ARTE LATINO PARA TODOS
UT Austin’s Blanton Museum launches Latino art initiative with new galleries and exhibitions
¡Gracias a Dios, más arte latino en Austin! The University of Texas’ Blanton Museum of Art has just announced the launch of their Latino art initiative with two new gallery spaces set to open in March, plus a new exhibition to premiere in spring 2024.
According to a press release, the new initiative is supported by the gift and purchase of 5,650 artworks from former UT staff Dr. Gilberto Cárdenas and Dolores Garcia. An ongoing endeavor for six decades, the Cárdenas/Garcia collection has a large focus on Chicano prints from the 1960s and is one of the largest private collections in the world.
As a former professor at UT, Dr. Cárdenas has first-hand experience supporting Latino artists and promoting their art nationwide. Dr. Cárdenas previously donated to the Blanton in 2017, gifting over 350 prints from community arts center Self Help Graphics & Art.
Blanton Museum director Simone Wicha praised Dr. Cárdenas and Garcia for their continued support of Latino art in museums throughout the decades:
“Latino culture is an essential part of U.S. culture, especially here in the Southwest, and our shared commitment to representing and amplifying Latino history and voices through art prompted me to begin this collaboration with Gilberto and Dolores,” she says. “The new initiative is an important next step for the Blanton, which has been a leader in American contemporary art and holds one of the oldest and most distinguished collections of Latin American art in this country.”
The decision to house their Cárdenas/Garcia collection at the Blanton came from the museum’s long-standing commitment to the field of Latino art. Additionally, the museum will spend the next five years digitizing every artwork from the collection, donating a select number of works to other institutions around the country.
“The Cárdenas/Garcia collection at the museum will provide access to Latino art for the student body and faculty for discovery and research, in addition to serving as a resource for the Austin community,” Dr. Cárdenas and Garcia said in a statement. “We are confident that the research undertaken by the curatorial staff and the exhibitions and publications that result will represent a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge and understanding of this aspect of American art.”
The first rotation in the new Latino art-dedicated gallery spaces, Cara a Cara / Face to Face: Chicano Portraits from the Gilberto and Dolores Cárdenas Collection, will open in March and feature several Chicano artists’ paintings who “use portraiture as a form of personal, cultural, or political affirmation” as described in the release. Works displayed will come from artists like Claudio Dicochea, Esperanza Gama, Yolanda López, Linda Vallejo, and many more.
The Blanton also received a five-year grant from Latino art initiative Advancing Latinx Art in Museums to hire a dedicated associate curator. The curator will serve as an essential aid in documenting and exhibiting the Cárdenas/Garcia collection, while also working directly with faculty to support Latino studies at UT through the development of educational and exhibition programming. The museum will seek to endow the position when the grant expires.
“Importantly positioned within the first Latin American art department to be founded in this country, this new curatorial position will expand the study and presentation of Chicano and Latino art, working closely with the Cárdenas/Garcia Collection,” said Vanessa Davidson, the Blanton’s curator of Latin American art. “The Blanton’s new dedicated gallery spaces will ensure that these artworks, as well Latino art more generally, have a constant, dedicated presence for museum visitors and for scholars who come from far and wide to research this landmark collection.”
A new exhibition in the Blanton’s Paper Vault gallery is anticipated in the spring of 2024, dedicated to the Cárdenas/Garcia collection and representing the significance of Latino artists’ printmaking and photography. Though the exhibit will have a special focus on Chicano artists, works will span several historical periods and cultural communities.
More information about The Blanton Museum’s new Latino art initiative can be found at blantonmuseum.org.