Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement, opening July 12, 2009, at Phoenix Art Museum
, is the first comprehensive consideration of the legacy of Chicano art in two decades and the largest exhibition of cutting-edge Chicano art ever presented at Phoenix Art Museum. In 1981, artist and cultural commentator Harry Gamboa Jr. described Chicanos as constituting a phantom culture within American society largely unperceived, unrecognized and uncredited by the mainstream. Chicano art offered a counterpoint with work that stressed ethnic pride and political empowerment for Mexican Americans.
From soft sculpture full-size cars made from colorful vinyl to photographs of a break dancing performance on a flat floor sculpture by Minimalist artist Carl Andre, Phantom Sightings explores the experimental tendencies of a younger generation of contemporary American artists with cultural ties to Mexico and Latin America. The works included in the exhibition are orientated less toward traditional media such as painting and sculpture, and more toward conceptual art, performance, photography, media-based art and stealthy artistic interventions in urban spaces.
Phantom Sightings focuses on the work of an emerging generation of artists from across the United States. Despite rich cultural and familial backgrounds, many of these artists do not necessarily work under the label of Chicano art, commented Sara Cochran, Curator of Modern and Contemporary art, Phoenix Art Museum. The work is obviously informed by the historical context and experiences of the Chicano movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s but it is not bound by them. The artists engage local and global politics, mix high and low cultures and sample legitimate and bootlegged sources but they often do so within a conceptual framework that has been driven by the larger issues and trends that have broadly influenced contemporary art today.
Phantom Sightings explores the ways in which the 32 artists included in the exhibition situate their work at the crossroads of local struggles over urban space, transnational flows of culture and global art practices. Some artists work functions as an intervention that haunts public space, other artists, whose work is more studio based, repurpose and transform familiar objects or artistic styles into new ones.
Phantom Sightings features 120 works in a large variety of media, many of which were commissioned for the show. Exhibition highlights include (also see attached images):
- Photographs of the 1970s artist collective ASCO named after the Spanish word for nausea that used street theater and performances to critique the narrowly defined forms of Chicano art and push the movements to address broader issues.
- Adrian Esparzas One and the Same illustrates the duality of the work of these artists. He uses the unraveled yarn from a serape blanket a Mexican icon to create a geometric design that recalls the Minimalist drawings of Sol Lewitt a contemporary art icon.
- Margarita Cabreras Vocho a full scale, hand-sewn fabric VW bug references the economical car popular in Mexico. The artists labor mischievously parallels that of the factory workers and underlines the complex political and economic issues of migrant labor.
Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement will be on view in Phoenix Art Museums Steele Gallery July 12 through September 21, 2009. It will be complimented by a Marley Gallery installation of Arizona artists, working locally, who deal with similar themes and issues.
The exhibition is organized by LACMA in conjunction with the Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) at the University of California, Los Angeles.