Ruben Ochoa and Marco Rios, Rigor Motors, 2004-2008, Wood, speaker box fabric, car jack, coffin handles, 78 x 96 x 96", Courtesy of the artists, © Ruben Ochoa & Marco Rios, Photo © Kristine Thompson.
Margarita Cabrera, Vocho (Yellow), 2004, Vinyl, batting, thread and car parts, 60 x 72 x 78", William J. Hokin Collection, Chicago, © Margarita Cabrera, Photo courtesy of Sara Meltzer Gallery.
Christina Fernandez, Lavenderia #1, 2002, Chromogenic development print mounted on Sintra, 30 x 40", Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Ralph M. Parsons Fund, © Christina Fernandez, Photo courtesy of Gallery Luisotti, Santa Monica.
Jason Villegas, Celestial Situations, 2006, Video projection with wall drawing, Dimensions variable, Courtesy of the artist, © Jason Villegas.
Juan Capistran, The Breaks, 2000, Gicleé print, 40 x 40", Courtesy of the artist, © Juan Capistran.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Boulevard
Art of the Americas
Art after the Chicano Movement
April 6-September 1, 2008
Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement retreats from efforts to define a distinct identity or style and focuses attention on conceptual strategies that artists use to intervene in public spaces or debates. Phantom Sightings traces these tendencies to the late 1960s, adding a new dimension to our understanding of Chicano art history and notions of ethnic identity, cultural politics, and artistic practice.
Chicanos have historically constituted a “phantom culture” in American society — largely unperceived, unrecognized, and uncredited by the mainstream. In contrast, Chicano art was established as a politically and culturally inspired movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, stressing ethnic pride and political empowerment. There has always been a simultaneous, if less historicized, experimental and conceptual bent whose art forms encompass performance, video, photography, film, and unsanctioned “guerilla” interventions into daily urban activity.
While attentive to this historical context, Phantom Sightings places an emphasis on a newer generation of emerging artists from across the United States, many who do not work under the label of “Chicano art.” These artists engage local and global politics, mix high and low cultures, and sample legitimate and bootlegged sources — but they do so within a conceptual framework.
Phantom Sightings seeks to explore how these artists 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 spaces with evidence of other, sometimes hidden, meanings and agendas.
Sandra de la Loza (Los Angeles) engages publicly dedicated sites, such as the Fort Moore Pioneer Memorial in downtown Los Angeles, conceptually “re-dedicating” it in a video projection in which the terra cotta figures of the frieze are animated so that they relate a more complete — perhaps less idealized — account of the very history the monument commemorates.
Alejandro Diaz (New York), dressed in a white suit and looking like the perfect dandy, stood by the front door of Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue selling hand-scrawled cardboard signs with messages such as “Mexican wallpaper” or “Looking for Upper East side Lady with nice clean apt. (must have cable).”
Other artists, whose work is more studio-based, repurpose and transform familiar objects or artistic styles into unexpected new ones, often with provocative effect. These artists explore the intersection of divergent experiences, perceptions, traditions, and value systems.
Shizu Saldamando (Los Angeles) appropriates paño arte (a genre of prison art in which inmates draw stylized ballpoint pen portraits of family members and girlfriends on cotton handkerchiefs) to make portraits of alternative music stars, such as in Morrissey (2005).
Margarita Cabrera (El Paso) engages issues of the Mexican-American border in her Cacti sculptures, which at first glance appear to be varieties of potted succulents but on closer inspection reveal themselves to be simulations, made of fabric recycled from actual uniforms of United States Border Patrol agents.
In The Breaks (2000), Juan Capistran (Los Angeles) made photographs of himself break dancing on what appears to be a Carl Andre minimalist floor sculpture, subsuming the object’s “high art” pedigree to Capistran’s own engagement of a vernacular art form.
Another prominent strategy among the artists in the show involves the creation of improbable hybrids or objects whose identity is forever shifting and in flux, drawing upon diverse, sometimes divergent, cultural sources.
Rubén Ortiz-Torres’s (Los Angeles) high-finish paintings made with Kameleon Kolors TM — an iridescent paint popular among custom car enthusiasts — actually appear to change color as the viewer moves by them; his camouflage paintings continue the theme of uncertain or indeterminate identity.
In One and the Same (2005), Adrian Esparza (El Paso) unravels the woven yarn of a traditional Mexican serape and reforms part of it as an abstract composition reminiscent of conceptual artist Sol Lewitt’s wall drawings; the resulting object has a dual nature, rooted equally in highly divergent cultural sources.
A more psychological orientation informs the hybridizing art of Carlee Fernandez (Los Angeles), who poses herself together with photographs of men who have been intellectually or emotionally formative in her own personal history — artists, writers, her father — positioning their images so that she appears to be merging with them.
Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement features 31 artists and 120 works, including paintings, sculpture, installation, video, performance, and photo-based art, and intermedia works that incorporate film, digital imagery, and sound — a number of them newly commissioned for the show. This presentation is accompanied by a 240-page catalogue featuring principle essays by the exhibition’s three curators, individual artist entries, and a quasi-satiric “alternative” chronology of Chicano history by exhibition artist Rubén Ortiz-Torres and filmmaker Jim Mendiola. After Phantom Sightings’ premiere showing at LACMA, a tour is planned to the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art, Mexico City (October 16, 2008-January 11, 2009), Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, MARCO (February 22-June 14, 2009), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (July 25-October 4, 2009), Centro Cultural Universitario, Guadalajara (November 8, 2009-January 31, 2010), and El Museo del Barrio and The Americas Society, New York (March 7-May 23, 2010).
Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement is organized by LACMA in conjunction with the Chicano Studies Research Center (CSRC) at University of California, Los Angeles. Curators for the exhibition are Rita Gonzalez, Assistant Curator for Special Exhibitions, Howard N. Fox, Curator of Contemporary Art, and Chon A. Noriega, Adjunct Curator of Chicano and Latino Art and Director, CSRC.