California’s twenty-one Spanish-Indian missions, founded between 1769 and 1823, span the length of the state from San Diego de Alcalá in the south to San Francisco Solano in the north. Vastly understudied yet featured in California’s K-12 school curriculum, they are the object of much romantic mythologizing, much of which upholds visions of a Spanish fantasy heritage past.1 The Dialogues in this issue of Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture critically examine the current state of this history and propose ways to rethink and decolonize the study of the art and architecture of the California missions. This focus on the California missions in LALVC may seem an unexpected one. How pertinent are California monuments to the study of Latin American or Latinx visual culture? Isn’t this arguably “American” art? Such questions highlight the instability of subfield categories and other art historical classifications. Inspired by this issue’s Dialogues, my commentary...
Rethinking Mission Studies
Charlene Villaseñor Black is professor of art history and Chicana/o studies at University of California, Los Angeles. She authored Creating the Cult of St. Joseph: Art and Gender in the Spanish Empire (Princeton University Press, 2006) and edited Tradition and Transformation: Chicana/o Art from the 1970s through the 1990s (University of Washington Press, 2015), among other books.
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Charlene Villaseñor Black; Rethinking Mission Studies. Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture 1 July 2020; 2 (3): 3–7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/lavc.2020.2.3.3
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