Themes in Latino/a Visual Art

Authored by: Constance Cortez

The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Literature

Print publication date:  August  2012
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415666060
eBook ISBN: 9780203097199
Adobe ISBN: 9781136221613


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Over the last four decades, the subject matter explored by Latino/a visual artists has paralleled many of the themes addressed by various authors. As in the case of writers, Latino/a artists come from a myriad of communities located throughout the United States including Chicanos/as (Mexican-Americans), most of whom live in the Southwest (Texas, New Mexico, California) and Chicago; Cuban-Americans living in Florida, New York, and New Jersey; and Puerto Rican Americans living in New York (Nuyoricans) and elsewhere. Differences in contemporary and, sometimes, colonial histories and experiences of these artists clearly impact the trajectory of their development and the choices of visual vocabulary. At the same time, there are points of convergence shared by the members of these groups. Many Latinos/as come from, or have ancestors who come from, Latin America and, because of this, some may speak Spanish. Further, owing to the colonial histories of Latin America, Catholicism and its iconography may also function as a link visually manifested in a celebration of spirituality, a critique of religion, and/or a hybrid re-presentation of icons. Finally, because Latinos/as engage in artistic production within the United States, artworks are often subject to the same overarching influences governing artistic nomenclatures (be they “modern” or “postmodern”) and may be influenced by the current styles and media that are part of the larger artistic community. As a result, artwork produced by Latinos/as in the United States ranges in appearance from representational to abstraction and, beyond traditional media, may include performance and installation. In the final analysis, the use of varied media as well as the bicultural and multicultural positions of these artists have become one of the hallmarks of contemporary Latino/a art. The topics addressed in this chapter include the reassessments and reinterpretations of history and spiritual traditions and their symbols, reflections on urban realities and the reconceptualization of the borderlands, and issues of gender and sexuality.

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