Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

In this feature on the Cuban-American artist Paul Sierra, Jeff Huebner writes the artist’s biography, his recent ascent in the mainstream art world, and the attendant conflicts that arose in relationship to his status as a Latino artist. Huebner depicts Sierra’s paintings as expressionist and narrative, and notes that they often show doors and windows. He also writes that Sierra’s paintings speak to the illusory nature of reality and address universal issues such as the disorienting and alienating experience of contemporary life. Huebner notes that, while Sierra’s ascendancy in the art world coincided with the latest wave of interest in Latin American and Latino art, Sierra says he has never tried to paint Hispanic art and clearly feels ambivalent about the recent “Latin American art phenomenon.” Huebner also notes that Sierra has been criticized by members of Chicago’s Latino community for what they claim is pandering to the mainstream and for not advocating more for Latino artists when he was a juror for the controversial Chicago Show. Throughout the text, Huebner quotes the artist extensively, as well as local critics and Sierra’s dealer.

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This feature on Cuban-American artist Paul Sierra, which was written by the Chicago-based critic and reporter Jeff Huebner, appeared in the January 17, 1991, issue of New City. Sierra was born in Havana, Cuba, and moved to Chicago with his family in 1961, where he attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and where he currently resides. He has exhibited extensively and his paintings are in the permanent collections of major museums in the USA including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Snite Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, among others. This document addresses the topic “Resisting Categories: Latin American and/or Latino” because of its consideration of the complexity of Sierra’s identification (or lack of) with the label “Latino.” It addresses the topic “Issues of Race, Class, and Gender in the Visual Arts of Latino-America” by considering both the success and criticism Sierra experienced because of his position as a Latino artist.

Researcher
Victor Alejandro Sorell, Gabrielle Toth; Harper Montgomery collaborator
Team
Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA
Credit
Courtesy of Jeff Huebner, Chicago, IL