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This review by Washington Post staff writer Paul Richard is of the 1988 group exhibition, Ceremony of Memory: Expressions in Spirituality among Contemporary Hispanic Artists, organized by the Washington Project for the Arts, in Washington, DC. Richard begins with a description of the overall exhibition and his disappointment with the heavily academically trained artists and dense language of the exhibition catalog. He argues that although the show espouses “spirituality” as its theme, it does not contain real spiritual art, but instead “cool, ironic, coy” artwork. He concludes with an acknowledgment of some highly skilled artists, acceding that the exhibition is “often entertaining and good-looking,” with an overall lukewarm assessment.
Paul Richard, a staff writer for the Washington Post, wrote this review setting a dismissive and offensive tone with his title “Cha-Cha-Cha & Blah-Blah-Blah.” The review is replete with stereotypic, and often, racist imagery: “This show, if you could hear it, would sound like gunshots and guitars; taste of hot red chilies and icy Coca-Cola.” More problematic is his assumption that Latino artists cannot be academically trained and spiritually authentic. This document is representative of the double standard in terms of this mainstream reviewer’s rigid application of training as a detriment to artists of color, one that is not applied to non-ethnic, academically trained artists who also incorporate elements of spirituality in their work. It is also a good example of the superficial application of aesthetics and art historical criteria within reviews of non-Western European art in the United States, which is noteworthy when one considers that the Washington Post is one of the nation’s most respected newspapers. The exhibition was curated by Amalia Mesa-Bains, an artist and cultural critic. For a review written by Richard about the 1995 exhibition of work by the Chicana artist, Carmen Lomas Garza, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, see doc. No. 849495.