by Arlene Dávila. Duke University Press, August 2020. 264 p. ill. ISBN 9781478009450 (pbk.) $25.95.
Reviewed January 2021
Lindsey Reno, Acquisitions Librarian/Liaison, University of New Orleans, Earl K. Long Library, email@example.com
Latinx Art: Artists, Markets, and Politics critically examines how the contemporary art world interacts with Latinx artists and their work. It challenges the status quo, particularly of the contemporary art market’s focus on European artists, as well as the perception and promotion of Latinx and Latin American culture as monolithic. The volume draws from interviews that the author, Arlene Dávila, conducted over three years with artists, curators, and others in the contemporary art world. Her interviews focused on artists who are currently living and working and, as a result, the artists tend to be younger in age. The author defines the Latinx artist community to include those of Latin American descent who live and work primarily in the United States, principally those who have been marginalized due to lack of national privilege.
The author explores the exhibition and reception of Latinx art in terms of race, class, and nationality, particularly in relation to Latin American art. Through this exploration, she determines that Latinx art should be viewed as separate, outside of the framework of Latin American art, asserting that the focus on Latin American art results in a devaluation of Latinx art. Dávila examines the tendency of those in the contemporary art world to view Latinx art through the lens of European art, contending that Latinx artists often have their ethnicity minimized. She notes the lack of acceptance of Latinx artists within established art circles and the dearth of art dealers and curators willing to exhibit their work, and argues that racism, colorism, and colonialism play both defining and alienating roles in the Latinx art space.
Latinx Art is written from an anthropological perspective, but one of very relevant experience. Dávila, professor of Anthropology and American Studies at New York University, has contributed to the study of Latinx and Latin American culture for nearly twenty years, authoring many books and articles, including Latino Spin: Public Image and the Whitewashing of Race (2008), Latinos, Inc.: the Marketing and Making of a People (2012), and Contemporary Latina/o Media: Production, Circulation, Politics (2014). In addition, she is founding director of NYU’s Latinx Project, which promotes Latinx art, culture, and scholarship through programs such as exhibits and fellowships.
The volume includes a short section of color plates and is not otherwise illustrated. The book has two useful appendices: a list of Latinx artists and a list of additional resources, as well as extensive notes and references. Latinx Art is recommended for libraries in colleges and universities that teach art history at the graduate level, but it may also be appropriate for advanced undergraduates.