Exhibition Details


Location: Steele Gallery
Dates: July 12, 2009
to September 20, 2009

Overview

"....provocative, fanciful, stunning....." LA Times

This is the first comprehensive consideration of the legacy of Chicano art in two decades and the largest exhibition of cutting-edge Chicano art ever presented at Phoenix Art Museum.

In 1981, artist and cultural commentator Harry Gamboa Jr. described Chicanos as constituting a “phantom culture” within American society – largely unperceived, unrecognized and uncredited by the mainstream. Chicano art offered a counterpoint with work that stressed ethnic pride and political empowerment for Mexican Americans.

From soft sculpture full-size cars made from colorful vinyl to photographs of a break dancing performance on a flat floor sculpture by Minimalist artist Carl Andre, Phantom Sightings explores the experimental tendencies of a younger generation of contemporary American artists with cultural ties to Mexico and Latin America. The works included in the exhibition are orientated less toward traditional media such as painting and sculpture, and more toward conceptual art, performance, photography, media-based art and “stealthy” artistic interventions in urban spaces.

Phantom Sightings explores the ways in which the 32 artists included in the exhibition situate their work at the crossroads of local struggles over urban space, transnational flows of culture and global art practices. Some artists’ work functions as an intervention that “haunts” public space, other artists, whose work is more studio based, repurpose and transform familiar objects or artistic styles into new ones.

Phantom Sightings features 120 works in a large variety of media, many of which were commissioned for the show.

Exhibition highlights include:

Photographs of the 1970s artist collective ASCO – named after the Spanish word for nausea – that used street theater and performances to critique the narrowly defined forms of Chicano art and push the movements to address broader issues.

Adrian Esparza’s One and the Same illustrates the duality of the work of these artists. He uses the unraveled yarn from a serape blanket – a Mexican icon– to create a geometric design that recalls the Minimalist drawings of Sol Lewitt – a contemporary art icon.

Margarita Cabrera’s Vocho – a full scale, hand-sewn fabric VW bug – references the economical car popular in Mexico. The artist’s labor mischievously parallels that of the factory workers and underlines the complex political and economic issues of migrant labor.

Phantom Sightings will be complimented by an installation of Arizona artists, working locally, who deal with similar themes and issues.

Image Credits

Left: Tropical Baby (Self-Portrait), Carolyn Castano, 2006, Mixed media on canvas, courtesy of the artist and Kontainer Gallery, Los Angeles. Center: Vocho (Yellow), Margarita Cabera, 2004, Vinyl, batting thread and car parts. Wool. William J. Hokin Collection, Chicago. Photo courtesy of Sara Meltzer Gallery. Right: Untitled from the series Stage Set For A Riot, 2006, Ash and graphite on paper, The Capital Group, Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of Acuna Hansen Gallery, Los Angeles.