Art History 4260

The art of Latin America from pre-Columbian times through the present

The Project

In the fall semester of 2022, students enrolled in ARTH 4260 at Utah State University were tasked with curating their own virtual exhibitions. ARTH 4260 is an art history course on the art of Latin America. Altogether, student curators had to contend with artworks spanning over a thousand years, from pre-Columbian times through the present.

Curating a show is no mean feat, especially for those with limited knowledge of Latin American art and cursory experience with museology. Nevertheless, students launched themselves into the endeavor, absorbing a vast quantity of information and distilling it into their exhibitions with remarkable aplomb.

The result of a semester’s worth of critical and creative thinking are featured on this webpage. The course instructor, Dr. Álvaro Ibarra and his fellow art historians at USU, wish to recognize the hard work of all participants and to show appreciation for students’ remarkable scholarship and artistry.

Process

In developing an exhibition, students were given seventy course-based works of art from Latin America—artwork produced by natives, Mestizos, Cubans, Brazilians, and Mexicans alike. Our budding curators could also select additional pieces derived from the textbook and from a library of dozens of the most significant publications on Latin American art in the twentieth century, scholarly articles, interviews, manifestos, and critical reviews concerning celebrated artists, movements, and happenings.

The most basic objective was filling their gallery with art objects in a compelling design. However, creating a visually appealing exhibition was only one challenge among many. As students learned more about the art of Latin America from course readings, lectures, and their own research, various themes emerged as viable conceptual lynchpins for their exhibitions.

Issues regarding race, gender, culture, ethnicity, religion, and nationality became thematic foundations for many projects. Others focused on formal investigations that explored stylistic phenomena in Latin American art. In developing exhibition didactics, students had to harness a tremendous amount of discourse into a short and impactful document that garnered the interest of the museumgoer.

Ashley Brown, for example, challenges stereotypes regarding Latin American women, returning agency to female artists that routinely lose their agency in the art world (Fig. 1). The slippage between assumptions versus reality in the formation of identity is pursued by Samantha Castro, specifically examining the presentation of self-defining compositions by Latin American artists of mixed ancestry (Fig. 2). For her part, Megan Wilson unveils the importance of the proletariat in Latin America, groups alternatively traumatized, marginalized, and heroized by succeeding governments and ruling classes (Fig. 3).

Latin American Artwork. Ashley Brown
Figure 1. Ashley Brown, The Projection of the Patriarchy, Exhibition literature, 2022

Latin American Artwork. Samantha Castro
Figure 2. Samantha Castro, Developing Identities, Exhibition literature, 2022

Latin American Artwork. Megan Wilson
Figure 3. Megan Wilson, Artists Mind Their Business, Exhibition literature, 2022

Exhibition Literature

Latin American artwork. Myriam Musgrave
Figure 4. Myriam Musgrave, Magical Surrealism, Exhibition literature, 2022

Each exhibition is accompanied by all manner of promotional and educational material. Physical posters and flyers inform the arts community of upcoming shows, QR codes conveniently guiding visitors to the online abode for student’s virtual exhibitions. Once in attendance of a virtual exhibition, museumgoers may peruse informative catalogs and engage virtual tours. Gallery texts direct the viewer’s inquiry and frame the curator’s perception of a work. Audio guides provide virtual docents for visitors seeking an immersive experience.

Every cover for the requisite exhibition catalogs function as promotional material (Fig. 4). The accompanying literature contains the show’s didactic and descriptions for pivotal works. Texts focus the museumgoer’s appreciation within the larger thesis of the exhibition, cleverly

and humorously encapsulated in Myriam Musgrave’s insight on Jose Guadalupe Posada’s Calaveras Riding Bicycles: “Many stories under the literary genre of Magical Realism view death in a similar manner to the celebration of Dia de los Muertos…[it is] a cycle of life.”

Arguably the most engaging contributions in the realm of exhibition material were the audio guides. Students’ audio guides ran an average of twelve to fifteen minutes; they functioned to summarize the themes and their application to key works in the exhibition for the visitor. Alessandra Waugh’s audio guide, for example, was an exercise in the clarity of conviction. As an artist-turned-curator, she presents her analysis in an empathetic fashion. In a more radical approach, Amanda Mortensen gave voice to a sympathetic narrator in her tour, foiling stereotypical proclamations about Latin American indigenas held by the museumgoer with the sincerity of the audio performance.

Conclusion

Like any good contemporary work of art, the real value lies in the process. That said, academia still insists on the importance of the product. This semester, the students of ARTH 4260 engaged in a less orthodox learning process, one that threw them into the proverbial deep end of the pool. And they succeeded in producing exceptional exhibitions. Albeit virtual and ephemeral, their individual shows exist in perpetuity as literal bits of conceptual art, sustained by the memory of a shared experience

Acknowledgements

Beyond all the hardworking students of ARTH 4260, Professor Ibarra would also like to extend his thanks to Whitney Schulte and Ricardo Laranja. Additionally, Department of Art + Design chair, Kathy Puzey, deserves recognition for her steadfast and enthusiastic support of creative art historical endeavors like this virtual exhibition.

Exhibition Catalogs & Videos

You can view all exhibition videos on our CCA ARTH 4260 YouTube playlist, or read the catalogs and watch individual exhibit videos linked here.