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Forging Territories: Queer Afro & Latinx Contemporary Art


FORGING TERRITORIES features African-American and Latinx members of the LGBTQ community pioneering in a frequently inhospitable land.  It presents artists engaged in cultural storytelling that describes themselves, their friends, and their environments in striking visual ways. It is an exhibition that combines established and emerging artists with a shared queer history.

About that word, queer. Rubén Esparza, founder and director of the Queer Biennial in Los Angeles and curator of FORGING TERRITORIES, has said:

“Decades back the word QUEER was a derogatory term used to de-humanize LGBTQ people. Now we’ve subverted the word and use it to both symbolize empowerment and serve as a reminder of a people’s struggles. QUEER is an umbrella term, and under its canopy are people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, gender non-conforming, gender fluid, poly-amorous, and questioning.”

SDAI presents this exhibition of LGBTQ artists of color in support of its commitment to cultural and gender equity and to serve as a catalyst in advancing remarkable regional art and artists.  

NOTES FROM THE CURATOR

by Rubén Esparza

African American and Latinx culture are not monolithic; there is neither one story nor one identity. Each culture combines myriad characteristics, origins, and histories. And in each instance, there are subsets beyond that. One of those subsets involves African American and Latinx artists taking part in a queer cultural awakening.

African American history is a broad narrative of resilience and hope. It is a chronicle of abduction and enslavement, struggle and tumult – accounts of which are kept alive through family histories.  After long and continued conflicts, the African American story unfolds to produce great thinkers, activists, and artists imprinting American and global culture.

Latinx people have more than a four hundred year history of establishing and growing communities in what is now the United States. It is an extensive culture that includes people from European, Mestizo, and Afro-Latin backgrounds, from the Spanish and Portuguese explorers to braceros working in the fields. It includes Afro-Cubans and Chicanos and innumerable others. And each of these represents but a sliver of the stories of the Latinx experience.

The African American and Latinx artists included in FORGING TERRITORIES are responding to many things: the current political moment, identity/place/zeitgeist, a shared background of language and history.  What they particularly have in common is participation in a queer cultural awakening and the talent to use art in depicting their journey.   

Time will tell how the awakening provided by FORGING TERRITORIES weaves into the broader lineage of art and LGBTQ history.

About Latinx:

Spanish and Portuguese are gendered languages, which means that every noun has a gender. While some nouns keep their gender when they become plural, others change based on the gender composition of a given group of people. Latinx is a gender-neutral nonbinary alternative.

About Rubén Esparza:

Rubén Esparza is a California artist and independent curator whose practice includes painting and analog and digital work using elements of Conceptualism, ethnicity and queer culture. His artwork is in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Santa Barbara Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, and elsewhere.  His curatorial work focuses on under-represented artists primarily in the queer and ethnic communities. He is both founder and director of the Queer Biennial, an arts exhibition anchored in Los Angeles and appearing as well in New York, Mexico, Miami, Paris, and Zurich.

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Image Credit: Danae Howard, Chorus Series, 2017