New York’s Museo del Barrio celebrates five decades with exhibition

A woman observes a portrait of Puerto Rican independence leader and politician Pedro Albizu Campos (C) hanging next to the work "Cockfight" (L) by artist Miguel Luciano, during a visit to the exhibition "Culture and the People: El Museo del Barrio, 1969-2019" at the Museo del Barrio in New York, USA, Apr. 10, 2019. EPA-EFE/Kena Betancur

NEW YORK, USA.- El Museo del Barrio, the oldest museum in the US dedicated to Latino art, celebrates half a century of its existence with many events and the exhibition «Culture and the People: El Museo del Barrio, 1969-2019» which showcases the history of the institution, founded by Puerto Rican activists and educators.

The exhibition, which opens Apr. 11 and goes through to Sep. 29 of this year, is comprised of works from the museum’s permanent collection that showcase its links as a space for political activism and the struggles of the Latino community, as well as its pioneering role as a cultural and educational organization.

«This exhibition is a celebration of the history of the Museo del Barrio but also of the richness of our collection. It is a narrative that describes our history as an institution through art,» commissioner Susanna Temkin told Efe.

«Culture and the People: El Museo del Barrio, 1969-2019» is divided into three parts: Roots, Resistance and Resilience, and composes works of nearly 80 artists.

The first section is about the moment when the museum was founded, when Puerto Rican activists demanded access to educational, cultural and other public resources.

The works in this part reflect this historical moment and include one by the first director and one of the museum’s founders, Raphael Montanez Ortiz, of the destructivist art movement, with «Archaeological Find #22» (1961), a destroyed sofa.

According to the museum, the artist, who directed the institution from 1969-1971, has said that the piece has a shape similar to both the US and Puerto Rico and has described it, referring to its pointed springs, as «a metaphor for the process of colonialism and the relationship between the empire and the colony».

There are also photos, recently purchased by the museum, of Hiram Maristany, who directed the museum from 1974-1977, showing the museum’s three locations before its final home, on Fifth Avenue, between 104th and 105th streets in Harlem’s El Barrio Latino, which received the largest Puerto Rican emigration in the 1950s, as well as children from that neighborhood.

Temkin highlighted Juan Sanchez’s «Bleeding Reality: As We Are,» a multimedia work in which, according to the curator, roots, resistance, and resilience are represented.

This section includes works by famous Puerto Rican visual artists working in New York under the Taller Boricua collective, which also marks 50 years, as well as the Centro de Arte Puertorriqueno, which operated from the island, with artists like Rafael Tufino who traveled between the two sites.

In «Resistance,» the section includes works that mention struggles, protests, solidarity, and includes «Stamps of the Mexican Revolution,» engravings of the disappeared Taller de Grafica Popular collective, or «The Missing VI, Hooded,» considered the masterpiece of Uruguayan artist Antonio Frasconi, who lived in the US.

Also included is a video of Ana de la Cueva, who shows a machine in which the US flag is sewn with white thread and when she draws the section of the border with Mexico, the thread is dyed red.

She also presents a dress and wig made by the artist Pepon Osorio that ironically represents Queen Isabel the Catholic, who in exchange for money granted land titles, and a book translated into English by the monk Bartolome de las Casas in which he denounced the mistreatment of the natives under Spanish colonization.

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