El Museo del Barrio’s Triennial Showcases ‘Latinx Art’

Joey Terrill, Black Jack 8. El Museo del Barrio Trienal BELatina Latinx
Joey Terrill, Black Jack 8, 2008. Courtesy of Artsy.com

There’s nothing better than getting back to “normalcy” with a powerful art exhibition. And El Museo del Barrio has seized the opportunity to open its doors with the first large-scale national survey of Latinx contemporary art.

Featuring more than 40 artists from across the United States and Puerto Rico, the exhibition originally scheduled for fall 2020 has opened its doors to revolutionize the contemporary art market.

As the Museum’s website explained, the exhibition initially debuted in summer 2020 with online projects, followed by an exhibition at Las Galerías opening in spring 2021.

ESTAMOS BIEN – LA TRIENAL 20/21 is inspired by the historic and acclaimed exhibitions The (S) Files held at El Museo between 1999 and 2013, which provided a platform for emerging Latino and Latin American artists from the New York metropolitan region. 

Reconceived as a triennial, the Museo del Barrio exhibition has expanded its reach to a national scale for the first time, including artists from California, Texas, Florida, Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, and the tri-state area. 

Using an intersectional approach to Latino identity, the curatorial team has selected artists representing diverse generations, genders, ethnic and racial backgrounds.

This first iteration of the triennial borrows its title, ESTAMOS BIEN, from the work of participating artist Cándida Álvarez, a former member of El Museo’s curatorial team in the 1970s and the only artist in the show with a previous exhibition history at the institution. Her painting Estoy Bien (2017) takes its title from the resilient and obliquely sarcastic response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. 

Now pluralized, the phrase resonates with the current moment, as the works in the exhibition address issues of racial and identity politics, gentrification, displacement, climate change, and the particular effects of the global pandemic for Latinx and other BIPOC populations.

Among the artists exhibited are Candida Alvarez (1955, New York), Lucia Hierro (1987, New York), Yvette Mayorga (1991, Illinois), Yanira Collado (1975, New York), Eddie R. Aparicio (1990, Los Angeles), and Carlos Martiel (1989, Cuba).

The curators are Elia Alba, a multidisciplinary artist; Rodrigo Moura, curator, writer, and editor; and Susanna Temkin, curator of El Museo del Barrio.

“One of the rules we did have was that the works had to have been created in the 21st century,” Temkin said in an interview with Artsy, adding that many works were made in the past two years.

On the use of the term “Latinx,” Alba said the exhibition seeks “a total reframing of the term.”

“We have to stop looking at Latinx as an identity. You can call it a placeholder, or a destination,” she said. “I think at this moment it’s the best way to think about this incredibly diverse group of people and understand that it’s not an identity. This simply starts the conversation.”

ESTAMOS BIEN – LA TRIENAL will be open until September 26.