The Whitney Museum Had Never Dedicated a Group Show to Latinx Artists, Until Now

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Until now, the Whitney Museum of American Art had never had an group show dedicated to Latinx artists. But a new exhibition – curated by Marcela Guerrero, the museum’s first Latina curator – is about to change that.

Pacha, Llaqta, Wasichay: Indigenous Space, Modern Architecture, New Art features six emerging Latinx visual artists that explore Indigenous cultures in terms of space, place, and architecture. The museum will feature the works of Puerto Rican Jorge González, Peruvian william cordova, and Mexican Claudia Peña Salinas, among others. Though all of the artists were born in Latin America, they are categorized as Latinx because they’ve made the United States their home, according to Hyperallergic. The works vary from contemporary media and Maya stonework to digitally altered 16th-century Mexican maps.

US museums have a complicated history with Latin American art, often not knowing how to categorize artists or provide spaces to exhibit their work. The Whitney Museum did feature seven Latinx artists in the Whitney Biennial in 2017, including Beatriz Santiago Muñoz and the Occupy Museums: Debt Fair installation, which explored Puerto Rico’s economic crisis through the perspective of Boricua artists.

The Whitney’s group show – which is the first time the museum include words in Quechua in the exhibition title – is a new chapter in Latinx art relationship with legacy museums, especially when it come to the narratives of Indigenous peoples in Latin America. All artists explore indigeneity in their works – some in more literal ways than others – though not all the artists identify as Indigenous. This issue is contentious because it raises the question of appropriation, something that Guerrero admits is especially difficult to determine in Latin American countries. But the hope is that the exhibition creates a pathway to engage with a new canon of works. US museums typically read Latin American art through a Hispanic-centric lens, which leaves out the perspectives of Black and Indigenous Latin Americans.

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