Collect Latinamerican Art Now

By A. J. Goldsmith

The New Year 2010 will bring with it the U.S. Census. It is expected that the census will demonstrate just how fast the U.S. Latino population is growing. Experts expect that by 2050, the number of Latinos in the United States will triple to 140 million.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York City has just announced the first major retrospective of the work of Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. This major event gives proof that Latino Art is still relatively undiscovered.

Latino Art includes the work of artists who may live in the United States or south of its borders while Chicano Art refers to artists of Mexican heritage who live and work in the United States

The current economic slump provides an excellent chance for aspiring collectors to seek great, long-term art values in this genre.

The area of Latin American "art has had the advantage of preserving and maintaining value while other areas have seen enormous price fluctuations all of which has given this collecting field a renewed attractiveness" wrote Alberto Barral recently in Art Nexus magazine.

Major museums such as Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art in New York City and the Houston Museum of Fine Arts have begun adding Latino artists' work to their permanent collections. Corporations such as Bank of America also have added Latino works to their collections.

We can learn from the past. Just look at the extraordinary development of the market for African-American artwork.

Fifty years ago, few collectors and even fewer museums bothered with work by African American artists.

In 1971 the following was written in the catalogue for a pace-setting exhibit entitled: "Black American Artists 71" that was sponsored by the Illinois Bell Telephone Company.

"The inescapable truth is that up to recently Blacks have been virtually excluded from the mainstream of American artistic life."

Collectors who carefully purchased work of African American artists in the 1950s-1980s, have enjoyed significant appreciation in value of their collections. The increase in wealth and prominence of the Black community has played an important role.. Major public galleries are now committed to extending their collections of African American art.

Now, almost 40 years later, we hear similar words about Latino and Chicano artists?

Chicago-based Chicana artist Judithe Hernandez, writing in the University of California's Journal of Chicano Studies, Aztlan, recently, charged that the "art establishment has remained reluctant or unable to embrace what has become a vibrant addition (Latino artists) to the landscape of American art."

Hernandez, who holds a MFA degree from Otis Art Institute, was among the founders of the Chicano art and mural movement in California in the early 1970s. Among her artistic amigos were Berto de La Rocha, Gilbert Lujan , Carlos Almaraz and Frank Romero.

The Chicano movement followed hard on the heels of the Black artists' movements that included Africobra (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) and the mural movement that began around 1968 in Chicago, a city that typified urban America in the throes of "social change and political upheaval."

Says Hernandez: "The fact remains that the social-political ills that have continued to afflict American society since the civil rights movement are fed by such things as cultural neglect and by the benign marginalization of the artistic contribution of America's ethnic minorities as quaint "folk art"."

Today, Hernandez works in her Chicago, Back-of-The-Yard's studio; her award-winning work is colorful and surrealistic often addressing social conditions. She has exhibited in the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago as well as in local galleries.

"Chicano artists bring a broadening of America's landscape," Hernandez says and seethes at the lack of recognition by major museums and well-heeled art collectors.

Deborah Levy is an internationally- known painter and gallery owner who grew up in Venezuela. Her gallery/studio and studio is located in Highwood, Illinois, a town sandwiched between the affluent Illinois cities of Highland Park and Lake Forest.

Levy says that new collectors should be looking at Latin American artists who are "bringing fresh air and something different."

She acknowledges that she is more familiar with Latin American artists than she is with Latino or Chicano artists in the United States. Her gallery shows a number of works by artists from South and Central America.

"Five years from now, Latino artists will be in great demand."

"Latinos have a calmness that is evident in their art," says Levy.

She reflects that early humans expressed themselves by drawing on the walls of their caves. They had a need to leave something behind.

"Art is universal, it has no boundaries, it doesn't bow to color or religion."

She says that many paintings with social meaning are very important in society. Today, painters in Venezuela, Chile, Peru, and Mexico are reflecting societal changes and in doing so are changing our perception of society.

After some prodding, Levy mentioned some of her favorites: Venezuela, painters Oswaldo Vigas (b.1926), Tomas Golding (1909-1985), Ricardo Benaim (b.1949) and sculptor Cornelia Zitman (b.1926).
Among younger artists in Venezuela she mentions Enrico Armas (b. 1957) Antonio del Rosario, Julio Diaz, Jose Guedez (b. 1968), Eleonora Tugues (b. 1968) and Alexander Martinez (b.1965).
Ecuador: Oswaldo Guayasam'n (1919-1999). Chile: Roberto Matta (1911-2002), Claudio Bravo (b. 1936) and Carlos Pedraza (1913-2000).
Mexico: Leonora Carrington (b.1917- ), Rufino Tamayo (1899-1981).

Thousands of Chicago motorists driving to the Loop each day pass magnificent stainless steel sculpture, "Flame of the Millennium," by Leonardo Nierman, one of Mexico's foremost sculptors and painters whose sculpture, paintings and tapestries can be found in major collections and public spaces throughout the world.

Klara Chavarria (b. 1972)- a native of Guatemala who now lives in Miami- is a young artist whose fame is growing steadily.

To get an overview of the Latin American art community, an aspiring collector should read Art Nexus, a quarterly publication, published in Miami, that covers Latin American art competently and completely.

The National Museum of Mexican Art that just celebrated its 23rd year attracts thousands of visitors to Chicago as well as local residents. It located just a 10-minute cab ride from the Loop in the Pilsen neighborhood.
NMMA has more than 5,500 pieces in its permanent collection.

Through the foresight of its founder, former high-school-teacher Carlos Tortolero, this free, public museum has displayed Mexican and Chicano art in its own spaces while the museum's exhibits have traveled widely through the United States and Mexico.

"I wanted to show the richness and beauty of Mexican culture on both sides of the border and at the same time to help local artists," says Tortolero.

NMMA was only one of two U.S. museums to have a retrospective of the mystic, surrealistic work of Mexican artist Remedios Varo (1908-1963).
Another exhibit featured the colorful weavings of Oaxaca artist Arnuflo Mendoza

Three well-known Chicano artists live and work in Chicago: Mario Castillo (b. 1957), artist, teacher and curator, holds an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. He was among the pioneers who, in 1964 led the Latino mural movement. His work is in the National Museum of American Art in Washington, DC, the San Francisco Museum of Contemporary Art, the Denver Art Museum and well as in the collections of Sara Lee Corporation and Illinois Bell Telephone Company.

Born in Tabasco in 1948, Alejandro Romero's work can be seen in the Tabasco Institute of Culture, Loyola University of Chicago, Praxis International Gallery of Mexico City, and in several other Mexican museums.

Marcos Raya (b.1948) immigrated to Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood in 1964. His studio work, paintings and installations, integrate elements of his Mexican (Guanajuato) heritage, life in Chicago and the ups and downs of his own life, His work has been exhibited internationally.

In the fall of each year, NMMA features a Day of the Dead exhibit with art and original memorial installations honoring special persons.
Continued through July 2010 is a companion exhibit commemorating the hundreds of women murdered in Juarez in recent years.