New Delaware museum exhibit ‘outside of what we normally do’

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    (Shirley Min/WHYY)

    (Shirley Min/WHYY)

    A recently-opened exhibition highlighting the work of Latino artists is a departure from shows typically seen at the Delaware Art Museum.

    Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art was organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

    “It’s outside of what we normally do, it’s outside of our expertise and outside of the specialties of our collection,” said Heather Campbell Coyle, curator of American Art. “This is not Howard Pyle, or John Sloan or the pre-Raphaelite,” which are signature components of the Delaware Art Museum’s permanent collection.

    The exhibit features artists of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban and Dominican descent, as well as other Latin American groups, dating from the 1950s to 2000s.

    “The show really takes off in the 1950s because this is when an idea of a collective Latino identity began to coalesce in the U.S.,” Coyle said. “You have these waves of migration and immigration that are happening and you also have a lot of artists of Latino descent who are attending art schools and becoming part of the American art conversation.”

    And the artists have a lot to say in a variety of different ways. The traveling show includes 92 works by 72 artists and encompasses art in a variety of mediums.

    “It’s painting, and sculpture, and video, and installation work, photography, drawings, you name it. It’s really visually [an] exciting show,” Coyle described.

    Coyle said the exhibit is broken up into eight themes and addresses everything from migration and politics to cultural stereotypes.

    “One artist, Christina Fernandez, looks at her great grandmother’s migration from Mexico to California in 1910,” Coyle said. The Los Angeles-based photographer dressed as her great grandmother in the series of photographs recreating the journey.

    “You have a whole wonderful group of graphics, so posters and prints that were really made for political ends to encourage change by the farm workers union,” Coyle continued.

    While the Smithsonian condemned the Delaware Art Museum’s decision to sell works of art to pay down debt, Delaware’s stop on the tour was agreed upon before the deaccession.

    Sanctions leveled against the museum in June 2014, however, have not dissuaded visitors from going to the museum. 

    Spokeswoman Jessica Jenkins said that as of Jan 1, 2016, visitation is up 14 percent; admission is up 18 percent; group tours are up 51 percent; and program attendance is up 42 percent compared to data from the same time last year. 

    Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art will be on display through May 29.

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