The multidisciplinary exhibition Xican–a.o.x. Body focuses on the formative and hugely influential contributions to contemporary art made by Chicanx (Gender neutral and queer inclusive of Chicano/a) artists working in the United States from the 1970s to the present. This exhibition, which features more than 200 works of art by approximately 80 artists, aims to add complexity to understandings of Chicanx art and culture by exploring the conceptual and experimental nature of visual practices that foreground the body as the site in which imagination and political enunciation are articulated.
The central theme of Xican–a.o.x. Body is the artists’ use of the “brown body” to assert acts of political resistance against mainstream Western European and American cultural codes that have tended to reduce the Chicanx narrative to one that is marginal and secondary, grounded in racist conceptions of a minority population that lacks contemporary art currency. Chicanx artists’ self-representation affirms the uniqueness and relevance of their projects and their integral place in contemporary art. When the body is made an active element of resistance against institutionalization, it is empowered beyond the limits of stereotypical identity definitions. This exhibition, like the art that comprises it, goes against the idea of the stereotype without refusing specificity. Included are artists whose practices counter the misrepresentation and invisibility of Chicanxs. The exhibition proposes to start from the idea of a politicized body and expand through different thematic confluences and artworks to the collective body.
The artists represented in Xican-a.o.x. Body celebrate the creativity of decolonized political personas and are unapologetic in their self-representation. They apply multidisciplinary perspectives to their work that erase any presumed hierarchy between popular art, vernacular and mass culture, and what has traditionally been thought of as high art, while they embed conceptual and intellectual aspects through their aesthetic and the materiality of their artwork. This approach can be seen in Asco’s First Supper After a Major Riot (1974), which combines performance, activism, fashion, and installation art. Other works in the exhibition, such as Yolanda López’s Love Goddess, from her Guadalupe series (1978), or her Tableaux Vivant (1978), deactivate prejudices and stereotypes through roleplay to create feminist, anti-colonial perspectives. López disrupts the essentialism of the Virgen de Guadalupe as a religious figure and a feminine reference not only of Chicana women but also of canonical ideals of beauty perpetuated by masterworks of European art history, such as Sandro Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus. Similarly, artists such as Rafa Esparza investigate elements of Chicanx culture. Taking the example of the Lowrider as a rebellious assisted readymade in works from the 1970s and 1980s by Ricardo Valverde or John Valadez, Esparza transmutes his own body into that of a Lowrider, transforming from object to subject and queering the hypermasculine elements of Lowrider car culture.
Artists in the exhibition will include Laura Aguilar, Celia Alvarez Muñoz, Asco, Judith F. Baca, Nao Bustamante, Barbara Carrasco, Mel Casas, Isabel Castro, Yreina Cervantes, Liz Cohen, Cyclona, Sandra de la Loza, Rafa Esparza, Christina Fernandez, Diane Gamboa, Ken Gonzales-Day, Esther Hernández, Luis Jimenez, Yolanda López, Patrick Martinez, Star Montana, Delilah Montoya, Marcos Raya, Shizu Saldamando, Sylvia Salazar Simpson, John Valadez, Patssi Valdez, Ricardo Valverde, and Jose Villalobos, among many others.
In a historical moment in which current political discussions about Chicanx and Latinxs’ rights in the United States are clouded by pervasive racist rhetoric, we need more than ever to promote Latinx art in its rich multiplicity to dispel misconceptions about these cultures. As the title indicates, this exhibition defies closed definitions of Chicanx art, reflecting its dynamic and ever-expanding complexity and incorporating artists who have developed their work in dialogue with Chicanx culture.
For booking information, contact Andrew Eschelbacher at email@example.com or 212.988.7700 ext. 262.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a major publication further advancing the study and critical discourse surrounding Chicanx art from the 1970s.
Cecilia Fajardo-Hill is a British/Venezuelan art historian and curator in modern and contemporary art, specialized in Latin American art. She holds a PhD in Art History from the University of Essex, England, and an MA in 20th Century Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London, England. Fajardo-Hill has published and curated extensively on contemporary Latin American and international artists since the 1990s. In 2017, she co-curated the touring show, Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985, with the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2017. She is co-editor of a book on Guatemalan art to be published in 2020, and the editor of Remains – Tomorrow: Themes in Contemporary Latin American Abstraction. Additionally, she is the Research Scholar at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Los Angeles. In 2020, she will be the Visiting Research Scholar in the Program in Latin American Studies (PLAS) and a Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University.
Gilbert Vicario is the Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs and The Selig Family Chief Curator at Phoenix Art Museum. Prior to joining the Phoenix Art Museum in 2015, he was senior curator and division head for curatorial affairs at the Des Moines Art Center from 2009-2015. Vicario recently organized the exhibition and publication Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist (traveling to New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and Palm Springs Art Museum, California), and Ragnar Kjartansson: Scandinavian Pain and Other Myths. In 2017, he organized the first mid-career survey and publication of the American artist Sheila Pepe titled Hot Mess Formalism (traveled to the Everson Museum of Art at Syracuse University, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Omaha, and the de Cordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts). Past exhibitions include Phyllida Barlow: Scree (2013); Single-channel 1-4: featuring the work of Johanna Billing, Emily Jacir, Jason Lazarus, Ragnar Kjartansson, Patty Chang, Artur Żmijewski, Gilad Ratman, and Adel Abidin; In 2006, Vicario was named U.S. Commissioner for the International Biennale of Cairo by the U.S. Department of State for the exhibition Daniel Joseph Martinez: The Fully Enlightened Earth Radiates Disaster Triumphant; and he was a participating curator in the 2007 Lyon Biennial: The History of a Decade That Has Not Yet Been Named.
Marissa Del Toro is the Diversifying Art Museum Leadership Initiative (DAMLI) Curatorial Fellow at Phoenix Art Museum, where she is curating and producing a catalog of her upcoming exhibition, Cruising the Horizon. She is the project manager for the exhibition catalog and mid-career survey of Teresita Fernández: Elemental, co-organized with Pérez Art Museum, Miami. Del Toro recently contributed to the forthcoming exhibition catalog for José Villalobos’ current survey at Albright College’s Freedman Gallery. From 2016-2017, she was a Graduate Intern at the Getty Research Institute where she worked on the large-scale exhibition, Golden Kingdoms: Luxury and Legacy in the Ancient Americas. In July 2015, she participated in the Latino Museum Studies Program at the Smithsonian Latino Center, assisting on collection and exhibition projects within the National Museum of American History. She holds her MA in Art History from the University of Texas at San Antonio, with an overall focus on the modern and contemporary art of Latin America and the U.S.
The exhibition is organized by the American Federation of Arts and the Phoenix Art Museum with independent curator Cecilia Fajardo-Hill.