‘Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art,’ an Exhibition That Sheds Light on the Sound Creativity of Latino Artists

Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art BELatina Latinx
Image courtesy of the Vincent Price Museum of Art.

“When we separate music from life, we get art,” said the famous composer and music theorist John Cage. Like many of his contemporaries, Cage understood the importance of conceiving silence and sonority as instruments beyond music in its popular conceptualization.

John Cage’s reflections and compositions would give rise to what we know today as electronic music, whose beginnings can be traced to Latin America.

Just look at the work of Venezuelan artist Oksana Linde, who began composing electronic music more than four decades ago and has just released her first album at the age of 74.

Linde coincided with other artists such as Angel Rada, Miguel Noya, and Vinicio Adames, who are just a sample of the genius of Latin sound artists.

“Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” is one of the rare exhibitions that pay tribute to that creativity.

The Vincent Price Museum of Art exhibition in East Los Angeles sheds light on the sonic work of Latino artists and art collectives through a curation that blends generations and genres.

“What emerges is this really interesting, polyphonic expression of sound in our culture,” says Joseph Valencia, one of the curators at the Vincent Price Art Museum, located on the campus of East L.A. College, to NPR. “The art in this exhibition engages with history, engages with the community, political activism, art for identity formation, cultural belonging, collective healing.”

“Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” explores Latino sound practices from early avant-garde to new interdisciplinary art forms.

As the exhibition website explains, “Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” showcases an intergenerational roster of 30 artists and collectives that use sound in diverse and varied productions, including visual art, performance, spoken word, music, pirate radio, public protest, and social practice.

The works in the exhibition examine the medium and structure of various sound forms and address the role of sound in processes of racialization, resistance, identity formation, cultural belonging, and collective healing. Collectively, these artists and works underscore the function and malleability of sound as an instrument of creative expression and political intervention.

Notable figures include Pauline Oliveros (1932 – 2016) and Raphael Montañez Ortiz (1934), two prominent artists working at the intersection of experimental sound and performance art and addressing issues of listening and consciousness; and Gerardo Velázquez (1958 – 1992) of Nervous Gender and Rubén Funkahuatl Guevara (1942), two prominent Chicano interdisciplinary figures who branched out into rock and punk poetry and sound experimentation. The works of artists such as Raven Chacón, Guillermo Galindo, and Jimena Sarno offer contemporary approaches to sound and composition, drawing on their formal training to chart new directions within the visual arts.

The exhibition opened on April 30 and will be open to the public until the end of July.