This exhibition focuses on a gift from Dr. Gilberto Cárdenas, a leading collector of Latinx art, of prints produced at Self Help Graphics and Art. Located in East Los Angeles, this printmaking workshop and cultural institution has been a mainstay in the city’s arts community since 1972. Sister Karen Boccalero and two Mexican-born artists, muralist Carlos Bueno, and photographer Antonio Ibáñez, founded the institution to support the local Mexican American community through art classes and cultural experiences. They provided printmaking training and studio spaces for artists and organized an annual celebration of the Dia de los Muertos.
In late 1982, Self Help Graphics inaugurated their Experimental Atelier Program, still ongoing. They invite local and visiting artists to produce limited edition screen prints. Sometimes the ateliers focus on a specific theme or group of artists. Since its inception, the program has produced over a thousand prints by hundreds of artists.
Dr. Gilberto Cárdenas, former professor at the University of Texas at Austin, recently retired as Executive Director of the Center for Arts and Culture at the University of Notre Dame. He was one of the earliest supporters of Self Help Graphics. In 1986, he founded Galería Sin Fronteras in Austin, as a way of helping disseminate the output of the Experimental Atelier Program and supporting the work of Latinx and Chicanx artists. In 2017, Dr. Cárdenas donated to the Blanton Museum of Art over 350 prints from Self Help Graphics, spanning from the late seventies to the late nineties.
Arte Sin Fronteras celebrates the extraordinary gift from Dr. Cárdenas and focuses on the Experimental Atelier Program. The exhibition begins with a selection of works documenting Self Help Graphic’s history as a community organization. The next section addresses the artists’ complex construction of Chicanx/Latinx identities by articulating a visual and conceptual vocabulary based on cultural heritage, family relations, civil rights, and the American experience. The show continues with prints that challenge traditional gender roles and engage in an intersectional exploration into Chicanx/Latinx and queer identities. The exhibition also focuses on issues of migration and life at the United States/Mexico border. The final section includes works featuring Mexican-American religious traditions, ranging from Mesoamerican imagery to the modern commemoration of the Dia de los Muertos.
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Curated by Florencia Bazzano, Assistant Curator, Latin American Art, Blanton Museum of Art, and Christian Wurst, Curatorial Assistant, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, Blanton Museum of Art