Sunday, September 19, 2010

The CAC Has Learned Nothing and Goes Nowhere New

As the CAC tries to market their new show, "Where Do We Go From Here? Selections from La Coleccion Jumex" as a local launch of Hispanic Heritage Month, the exhibition has nothing to do with Latino issues and art. Just because the private collection is from Mexico and the show includes work by artists with names like Guzman, Ortega, and Orozco doesn't make it a Hispanic Heritage show.

The collection instead reflects an interest in recognizing artists from Latin America participating in the Pop Art movement. The Jumex collection brings American and Latin American artists together to present a dialogue that may employ different languages, but explores very similar subjects. About 50 years ago, a number of artists and collectors actively addressed the lack of recognition in the arts of women, Latin Americans, and other marginal groups. The current show at the CAC shows the Jumex Collection successful in making a case for artists living in Mexico.

Is it an irony the CAC chooses to recontextualize the collection to help market the show for attendence? Of course not. As we saw with the Shepard Fairey show, this is the business of the CAC. No need to deal with art history if you want to simply throw a party.

Admittedly, Platow acknowledges the goal of the collection, however she goes on claim a general open-ended or broad scope of the show:

"The show is not a one-liner or super-straightforward statement - that's part of the beauty of it," says Platow. Art is not arranged chronologically or geographically, though there are themes: art about art, text in art, art and urban anthropology."

"We play with the fact that this is a private collection by a person with varied interests," Platow says. "We present an experience that proposes the moment before institutional framework is installed. Dichotomy doesn't exist in the installation or collection."

...Platow says, but "the collection is about transcendence."

"Transcendence," lack of chronology and nonexistent dichotomies are claimed characteristics that seem to permit the CAC to ignore the issues art presents. As much as Platow wants to insist with each exhibition art is so broad "visitors can bring their own ideas," she's wrong. Again, the CAC appears to ignore the issues surrounding those which it would rather exploit. There is nothing yet scheduled this year (certainly not during 2010 Hispanic Heritage Month) dealing with Latino culture. So far, the lecture series associated with "Where Do We Go From Here" includes a talk by a science and technology professor and another by a photographer/NFL linebacker. Perhaps by the last week of the show, the CAC can hold a panel discussion on Latino pop culture.

Simply drawing a quote from Martin Luther King Jr. and exhibiting works by artists with Latin American names does not absolved the CAC of marginalizing communities of people. The goal of the Jumex Collection is inclusion, the title is a call to continue the work of inclusion. In choosing to ignoring this history for open-ended party themes is irresponsible. Is the CAC going to invite this discussion and answer King's question? The CAC failed to ask and answer the important questions associated with street art last year and murals were destroyed. To recontexualize a private Mexican collection of art as one that responds to Latino issues and fail to lead the discussion it presents risks a similar white-washing of cultural identities.