intended to show a vast range of individual artistic practices.

So NO, I was not, and am not, nor do I think it is possible to construct a “snapshot” along “the” whole spectrum. Indeed, I don’t know that I know what the whole spectrum is.

DC - Any particular artists or pieces you’d like to highlight for visitors?

AT - I think people need to see the exhibit and come to their own conclusions. I think different works will resonate with different people differently. Each artist's work obviously has its merits.

DC - Do you feel that Latino and other artists “of color” — I use the term advisedly— are now, after the politics of the 80s, able to be seen pretty much as equal partners and participants in the world of art? Or is there still a residual prejudice?

AT - I’m not altogether clear on what you mean by the politics of the 80s. I think certain artists have gained certain exposures and accesses, but if this project is about anything, it’s about moving away from speaking in those types of generalities. Do I think all artists are playing on an equal playing field? No, I don’t. But, I think there are a myriad of reasons why not, and those need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis, in all their complexity.

DC - Will this be a regularly scheduled exhibition? I’m sure the art community would love it.

AT - At this point it is unclear. I envisioned this project as a two-part or multi-phased intervention, but we’ll just have to wait and see how things develop. I don’t think the possible variations or issues that this exhibition opened up are played out. Not by a long shot.

DC - Thanks a lot. Great show. I look forward to following your future projects.

AT - My pleasure.

ArtSlant would like to thank Anthony Torres for his assistance in making this interview possible.

--DeWitt Cheng


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