artists & participants
An Emphasis on Resistance
CIFO's 2019 Grants & Commissions Program Exhibition
30.10.2019 - 02.02.2020
El Museo del Barrio is pleased to present An Emphasis on Resistance, an exhibition of the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation (CIFO)’s 2019 Grants & Commissions Program awardees. Now in its 17th iteration, and for the first time being exhibited in New York City, the exhibition brings together the work of nine artists that have been recognized with awards in three different categories: Emerging Artists – Susana Pilar Delahante, María José Machado, Claudia Martínez Garay, and Oscar Abraham Pabón; Mid-Career Artists – Leyla Cárdenas, Ana Linnemann, Yucef Merhi, and Nicolás Paris; and Achievement Award recipient – Cecilia Vicuña.
An important catalyst for the presentation of new works and a meaningful platform for the advanced research on Latinx and Latin American art, this collaboration between CIFO and El Museo del Barrio aims to unpack the concept of identity through the act of resistance as it is evidenced both in Latin America and in its diaspora.
Titled An Emphasis on Resistance, this brief formulation refers to several levels of resistance that have marked the art produced in the region––starting from its refusal to be categorized as one solid block of cultural identity, but rather a complex of several cultural processes taking place in one same place. In a 2010 essay titled Against Latin American Art, Cuban critic and curator Gerardo Mosquera provides a theoretical overview stating, “Latin American art has ceased to be so, and has instead become art from Latin America.” “From, and not so much of, in or here,” continues Mosquera, “is the keyword today in the rearticulation of the increasingly permeable polarities local/international, contextual/global, centers/peripheries, and West/non-West1.”
The artists in the exhibition navigate this cultural landscape expressing the diversity of artistic idioms in the region and working in different countries such as Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Peru, Venezuela, and the United States. Art from Latin America, in this context, can be understood as art from Latin America practiced in the diaspora, another added layer of complexity in the patchwork involving Latin American identity.
Resistance, as an act/concept/approach, plays a central role and gains a different connotation in the work by Cecilia Vicuña, this year’s recipient of the Achievement Award. Her site-specific project presented at El Museo del Barrio, a quipu turned into a monumental sculpture, mirrors the disappearance of the glaciers in the Andes due to global warming, and the policies that favor mining over the preservation of water and indigenous cultures. The indigenous identity claimed by the artist can be interpreted as a way the artist contends with colonization––now and then. As stated by Vicuña, “Quipus were burnt, but the vision of interconnectivity, a poetic resistance endures underground.2”
Resistance also takes on a larger and broader political context in the hemisphere, in light of the unyielding reduction of democratic spaces by the rise of right-wing populism. To claim the Museum as a platform for the “experimental exercise of freedom,” as noted by Brazilian art critic Mario Pedrosa, is not only necessary but is vital to our individual and collective creativity. An emphasis on resistance would seem like our best interim strategy.
As an institution founded 50 years ago by the Puerto Rican community in response to the cultural marginalization experienced by Latin America’s diasporic communities in New York City and the United States, at large, the connection of El Museo del Barrio with Latin America dates back to its early years. In the 1970s, artists from Latin America largely ignored by the ‘art world’ were included in the programs and exhibitions at the museum. Today, El Museo del Barrio continues to present art and artists that seek to connect and expand on the cultural interplay of identity, community, and social justice.
Rodrigo Moura, Chief Curator
El Museo del Barrio
1Mosquera Gerardo, “Against Latin American Art.” Contemporary Art in Latin America, Black Dog Publishing Limited, London, UK, 2010, page 12
2Vicuña, Cecilia, “Notes on the Works,” in Read Thread: The Story of the Red Thread, Berlin: Sternberg Press, 2017, page 135.