LatinXpression: The Absorbing Nature of Line

Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, Brown University
111 Thayer Street, Providence, Rhode Island

The exhibition is located on the second floor of the Institute.
Visit watson.brown.edu to learn more about its research, teaching, and outreach initiatives.

February 4 – April 26, 2019
Opening Reception February 8, 5-7 pm

LatinXpression is an engrossing loan exhibition featuring nine Latinx artists who live and work in Rhode Island, Los Angeles, and New York. It concentrates on a range of two-dimensional works in black and white as well as color that offer a strong sense of line’s absorbing nature. The drawn or painted line, whose nature is as absorbing for the artist-maker as for the viewer, articulates both abstract and representational subject matter. It resonates with natural history, visual-culture traditions, hip hop culture, and idiosyncratic personal memory.

The expanse of each artist’s identity, from the past forward, seems to spawn a particular accent and tempo of line. Line is a transformative means of representation. It may slash across a surface or be tenderly curvilinear. It may be subversively dense, or fugitively meandering. It may act freely, in one example on a three-dimensional surface, to embellish resilient form with the fanciful patterns of contour. With assorted pencils, brushes, and inks, and through painting, collaging, and various printmaking techniques, these Latinx artists alternately describe and invent, or manage to do both at once. Notwithstanding their bold individuality, all of the artists wrestle with the cognitive dissonance of the here and now.

Many of the artists mine the natural realm for its personally suggestive character or cultural/spiritual symbolism. To this end, there are 10 actual specimens generously on loan to from the Edna Lawrence Nature Lab at the Rhode Island School of Design. The Lab is a rare, historical, and cherished depository of diverse natural history specimens for the teaching of drawing and biodesign. LatinXpression includes specimens that were acquired for the Lab in 2018 by Guatemalan-born Oswaldo Chinchilla (RISD BFA’21 Industrial Design and Ceramics). RISD’s Intercultural Student Engagement program supported Chinchilla’s “Greatest Show on Earth,” a special exhibition showcasing small-scale specimens from Latin America that Chinchilla proposed for acquisition and which grouping he then curated.

LatinXpression is in keeping with the STEM to STEAM philosophy of RISD, a fundamental part of which couples art and design with science. In the active, multidisciplinary-minded social sciences hub that is the Watson Institute, LatinXpression applauds this connection, and momentum, and makes it highly visible. The selection of specimens on view includes the shell of an actual armadillo (“little armored one,” in Spanish) and a coiled snake, both formidable symbols across so many centuries and cultures that appear clearly, or are suggested reductively, and texturally, in several works of art shown.

The majority of the Latinx artists whose works are represented in this exhibition, while resident in the USA and largely trained here in fine art, were born and grew up in other countries. They are Carolina Arentsen (b. Chile; raised Villanova, Pennsylvania, based Providence); Andrea Pérez Bessin (b. Puerto Rico; based Newport); Nilton Cardenas (b. Peru of Incan heritage; based Cranston); the artist duo, Patricia Cazorla and Nancy Saleme (b. Venezuela; based New York); Patricia Figueroa (b. Peru, raised Madrid, Spain; based Providence); Wayne Alaniz Healy (b. Santa Barbara; Chicanx; based East Los Angeles); Evans Molina (b. Cuba, Afro-Cuban; based Providence), and Joel Rosario Tapia (b. Providence; Aboriginal urban artist of Puerto Rican descent and the appointed chief of the Cibuco Bayamon Taino Tribe; based Providence).

Tapia’s paintings are on loan courtesy of Skye Gallery in Providence. Healy’s prints are on loan from the collection of Raphael Diaz, Cuban-born artist based in the Dominican Republic and Providence, a dedicated promoter of Latinx art and culture, and co-curator with Judith Tolnick Champa of this special exhibition.

The exhibition is presented in collaboration with the Providence Biennial for Contemporary Art, an ongoing program of curated exhibitions. The Providence Biennial generates exhibitions that expose individuals and communities to transformative experiences, provoking new ways of seeing, thinking, and engaging with others. Its vision is to sustain a contemporary exhibition program that initiates, establishes, and deepens stakeholder and community alliances.