Arkansas Democrat Gazette: ‘Latino Presence in American Art’

Arrives at Arts Center

by

Ellis Widner

Excerpt:

“A major collection of modern and contemporary Hispanic art opens Friday at the Arkansas Arts Center.

The exhibition, “Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art,” is drawn from the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s collection. It was organized by E. Carmen Ramos, the museum’s curator of Hispanic art.

There are works by 72 artists including Jesse Amado, Myrna Baez, Leonard Castellanos, Oscar R. Castillo, Chuck Ramirez, Amado M. Pena Jr. and Carmen Herrera. The exhibit explores how Hispanic artists shaped art since the mid-20th century, when Hispanic identity began its development and emergence into American culture.

“The relationship between Latino art and the larger world of American art in the postwar period is not simple or clear-cut,” Ramos says. “Some artists, influenced by the activism of Latino civil rights movements, turned away from pure formalist discourse to tackle pressing issues of the day.”

Others explored abstraction, avant-garde and other political/social themes.

“Our America” represents virtually all artistic media and styles, including portraiture, landscape, performance art, abstract expressionism and more. Some artists explored the bicultural nature of their lives and interaction with American history and popular culture.

The artists are from Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba and other Latin American countries.

Other activities include a free showing of a six-part documentary Latino Americans: 500 Years of History, which was produced by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association. Showings begin at 2 p.m. Oct. 18 and continue on consecutive Sundays through Nov. 22.

Ramos will present a lecture at 6 p.m. Thursday prior to the members preview reception at 6:30. The exhibition opens to the public Friday.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the Arts Center will display pieces from the permanent collection by Hispanic artists and artists who inspired contemporary Hispanic art. Artists included are Pablo Picasso, Diego Rivera (his masterwork Dos Mujeres), Luis Jimenez and Carlos Jose Alfonzo.

Ann Prentice Wagner, curator of drawings at the Arts Center, says the works are displayed throughout the museum.”

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