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The Latinx experience is expressed through album cover art in new exhibition
For the artists, record albums served as an important creative outlet for commentary on urgent cultural, political, and economic issues affecting Latin American and Caribbean immigrant communities in the United States.

EUGENE, ORE.- “Visual Clave: The Latino/a Experience through Album Cover Art: 1940-90” opened on February 2, 2019, at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art. On view through April 21, 2019, the exhibition explores the evolution of Latin album cover art with a focus on the United States market.

“The exhibition pays critical attention to issues of identity, race, gender, and politics through depictions of Latinx and Chicanx culture, historical context, and the creative range of unsung graphic artists who helped present Latin music to the world,” says Cheryl Hartup, JSMA Associate Curator of Academic Programs and Latin American Art.

The show weaves a compelling narrative through the display of album jackets for 78 RPM records from the 1930s and ’40s to LP covers from the 1960s through the ’90s. Throughout the exhibition, individual album covers are juxtaposed with their original art, often made by New York-born and -based designers from the “golden age of salsa” (late 1960s-’70s) like Israel “Izzy” Sanabria. For the artists, record albums served as an important creative outlet for commentary on urgent cultural, political, and economic issues affecting Latin American and Caribbean immigrant communities in the United States.

Clave (pronounced CLAH-vay) is the African-derived 2-3 or 3-2 beat used in genres, from the Cuban son, mambo, cha-cha-cha and rumba to the Colombian cumbia, the Dominican merengue, and the Mexican son jarocho. In the exhibition, the concept of clave suggests that the visual presentation of the music is as culturally informed as the recordings, a selection of which can be heard in the gallery.

“Visual Clave” is organized by Philip W. Scher, UO Professor of Anthropology and Folklore and Public Culture and Divisional Dean for Social Sciences, and Pablo E. Yglesias, a Northampton, MA-based Cuban-American researcher, writer, musician, artist, and DJ. “Visual Clave” takes its inspiration and intellectual structure from Yglesias’ book “Cocinando: 50 Years of Latin Album Cover Art” (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005). An expanded version of the exhibition was on view previously at the Student Union Art Gallery at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst; the Bronx Music Heritage Center, NY; and Picture Farm Gallery, Brooklyn, NY.

On Thursday, April 11, at 3:30 p.m., Scher and Yglesis will speak about how Latin album covers became coded visual sites of resistance, cultural pride and social commentary. This public program, which will be held in the JSMA’s Ford Lecture Hall, is co-presented with the CLLAS Spring 2019 Research Presentation Series. Following the lecture there will be live music inspired by the exhibition.

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