What a difference an "a" makes.
The one that this year displaces an "o" in the title of the annual summer exhibit at Mexic-Arte Museum signals a first in that institution's longtime support of artists early in their careers. What has been for almost two decades now the "Young Latino Artists" show, presenting work by artists age 35 and younger, will be the "Young Latina Artists" show in 2014. While women have had their work included in numerous "YLA" exhibits over the years, this will be the first time since 1996 that the show will feature art exclusively by women.
The reason for that may have something to do with this year's guest curators: the four artists who comprise the Más Rudas Chicana Collective from San Antonio. Ruth Buentello, Sarah Castillo, Kristin Gamez, and Mari Hernandez have been making art together for five years, and they choose to identify as Chicanas very deliberately, claiming their heritage with pride and resisting the idea that it in any way limits them – as professional artists or human beings. As noted on the Más Rudas website, the collective's self-created name encompasses both the multiple voices within the group and the fact that its members will not be classified as "subordinate, passive, inferior, dainty, and polite" females. To be Más Rudas is "to be tough, to be defiant, and without apology." The group has pursued that attitude in multimedia installations that have covered machismo as linked to pit bulls ("Operation Canis Familiaris"), their hometown's tourist trade ("Más Triste San Antonio"), their own mixed cultural heritage ("Brown Style"), body image as it relates to Latinas ("Ruda Phat"), and gender inequality ("Chicanas Only," presented at Mexic-Arte in the spring of 2011 in conjunction with the Texas Biennial).
Small wonder, then, that this foursome would want to fill Mexic-Arte's galleries with their peers. They've selected a baker's dozen of artists from across North America: Natalia Anciso, a Weslaco native based in Oakland, Calif.; Daphne Arthur, a Venezuelan by birth, now making work in New York City; Nani Chacon of Albuquerque, N.M.; Alexis Herrera and Senalka McDonald of Austin; Las Hermanas Iglesias of Florida and New York; Annette Martinez; Awilda Lora Rodriguez of San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cristy C. Road, a Cuban-American artist based in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Linda Lucía Santana, originally from California and currently in Denton, Texas; and fellow San Antonians Audrya Flores, Suzy Gonzalez, and Fabiola Torralba.
The collective has titled this landmark edition of "YLA" "Y, Qué?" ("and what?") – no doubt an exclamation as much as a question, asserting the creative presence of these Latina artists as they negotiate the complicated and overlapping territories of cultural identity, race, gender, and class. (And they won't be the only female artists crossing these borders in Mexic-Arte this summer. Running concurrently with "YLA 19: Y, Qué?" in the Annex Gallery will be "Women of the Serie Project," a curated exhibition of works produced by artists with the double X chromosome in the printmaking program founded by the late Sam Coronado.)
The opening reception will take place Friday, June 13, 6-9pm, and will include performances by Fabiola Torralba, 7-7:15pm, and Awilda Lora Rodriguez, 8-9pm. A "YLA 19" Artists Talk with Nani Chacon, Awilda Lora Rodriguez, Daphne Arthur, and Más Rudas Chicana Collective will be held Saturday, June 14, noon-1pm. A curator's public tour will be offered Saturday, June 28, 2-3pm.
"Young Latina Artists 19: Y, Qué?" is on display June 13-Sept. 7 at Mexic-Arte Museum, 419 Congress. For more information, visit www.mexic-artemuseum.org.
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