The editorial categories are research topics that have guided researchers during the recovery phase and continue to be the impetus behind the Documents Project’s digital archive and the Critical Documents book series. Developed by the project’s Editorial Board, each of the teams analyzed this framework and adapted it to their local contexts in developing their research objectives and work plans during the Recovery Phase. Learn more on the Editorial Framework page.
Victor Alejandro Sorell’s essay is a comprehensive study addressing more than one hundred twentieth-century Chicano and Mexican artists and collectives active between the 1960s and 1990s, including film and performance practitioners and activists, all of whom negotiated the highly complex, provocative, and topical subject of immigration. Sorell frames his discussion of these artists’ work with an analysis of the politics of immigration and Mexican and Chicano culture during the 1990s, citing the hostile political climate (i.e., the passage of Proposition 187 in California) as well as the link between immigration and culture, more generally, in the United States. He also contextualizes his discussion of the artists with a revisionist account of histories of immigration and culture in the United States, arguing that a cultural mestizaje and Mexican culture have been principles of U.S. culture beginning in the eighteenth through the twentieth century. Sorell’s analysis of artists focuses on the “iconography and semiotics of immigration,” paying special attention to the conflation of verbal and non-verbal imagery, which serves as a theoretical framework for the inquiry. Las Comadres, Terry Allen, Armando Rascón, and many other artists are discussed. Sorell closes by suggesting additional areas in need of research, including studies of art that addresses also the Canadian border and displaced artists from Latin America working in Mexico.
This essay by the Chicago-based activist and art historian Victor Alejandro Sorell was included in the book Culture Across Borders: Mexican Immigration and Popular Culture in 1998, edited by David R. Maciel and María Herrera-Sobek. In this essay, Sorell analyzes the work of artists addressing immigration and the border within the context of mainstream U.S. hostility to immigration and a history of a vital immigrant culture in the United States. His text brings to light the large number of artists responding to these issues since the 1960s, and also reveals the importance of Chicano and Mexican artists in the debates about multiculturalism and immigration that were generated during the 1990s as part of the so-called Culture Wars.