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 and art historian Susana Torruella Leval provides an overview of the development of Puerto Rican art institutions and artist activism in New York, from the 1950s to the 1990s. She argues that Puerto Rican artists have played key roles in preserving a Latin American presence in the United States. She observes that discourse on Puerto Rican art has been cyclical. In the 1950s, artists on the island of Puerto Rico were concerned with promoting national identity though the arts. In the 1960s, artists in New York City continued to focus the issue of Puerto Rican identity in their work, but did so as a form of protest of racial and ethnic discrimination. Leval observes that in the 1980s and ‘90s Puerto Rican artists were affected by the booming interest in exhibiting and collecting Latin American art in the United States. So that, the inclusion of Puerto Rican artists in exhibitions of Latin American and Latino art broadened their horizons and were a catalyst for more complex renderings of a hybridized and transnational Puerto Rican identity.
Born in Argentina in 1944 and raised in Puerto Rico, Susana Torruella Leval has been active as a curator and critic in New York City since the 1970s. She served as curator in several institutions devoted to Puerto Rican and Latin American art, including the Cayman Gallery, The Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (MOCHA), and El Museo del Barrio. Torruella Leval was first curator from 1990 to 1993, and then director, of El Museo del Barrio (1993-2002), and maintains the position of director emeritus.