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Locating Immigrant Experiences in U.S. Art Institutions

Creative Commons 'BY-NC-SA' version 4.0 license

Historically the dehumanizing rhetoric and enactment of racist federal policies within the United States surrounding immigration at the U.S.- Mexico border by government leaders has always been a point of contention for the Latinx community and American society. Within the Latinx community, many have been shaped and deeply impacted by immigration, either as immigrants themselves or as children of immigrants. Some contemporary Latinx artists have incorporated these experiences into their artistic practice. The display method in which they present alternative narratives and the re-presentation of the brown immigrant within museum and gallery spaces furthers the need for the institutions to hold difficult conversations about their role and position on this critical issue; the artists refuse to allow the art spaces to be neutral.

Using Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands theory I can conduct an analysis of identity that lacks anxiety over its origins and its complexity emerges from an emphasis on process. Karen Mary Davalos’ Remixing framework aides in questioning historical context of art history structures, methods, and institutions to displace hegemonic notions. I have selected artists based on their material use and the disruption the display enacts within traditional art spaces relationship with the rhetoric surrounding immigrants. All the works selected contain a hidden narrative that demonstrates the strength, bravery, and resistance that immigrants embody, rafa esparza’s Figure Ground: Beyond the White Field at the 2017 Whitney Biennial and Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s CARNE y ARENA: (Virtually Present, Physically Invisible).

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