NYC’s Year in Latino Art: The Best of 2014

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In 2014, it seems Latino art got a substantial amount of attention in the New York art world. We saw heavyweight museums like the Guggenheim and the International Center of Photography finally show love to Latin American and Latin@ artists. Galleries also opened their spaces to some brilliant young, emerging talent. But besides getting play in the mainstream arena, Latin@ artists showed their work in non-traditional spaces, hosted pop-up shows, threw art parties, and even performed live painting battles. Here are a few highlights from NYC’s year in Latino art:

Photography: Urbes Mutantes @ ICP : Latin American Photography 1944-2013

With a heavy emphasis on street photography, this exhibit showed the gritty, thriving, and complex political worlds in Latin American cities. Over 90 photographers exhibited in Urbes Mutantes with nine overarching themes. ‘Muros Vivos’ or ‘Living Walls’ showed the ornamentation of city life, the sceneries of graffiti and murals that drape the walls of Latin America. ‘Night Life’ included images of the colonial dancehalls of Cuba, luchador fights in Mexico and intimate settings with sex workers. ‘Crowds and Protests’ showed the social upheaval that so much of Latin America has withstood. ‘Pop Street Culture’, ‘Los Olvidados’, ‘Urban Geometries’, ‘La Maldita Primavera’, ‘Displacements’, and ‘Identities’ combined to show a wide range of perspectives and intricacies. Attempting to encompass a vision as broad as Latin American photography is quite an endeavor, but Urbes Mutantes had an impressive collection of images and did a good job of showing the expansive raw beauty of Latin America.

Museum: The Guggenheim - 'Under the Same Sun: Art from Latin America Today'

Under the Same Sun organized 37 contemporary Latin American artists or artist groups to show their creative interpretations of the histories and social realities in Latin America. Many of the works were political and called out governmental institutions, capitalism, and consumerism in the art world; they also critiqued the legacy of political activism in art. The show included video of a performance piece by artist Tania Bruguera who set up a podium for people in modern day Cuba to say anything they wished. Her performance set-up allowed the participants to practice free speech in a country that doesn’t exactly allow that. The show was a decent survey of the expanse of innovative ideas bubbling in the minds of living Latin American artists.

Public Art: Alfredo Jaar’s “A Logo for America” (1987)

Every night this past August, Alfredo Jaar’s critical public art piece from 1987 ‘A Logo for America’ appeared on 15 signs and 45 screens in Times Square from 11:57pm to 12:00AM. The “logo” was an outline of the United States with the words “This is Not America.” The projection was a didactic critique on how the word America has incorrectly become a stand in for the United States. The Americas encompass two entire continents, a fact that is often overshadowed by the U.S. projected idea that it is the sole entity of “America.” Screening this political public art piece in Times Square amid the fanny-packed tourists who might not enjoy critique aimed at ‘Merica was pretty bold, and, to me, pretty awesome.

Solo Gallery Show: 'OctoPussy'

The sea nymphs of Javier Piñon’s aquatic imagination came to life in collages that meshed vintage coral reef creatures with feminine bodies luring powerless males into their lairs. His show at Pavel Zoubouk gallery had a great romantic vision and was one of my favorite shows of the year.

Solo Gallery Show: 'Encryption: works by Miguel Ovalle'

Art Now NY showed the graffiti-inspired, psychedelic, immortal work of Miguel Ovalle at the beginning of the year. Ovalle is relentless in his work and his show proved that there is no medium he cannot master. There were graphite illustrations of siren princesses, casts of human bodies draped with sequined materials, photographs of a trippy dream-like party and sculptured 3D graffiti tags. I can’t wait to see what he does in the new year.

Group Show: 'Push It'

‘Push It’ was an all-female group show that included graffiti street art veterana Lady Pink, filmmaker and artist Katrina del Mar and younger street artist Indie 184– all Latina street artists putting in hard work in a male-dominated field. It was an exceptional show that conveyed how street art has had an influence on a lot of fine art or studio art practices.

Pictured above: Indie 184’s ‘Fearless’

Group Show: 'A Todo Color: Chicano Art show'

It’s not often you see a group show of Chican@ artists in New York City, but here it was! This exhibit showed the work of old school and some younger Chicano artists working internationally. It was a vibrant exhibit of paintings that celebrated different aspects of Chicano culture: from enjoying pan dulce to images of couples dancing cumbias and spending intimate time with families.

Underground Pop-Up Show: 'Cósmica'

Cósmica was a pop-up show that featured work by alternative-identifying womyn who wanted to create a show validating art that symbolized a bigger creativity within all girls, womyn, and femmes whose art is traditionally ignored. These artists didn’t want to beg the corporate art world to acknowledge their work, so instead they created their own space. There were photographs of tacos filled with glitter, collages of female body parts in states of catharsis, insecurity tattoos, and cosmic collages. The show was an unconventional art party that proved there’s more artistic potential in New York City than what you see in the art galleries of Chelsea or the big box museums.

Best Cultural Art Show: 'Dia de Los Muertos Collective'

A beautiful honoring of ancestors took place at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center in East Harlem for Dia de los Muertos this year. A community altar adorned with photos, candles, foods, flowers, and offerings was on view for anyone to add mementos or memories.The event, put on by artists Viajero and Borish, invited the danza group Cetiliztli Nauhcampa and the Afro-Haitian dance group Ase to perform ceremonial dances. Part of the installation also included portraits of the 43 missing students of Ayotzinapa. The celebration was executed with beauty and respect, and was one of the best cultural art shows of the year.

Venue for Alternative Art Parties: ExitRoomNY

Throughout the year, ExitRoomNY proved itself to be a venue for art parties that challenged the idea of what an art show has to be. Exodus and Threep were shows that included poets, DJs, musical performances and an all-female hip hop crew in addition to murals and fine art pieces. They hosted an art battle of live painting during Bushwick Open Studios between Esteban Del Valle and MR. MUSTART with an open bar, musicians and beautiful work on the walls. AND it was free. They continuously feature Latino artists like Ricardo Cabret, Don Rimx, Mata Ruda, LNY, and Sonni while the content of the work and the forms of art are diverse. They were one of the few venues providing an accessible way to appreciate artists and their work in 2014.

Hope you caught some of these shows in 2014. Keep up with Remezcla’s weekly guide to Latin@ art shows to be informed of art parties, pop-ups and openings in the new year!