La Frontera =The Border : art about the Mexico/United States border experience. -- San Diego, CA : Centro Cultural de la Raza : The Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, 1993.
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.
In this essay, curator Patricio Chávez discusses the sociopolitical and cultural conditions that led to the development of the 1993 exhibition entitled La Frontera/The Border: Art About the Mexico/United States Border Experience. He addresses the problem of multiculturalism and the institutionally entrenched prejudices that fuel “culture wars” and make a genuine and balanced multiculturalism impossible. Chávez describes the beginnings of the Centro Cultural de la Raza as part of the cultural wing of the Chicano Movement in San Diego, detailing the Centro’s commitment to the issue of border art in connection with the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (BAW/TAF). The Centro, along with members of BAW/TAF, began working with San Diego’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) to organize a collaborative show of border art in an attempt to develop a truly critical multicultural program. Chávez addresses the difficulties inherent in this collaboration, particularly as they relate to the differences between the organizations, albeit acknowledges the success of the project. He gives a brief history of the border region and the role of immigration policy in shaping public response to migrants in the U.S. So that Chávez underlines the struggle for land as one of the critical subject matters of the show. He argues that the concept of duality—central to the Chicano worldview—characterized the exhibition, which is visible in its attempt to eliminate the center/margin binary in favor of a more pluralistic celebration of the border, its history, and its art.
The exhibition, La Frontera/The Border was co-organized by Centro Cultural de la Raza’s curator Patricio Chavez and the curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, Madeleine Grynsztejn. As a unique collaboration between a large mainstream museum and a small community cultural center, it countered the prevailing trend in the late-1980s and into the 1990s of major museums co-opting Chicano border art and turning “the border” into a strictly metaphoric, non-political concept. Though not exclusively comprised of Chicano/Latino artists, the La Frontera/The Border exhibition maintained the focus on the border as a geographical site and on its intrinsic sociopolitical reality. Despite the critics and the controversy surrounding the topic of the U.S./Mexico border, the essay attests to the degree to which the show functioned as a true critical and collective effort between the two organizing entities, therefore becoming a model for other institutions. Also see catalogue essays by both co-curators Patricio Chávez and Madeline Grynsztejn (doc. no. 809326), and individual essays by Grynsztejn (doc. no.809400), as well as Texas author Gloria Anzaldúa (doc. no. 809763), and San Diego artist David Avalos (doc. no. 809415).