Essay: Art Exhibition

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Art Exhibition

One of the more often repeated sayings is that the United States is a melting pot of cultures. This is nowhere as true as it is when thinking about the artistic experience since the late 18th century forward. Celebrating this immigrant experience, the Smithsonian Institution presents an exhibit entitled, Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art. The exhibit is located in Washington, D.C., and lasts from October 25, 2013 to March 2, 2014. The exhibition includes 92 works in all media from 72 artists in various styles and genres. The overall message of the exhibition is to celebrate Latino culture through the local experience about what it means to be a Latino in modern-America; the cultural and personal heritage expressed though art as a community. One of the more interesting aspects of the exhibit was not only the diversity of medium, but the vast differences in style and interpretation among the Latino community. For instance, the offerings include artists from the Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, as well as numerous other Central and South American immigrant heritages. Each of these artists seems also to embody the spirit of their particularly unique -- yet similar -- mix of Latinism and Americanism. The exhibit also includes film, music, artistic/educational programs, as well as concerts, panels and panel discussions. This makes the exhibition more well-rounded and multi-dimensional (Smithsonian, 2013).

My visit to the exhibition was done with a good friend, who is a humanities major and was able to make several inferences about many of the works tie together for me. In addition, my friend is fairly fluent in Spanish, and we not only understood more from other Spanish-speaking attendees, the mood was jovial when I became a student of Spanish 101.Despite the serious nature of many of the works, the nearly perfect Fall day was a mix of both an artistic buzz and educational brain ache. There is no way that one can really experience this "festival" in one day, and I know that several of the pieces were missed. But this is a positive in that it invites more than a one-time experience. Reflecting back, I think it might be interesting to split the visits into genres, then try to attend the round tables, culture walks, or extra experiences that focus on a particular theme or medium. However, I also realized after viewing only a few pieces that one important way to enhance the experience more, or even take on after the first visit, is to learn more about Hispanic history and culture for at least the 20th century on. So much of the artwork has not only cultural underpinnings, but represents or was inspired by actual historical events. Understanding the historical basis helps define the cultural basis, and thus one is able to glean more from the artistic representation. To me, this is particularly true when one thinks about the Civil Rights Movement, and to understand that the Latino contingent was crucial to many of the changes and improvements in minority laws and relations since World War II.

Too, this exhibition focused on numerous artistic communities, which caused me to reflect on the idea of art and community in the modern era. For hundreds of years, it seemed that art was more an expression of a different set of community that is present in the globalized world. The question is whether art creates community or reflects community or both? To me, this is the chicken-egg argument; since it is impossible to separate the individual from either himself or his community/culture. What does become apparent, though, is that cultural experiences affect different people, and especially… [END OF PREVIEW]

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