ed. by E. Carmen Ramos. D Giles, April 2014. 365 p. ill. ISBN 9781907804441 (cl.), $65.00.
Reviewed November 2014
Lindsey Reno, Acquisitions Librarian/Subject Specialist for Fine Arts, Film, Theater, and Music, University of New Orleans, Earl K. Long Library, email@example.com
Our America: the Latino Presence in American Art chronicles an exhibit held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, DC, October 25, 2013-March 2, 2014. The works span a period from the 1950s to the present day and were all drawn from the Smithsonian's collection of Latino art. A dense introduction, written by artist Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, provides historical background of the three largest Latino populations in the United States: Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cuban Americans. Ybarra-Frausto provides an overview of the history of Latino art in the United States, from Spanish exploration to the late twentieth century. This is followed by a snippet of contemporary art and theory, building a transition into the present day where Latino art is recognized as a global art form.
An essay by the exhibit's curator, E. Carmen Ramos, establishes the intention of the exhibit. The curator asserts that, while Latino art has previously been couched within the civil rights and international art movements, we should seek to explore this art form from within the context of American culture, rather than rehash past attempts to frame it in other ways. She works toward this exploration with a more expanded history of Latino Art, while also placing the described artists within American art and culture.
The most substantial portion of the monograph consists of a catalog of the exhibit. The reader is provided with reproductions and descriptions of each artwork, along with pertinent biographical details about, and images of, each artist. The artists and their work are explored through thoughtful narratives. The author offers observations into the exhibited works, including the intentions, techniques, and backgrounds of the artists.
The volume is well-written, profusely illustrated, and has an extensive bibliography. The introduction of historical and art historical background will be useful to readers who are unfamiliar with this area. Our America presents valuable insights into a movement and a culture that are of growing interest. This title would be appropriate for libraries within academic institutions that offer classes in contemporary American art or Latino art at the undergraduate level.