Welcome to Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture, the first peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to visual and material cultures in Mexico, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, the United States, and those in diaspora, published by the University of California Press. Its geographical scope and chronological span are wide-ranging and encompassing. LALVC publishes scholarship from the ancient Americas to the contemporary moment. For the first time, scholars working in these areas have a venue for publishing the latest research in art history, design, material culture, architecture, film, media, performance art, museum studies, popular culture, fashion, public art, and artivism. With the recent spectacular growth in research and exhibitions on Latin American and Latinx art, the increasing visibility of Latin American culture on the world stage, and demographic changes in the United States, where 18 percent of the population is now defined as “Latino” or “Hispanic” by the US census, the time has come for a journal like LALVC.

The moment is historic.

The cover of this issue captures the journal’s fresh, forward-looking approach. A repeating black and gray design, based on a Panamanian mola textile created by the Kuna people, forms the background. Against that, bold and vibrant letters spell out the title, their paint-rolled-texture evoking activist or street art. The prominence of the word “LATINX” and the use of “X” instead of “o” or “a/o” or “@” proclaim inclusiveness and question the gender binary. The decision to include Latinx art was carefully considered. It’s not that Latin American and Latinx art are the same—it’s that putting them into conversation can be a powerful way to break down nationalist categories in favor of hemispheric conversations. Rather than reifying geopolitical categories wrought with socioeconomic and racial tensions, LALVC is a forum for debating what Latin American and Latinx visual cultures have been and what they can be in the future.

JOURNAL FORMAT AND SUBMISSIONS

LALVC will be produced four times annually in an online format with individual issues made available in hard copy via print on demand. LALVC features three regular sections: long-format research articles, a “Dialogues” section, and book reviews. Each issue presents a diverse collection of research articles, plus illustrations, accompanied by an author biography and an article abstract with keywords in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. The thematic “Dialogues” section, curated by a guest editor and composed of shorter pieces by various authors, addresses current issues in the field; the number and type of contributors will vary but can include state-of-the-field assessments, topical discussions, and artist interviews. Each issue incorporates book reviews representative of the journal’s geographical and historical range, representing a diverse spectrum of authors and types of publications. LALVC provides a forum for scholars, artists, critics, and museum professionals to collectively analyze, debate, and discuss Latin American and Latinx visual culture across national and linguistic boundaries that in the past have limited the opportunity for productive dialogues. This visual material is as diverse as the people who make it, study it, and exhibit it.

LALVC is managed by a senior editor and administered by an associate editor working in partnership to achieve the goals of the journal, in addition to a book reviews editor, Aleca Le Blanc. The senior and associate editors initiate and supervise the double-blind peer review of all submissions. LALVC is additionally supported by a large editorial board (with twenty to twenty-five members) reflecting a cross section of the field with expertise in ancient, colonial, modern, contemporary, and Latinx visual cultures. Board members from outside the United States are well represented. Editorial board members participate in directing LALVC toward achieving its proposed goals, play an integral role in the peer review process, and advise the editorial leadership.

We welcome submissions from academic, museum, and other professionals in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Indigenous languages to make the most compelling new scholarship available to the widest readership possible. We employ a rigorous double-blind peer review process, the academic gold standard, and accept submissions on a rolling basis. LALVC increases the visibility of Latin American and Latinx visual production, its multidimensional history, and its contemporary cultural relevance. For inquiries about submissions, please contact us at lalvcsubmissions@ucpress.edu.

THE NEED FOR THE JOURNAL

For decades members of the Association of Latin American Art (ALAA) had considered the viability of an academic journal focused on Latin American art, with discussion later turning to also including Latinx art.1 In March 2016, under the direction of then-president Elisa Mandell, ALAA convened a steering committee to discuss a journal, which initially included Derek Burdette, Emily Engel, Michele Greet, Patrick Hajovsky, Margaret Jackson, Patricia Sarro, Lisa Trever, and Charlene Villaseñor Black. During this initial exploratory period, ALAA identified the need for a scholarly journal in the field of Latin American and Latinx visual culture and precipitated our involvement in the project in February 2017 at the ALAA business meeting during the College Art Association (CAA) annual conference.2 

We began the process of founding LALVC with an extensive period of rigorous research and data gathering on the state of the field. We found that the study of Latin American and Latinx visual culture is burgeoning and has undergone exemplary growth in the twenty-first century. In 2015–16, CAA, the leading academic society for visual culture and visual culture history, had 317 members identify their primary area of focus as “Latin American/Caribbean visual culture” or “Pre-Columbian visual culture.” Forty-two of those members were international, including Puerto Rico, with the highest concentration from Mexico and Brazil.3 In 2017, CAA recognized the US Latinx Art Forum, founded in 2015, as an affiliated society, which entitled it to a yearly session at the conference. Both fields are poised to continue expanding in the coming decades. As of 2015, ninety-five colleges and universities offer graduate studies in Latin American visual culture (forty-five PhD programs, thirty MA programs, and sixteen additional schools with Latin American field specialists).4 CAA reported 147 dissertations completed in Latin American visual culture between 2007 and 2017; twenty-three dissertations in progress were classified as focused on “Latin American/Caribbean visual culture” as of December 2017.5 The number of panels dedicated to Latin American and Latinx visual culture is also on the rise at the CAA national conference. At the upcoming 2019 convening in February there will be Latin American and Latinx panels every single day, for the first time ever.6 

Yet in contrast to other subfields of visual studies, there has not been a journal dedicated to Latin American or Latinx visual culture. European (or “Western”) visual culture is widely published in major journals of the field, including Art Bulletin, Art Journal, Oxford Art Journal, Art History, and dozens of specialized journals, such as Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art, Oud Holland: Quarterly for Dutch Art History, Renaissance Quarterly, Sixteenth Century Studies Journal, I Tatti Studies in the Italian Renaissance, Notes on Early Modern Art Journal, and Italian Studies Journal, among others. Furthermore, non-Western fields are well represented in Archives of Asian Art, African Arts, Nka Journal of Contemporary African Art, and Journal of African Art History and Visual Culture. LALVC is the first comparable journal for the study of Latin American and Latinx visual culture.

With no journal dedicated to our field, most scholars, artists, and museum professionals of Latin American and Latinx visual culture have published their analyses in interdisciplinary journals, leaving groundbreaking scholarship scattered across the literary landscape and placing submissions in competition with hundreds of applicants in publications that may not specialize in art or visual culture. For example, the leading academic art history journal, Art Bulletin, publishes four issues annually with between four and five long-form articles per issue. Between 2000 and 2015, it published thirteen articles on Latin American topics, and none on Latinx, an average of less than one article per year. These numbers began to improve in 2016 and 2017, when it published two articles each year. Latin American Research Review, the journal published by the Latin American Studies Association (LASA), which has almost ten thousand academic members and was founded in 1966, has received fifty-four submissions on topics in the humanities and published no articles related to the history of art or visual studies.7 LASA is, however, expanding its reach as an organization into the visual and performing arts by establishing a dedicated caucus on the subject.

Between 2007 and 2014, members of ALAA, the affiliated society for members of CAA interested in Latin American and Latinx visual culture, self-reported an average of thirty-five articles per year.8 The majority of these appeared in research publications that broadly address Latin American issues, such as Colonial Latin American Review, RES, and The Americas. Scholars publishing on Latin American and Latinx visual culture topics have had to rely on historical, anthropological, archaeological, and Latin American studies journals to publish their work in the absence of a journal dedicated to publishing academic research on Latin American and Latinx visual culture. As evidenced by the Latin American Research Review statistics, opportunities to publish in general historical or anthropological journals are limited by interdisciplinary competition. Additionally, interdisciplinary ethnic studies journals have published on Latinx visual culture, most notably Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, published at the University of California, Los Angeles, which has printed more articles on Chicana/o (Mexican American) and Latinx artists than any other scholarly journal.9 

In the last decade, scholars of Latin American and Latinx visual culture have increasingly turned to publishing collective essay volumes. While these volumes produce compelling dialogues on topical subjects, they cannot supplant the need for a research journal that releases content on a more frequent basis, without subject matter constraints. Finding venues to publish on Latinx visual culture is similarly challenging. With more PhD students and full-time professors producing academic scholarship, working in an environment predicated on the need to produce high-quality publications on a regular basis, LALVC provides a necessary space for the circulation of this new research.

A similar trend is evident in the museum world. The massive Getty-sponsored initiative Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, which took place in 2017–18, showcased eighty exhibitions on Latin American and Latinx visual culture. In 2016, the city of Chicago hosted the “Spring of Latino Art,” with forty-five exhibitions; a similar event is planned for Houston in 2019 to accompany the conference “¡Latino Art Now!” sponsored by the Inter-University Program for Latino Research and the Smithsonian. Recently, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York appointed new curators of ancient American, colonial Latin American, and modern and contemporary Latin American art. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art now includes, in addition to Diana Magaloni, director of the Program for Art of the Ancient Americas, curators who specialize in all areas of Latin American art, from colonial to contemporary, as well as Latinx art. In the last several years, a number of curators specializing in contemporary Latin American and Latinx art have been hired across the United States—at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles; and the DePaul Art Museum, Chicago. In 2017 the Smithsonian American Art Museum elevated E. Carmen Ramos, a specialist in Latinx art originally hired in 2010, to deputy chief curator and curator of Latinx art. In 2016 the Vincent Price Art Museum in Monterey Park, California, named its first Latina director, Pilar Tompkins Rivas, a specialist in contemporary Latinx and Latin American art. In 2017 Miki Garcia, a specialist in contemporary Latin American and Latinx art, was made director of the Arizona State University Art Museum.

LALVC affords greater visibility for Latin American and Latinx visual culture. The journal is an aggregate source for the most important scholarly studies focused on this critical component of the history of art and visual studies. One of our editorial board members, Mari Carmen Ramírez, thoughtfully sums up the significance of LALVC to the field:

Such a journal will stimulate scholars, curators, and visual practitioners to leave their academic and professional silos and explore artistic connections that cut across temporal, geographic, and disciplinary borders. Only in this way can the affinities as well as the differences that characterize artistic creation across the Americas be brought to light. At a time of great political urgency in the Americas as a whole, only this type of transdisciplinary and transcultural journal can delve into the complexities of these ascendant constituencies.10 

LALVC puts visual culture, historical scholarship, and contemporary artistic analysis in dialogue in an unprecedented way through the dynamic juxtaposition of the most interesting and relevant analyses of Latin American and Latinx visual culture, regardless of language or country of origin.

As we shepherd the first issues into production, we are thankful for all the collegial encouragement we received along the way, as well as for the work of our predecessors in the field. Without their dedication to the study of Latin American and Latinx visual culture for generations before us, our work here would not have been possible. We are also grateful to all of our dedicated colleagues who provided unflagging support during the process of bringing LALVC to print, including our expert editorial board, the members and leadership of ALAA, the anonymous peer reviewers of the proposal and submissions, and everyone who has contributed to the content in this and future issues. We have worked closely with David Famiano, journals publisher at the University of California Press, to create a rigorous academic journal that will serve as a scholarly platform for high-quality original research studies, a forum for dynamic intellectual debate, and a vital source for information on the current state of the fields of Latin American and Latinx visual culture. We invite all of our readers to contribute their work: as authors of research articles, as editors and contributors to future “Dialogues,” and as book reviewers. LALVC is a collaborative endeavor that can only thrive in the future with the continuation of the collegial dedication that allowed us to bring this first issue into print.

1.
Emily Engel would like to thank Ananda Cohen-Aponte and Elisa Mandell for enthusiastically supporting the journal and for generously facilitating a dialogue with ALAA between 2014 and 2015.
2.
Information based on Emily Engel’s interview with past ALAA President Elisa Mandell of California State University, Fullerton, on September 12, 2018.
3.
Personal communication with Daniel Tsai, CAA programs and publications administrator, September 14, 2018.
4.
Adriana Zavala, “Latin@ Art: Art at the Intersection,” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies 40, no. 1 (Spring 2015): 130.
5.
Personal communication with Daniel Tsai, CAA programs and publications administrator, September 14, 2018.
7.
Latin American Studies Association 2013–14 annual report, accessible at https://lasa.international.pitt.edu/eng/about/files/LASA-AnnualReport-2013-14.pdf.
8.
During the same period (2007–14), members also self-reported on average per year the publication of eighteen new monographs and the production of seventeen museum exhibitions focused on Latin American and/or Latinx art and visual studies.
9.
See Charlene Villaseñor Black, “New Fronteras,” Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies 41, no. 2 (Fall 2016): 13–22, which tracks publications in the field of Chicana/o visual culture since the 1960s.
10.
See the journal’s home page at the University of California Press website, http://lalvc.ucpress.edu/.