Curatorial Statement

The 2011 special edition of Diálogo 365 – Casa de Venezuela's annual exhibition initiative since 2009 – commemorates the Bicentennial of Venezuela's Independence. An historical development of unprecedented magnitude, this sociopolitical movement came to fruition during the early decades of the XIX Century under the celebrated leadership of Simón Bolívar, The Great Liberator. At the same time, this significant event in our shared cultural heritage serves as a reminder of other parallel independence movements throughout Latin America that more or less coincided with this effervescent period in Venezuela's history. The chosen curatorial premise propelled us to focus on the current and rich Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean artistic production throughout the East Coast of the United States. Eventually, the search became wide enough for us to consider the work of three artists with artistic ties to Philadelphia and yet located elsewhere in the state of Texas (Jane Madrigal), and as far as Puerto Rico (S. Damary Burgos and Víctor Vázquez). Due to close personal ties to Casa de Venezuela, as well as in solidarity with the tremendous political struggles in her country of origin, a conscious exception was made to include the work of South African artist Michelle Marcuse, a member of Casa de Venezuela's Artistic Committee. This expansive flexibility signals a possible future for this annual exhibition as an artistic and dialogical project with a broader national and international outreach.

The combined multi-sited installations occupy different spaces in Crane Arts and Crane Arts Old School: The White Room and The Media Room in Crane Arts (1400 N. American St.), as well as The White Space and The Hall in the newly established Crane Arts Old School (1417-25 N. Second St.). The end result is a selection of new and recent work by twenty-eight emerging and established artists with a combined cultural heritage that represents fourteen countries. The 2011 Diálogo 365 demonstrates original versatility and eclectic cosmopolitan excellence in contemporary Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean visual arts.  Working closely as a team with the multitalented members of Casa de Venezuela's Artistic Committee, we were able to cull a series of new and recent works that respond to the ideals behind the struggle for FREEDOM, LIBERTY, and INDEPENDENCE as important symbolic forces driving the global movements for social change that began in Europe with the French Revolution, and went on to influence the revolutionary movements in the New World. This powerful triad became the thematic inspiration and leitmotif for the applicants to the Call for Artists we circulated during the summer of 2011; it served as a sounding board educating and facilitating our selection process, while allowing us to reflect on the myriad interpretations artists displayed in the works presented for our consideration. The three themes also represent related inspirational entry points that complement the elegant combination of artistic sensibilities and creative expression. It should not take long to realize these universal themes have not lost any relevance in our current world, in fact, they serve as poignant reminders of how much we have yet to achieve.

For many artists, their daily struggle is in fact the means through which they learn to create for themselves conditions, circumstances, as well as opportunities, to explore their understanding and interpretation of what freedom stands for, or how it manifests on superficial as well as profound levels of expression. The production of art and (in the case of the West) the quest for individualism through free expression, have more often than not been strong allies throughout modern history. During the last decade, contemporary Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean art and artists have experienced a tremendous resurgence in both measurable and intangible ways that can be traced back to the very early roots of modernism. Some critics have ventured to go as far as referring to the political tensions that reign “South of the Border” as key factors that give shape to a certain mystique – including, yet transcending mere exoticism – as an allure that has renewed the interest and attention on this artistic production on the part of: museum curators, avid art collectors, critics, art historians, cultural workers, social scientists, as well as the general public that visits galleries, art fairs, auctions, and other art institutions, whenever this art is on view and for sale. Following intermittent as well as constant patterns of globalized circulation, and reflecting on the sustained critical acclaim in a variety of fora such as: international biennials, art fairs, and competitions, it can be safely stated that this often contested art is currently one of the most desired and fashionable commodities in the global art market.

This exhibition will consider how all of these perceptions and apparent realities relate to the three themes of FREEDOM, LIBERTY, and INDEPENDENCE as powerful ideas and ideals in action. The bicentennial of Venezuela’s independence provides additional food for thought that stems from this country’s rich and complex history, the prowess and mythical proportions of its heroes, and its commendable efforts and struggles towards emancipation from colonial oppression and imperial geopolitics. Not less important, the curatorial impetus behind the 2011 Diálogo 365 is aimed at creating a relevant aesthetic experience that is timely, inspired, and inspiring, while highlighting three complex philosophical concepts as embodied manifestations of some of the most significant universal aspirations of humankind.

Anabelle Rodríguez-Lawton
Diálogo 365 Chief Curator

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