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    Between two waters : image and identity in Latino-American art / Mari Carmen Ramírez

    American visions/Visiones de las Américas : artistic and cultural identity in the Western Hemisphere. -- New York, N.Y. : ACA Books in association with Arts International, 1994.

    p. 8-18
    English; Spanish
    Book/pamphlet article – Essays

    Ramírez, Mari Carmen. "Between two waters : image and identity in Latino-American art." In: Jacob, Mary Jane, Noreen Tomassi, and Ivo Mesquita. 1994. American visions/Visiones de las Ame´ricas : artistic and cultural identity in the Western Hemisphere. New York, N.Y.: ACA Books in association with Arts International.

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In this essay, curator and art historian Mari Carmen Ramírez argues that demographic trends and the emergence of multiculturalism have generated renewed debate about the conditions for representation and identity among marginalized groups. While mainstream institutions have created limited opportunities for the inclusion of Latino artists, Ramírez states that they have also tended at the same time to blur distinctions between individual groups, and between Latino and Latin American artists. In particular, prevalent models of multiculturalism, whether pluralist or radical, tend to privilege race over matters of class, nation and ideology, and fail to account for differences between the position of minorities within the United States and that of artists working outside of this context. According to her, instead of an analysis of how each group constructs identity, multiculturalism offers a reductive notion of U.S. Latino and Latin American identity based on an experience of racism and oppression. She believes that paradoxically, it is through multiculturalism’s valorization of difference and cultural attributes that these artists are given access to mainstream institutions; an apparent openness that understands identity only in relation to dominant culture. To counter this tendency, Ramírez proposes an interdisciplinary approach that provides an analysis of identity beyond the dominant frameworks by accounting for hybridism, fluidity, contemporary practices, and shifting relations between the center and the margins.



In this essay, Ramírez focuses on the impact of multiculturalism on the perception of art from Latino and Latin American artists in the U.S. In contrast to other curators and art historians who celebrated the perceived acceptance of ethnic diversity and cultural expression on the part of mainstream institutions, Ramírez points to the negative ramifications, including the homogenization of all artists with roots in Latin America. For instance, while Mexican-American artists often work from a marginal and politicized working class orientation, Latin American artists often have middle or upper class backgrounds, and work in relation to multiple contexts between exile and country of origin. More importantly, aside from citing the detrimental effects on both artists and institutions, she offers an alternative paradigm based on curatorial practices with an interdisciplinary approach that operates outside of the values and control of the dominant culture.


Tere Romo.
Chicano Studies Research Center, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA