by Valerie Valentine
Chicano art is revealed in the Twin Cities in Chicano Now: American Expressions. A traveling multimedia installation at the Minnesota Museum of American Art (and related exhibit, Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge at the Weisman Art Museum) the exhibit is bursting with an education for the uninformed, and offers validation to artists who've been producing work on the fringes for years.
“The Border” installation by Richard Montoya, Rolo Castillo, 50 Bucks and Herbert
Siguenza (a group also known as Culture Clash), considers the idea of “border”
as “bridge” and “barrier.” For many Mexican-Americans, the geographic border between
the United States and Mexico parallels the cultural border that inhibits many
immigrants from becoming absorbed into American culture. Many are cut off from
family and the traditions of their homeland. In this exhibit, artists address
the contributions of the Chicano community to American culture.
other parts of the exhibit, traditions of family, work, style and music are explored—often
with humor. Numerous television screens throughout the exhibit beg the question,
is television supposed to be an overarching link? Some of the contributors are
screen stars, like Cheech Marin, who was both a creative consultant for the show
and lent part of his personal art collection. In a kitchen installation, artist
Paul Rodriguez narrates a story about family foods, where a stove is set up with
traditional Mexican fare. Lowriders gleam and even bounce if you push a button.
Music and voices resound from all sides, finally including Mexican-Americans as
part of the mainstream audio.
A powerful walk-in theater installation by Gustavo Vázquez is titled
"Who Am I?" It features four screens, one on each wall, a boxing ring
in the center, and a video screen on the ring's floor. On screen, Mexican-Americans
discuss their cultural identities, explaining how their cultural moniker depends
on their life experiences. "Chicano," "Latino" or "American"
are just a few of the terms people use to define themselves.
With some heavyweight sponsorship behind it, the exhibit has flair that is sure
to draw the curious and engage the most museum-phobic. Like the Science Museum
down the street, this exhibit includes flashy sound bites, a cacophony of audio
installations, interactive buttons begging to be pushed and the overall use
of space as installation. Chicano Now offers us the opportunity to explore a
diverse array of art and the distinct contributions these artists have made
to our society. ||
Chicano Now: American
Expressions runs through Dec. 31 at the Minnesota Museum of American Art,
50 W. Kellogg Blvd., St. Paul, 651-292-4355; Chicano Visions: American Painters
on the Verge runs through Jan. 2 at the Weisman Art Museum, 333 River Rd., Mpls.,