The Chicano Art Movement began in part as an effort on the part of Chicanos to take agency in their own representation. Before the Movement, most available representation of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans cast them in a negative light — often as servile or violent (Davalos 3). It is arguable whether this has changed, but the Movement has allowed Chicanas and Chicanos to offer alternative representations of themselves. However, to convey these new representations to the mainstream — to get them past the “cultural gatekeepers” Luis Camnitzer points out — the Movement has turned to mainstream museums (Alba 21). This has presented a set of complications inherent to exhibition practices. In the case of Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge, an exhibition curated mostly from the private collection of Cheech and Patti Marin, these complications become particularly problematic.
[...] It is a visually and socially bold representation of both woman and man, and although it fails to make up for misrepresentation of women in the rest of the exhibition, its positive effect is indelible and helps to contextualize the significance. The image portrays two skeletal figures, male and female, holding each other's stormy gaze while posed dramatically. The woman holds a pistol and a bright red heart beats in the man's chest. The positioning of the two titular elements lends the female figure incredible power and makes more tender the male figure and softens his aspect. [...]
[...] Davalos, Karen Mary. “Introduction: Museums, Mexicanos, and Exhibiting Mestizaje: Mexican (American) Museums in the Diaspora. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico 3-12. García, Margaret. Janine at 39, Mother of Twins Collection Cheech and Patti Marin. Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge. Ed. Cheech Marin. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company Hernández, Ester. Astrid Hadad in San Francisco Collection Cheech and Patti Marin. Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge. Ed. Cheech Marin. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company Hernández, [...]
[...] The message that it does state is positive and well-expressed, and Marin's decision to include appears to have had pro-feminist intentions, and no artwork, piece of literature, or cultural practice is entirely without critical problems. However, representation of women in Chicano Visions is narrow, which makes the flaws in Janine and other works more prominent. Of 26 artists represented in the book, only five are women paintings by female artists are included, compared to 74 by men. Among those is one painting by Ester Hernández, who is a far more eminent figure in the Chicano Art Movement than her representation here evinces. [...]
[...] This oversight and the poor representation of women generally in Chicano Visions were inevitable given the curatorial approach to the exhibit. The images were selected from among Marin's favorites. The vast majority came from his own collection. No collaborative efforts were established with scholars except to write descriptive essays for the book, even though their participation in organizing exhibits like Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation was key. His filter of taste naturally excludes certain patterns in the genealogy of Chicana/o art that are of great value to others; i.e. [...]
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