MFA Fine Arts presents [email protected],” currently on view through February 20 at the SVA Chelsea Gallery. The exhibition highlights the work of Latino MFA Fine Arts alumni, and represents a unique partnership between the College and El Museo del Barrio, New York’s leading Latino cultural institution. SVA Close Up spoke with exhibition curator Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, who is a curator at El Museo, about the work on display and the artists behind it.
How did you become familiar with the work of these artists?
From the initial stages of the development of our biennial, curators at El Museo have made a point of keeping up with MFA students from the various New York City visual art programs. This is how some of these artists have already participated in biennials at El Museo. I also received a list of graduates from the MFA program and began to research the names that were less familiar to me. Some artists were impossible to track down, others had fantastic websites and I was really excited to get to know their work. Others were artists that I already knew and loved but didn’t realize that they had graduated from SVA.
How would you describe El Museo’s partnership with SVA on this exhibition?
This partnership is important and makes sense because El Museo has already exhibited so many SVA alumni in its galleries. SVA continues to be an important place for the education of emerging artists from all parts of the world. By continually accepting artists of Latino/Latin American heritage into its programs, it broadens the experience of all the participating artists and contributes to the broadening of definitions of contemporary American art. This idea that Latino artists contribute to the development of contemporary American art is one of El Museo’s core concerns and fortifies our focus on living artists in the context of New York City. As the demographics of New York City continue to change, both SVA and El Museo del Barrio remain prepared to serve these diverse populations.
Are there any common themes or ideas that you see in the work by these emerging and established Latino artists?
As with any other grouping of artists, there are formal and thematic ties evident. There is an interest in architecture, urban spaces and objects, abstraction, language, the body and materials.
How would you describe the state of Latino art and artists, and how does El Museo del Barrio fit into this understanding?
Maybe the most important thing to say here is that there is no such thing as “Latino art,” even though soon there will be art history courses on this topic and there are endless exhibitions already organized around this notion. There are only artists, who happen to be Latino, that make contemporary art. In many cases, they have a shared experience with other racial/ethnic groups, and this has defined their American lives. They study in programs like the ones at SVA and gain knowledge about global contemporary art and they are concerned with the same kinds of issues that affect many parts of the world.
El Museo del Barrio is committed to presenting the work of artists who continue to be overlooked or undervalued by the larger art world and to provide a space, such as its biennial, for artists who continue to be excluded from collections and exhibitions at mainstream institutions.