If the prescription for art history in the twenty-first century is to investigate and cultivate transcultural connections across the global cultural sphere, the essays presented in this issue of Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture exemplify the disciplinary possibilities this approach can enable. LALVC strives to be an inclusionary space that provides a venue for scholarly dialogue across disciplinary and national boundaries in a format that is accessible, dynamic, and engaging to students, artists, scholars, activists, professionals, and researchers.
The essays and Dialogues that open volume 2 of LALVC represent the range of the field of art history focused on Latin American and Latinx subjects today. This diverse scholarship is grounded in professional academic research, shaped by critical methodologies, and infused with the spirit of transdisciplinary collaboration. In this issue, a sociologist, a literary critic/historian, art historians, museum curators, and advanced graduate students from Oaxaca, England, Buenos Aires, Brazil, and California (publishing in English, Portuguese, and Spanish) speak to the movement of forms, concepts, styles, processes, and peoples across space and time. Their work shares a commonality in their focus on the transmission and transmigration of people, ideas, and visual forms.
Edward McCaughan's essay confronts border themes and draws attention to the impact of the border on the everyday lives of real people, as he outlines the development of a critical discursive imaginary that has taken shape along the USA-Mexico border from the 1930s into the present. McCaughan surveys an array of visual art, music, and literature from performance art, poetry, screen prints, ballads, small works on paper, photography, oil painting, and etching to digital media of the twenty-first century. The generations of activist artists whose work appears in this essay have taken their experiences of border issues, such as inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement, claims to territory, citizenship rights, and cultural legacies, to generate new ways of thinking about race, class, nation, gender, and sexuality.
The power of an individual person moving through space in a transitory fashion continues to resonate in Natalia Christofoletti Barrenha's piece. Christofoletti compares two contemporary Argentine films, Castro (2009) by Alejo Moguillansky and El asaltante (2007) by Pablo Fendrik. Both films, in wrestling with the displacement of contemporary individuals in urban spaces, produce skepticism about social stability and order. By focusing our attention on the sensory apprehension of traveling through spaces, Christofoletti demonstrates how the tense, quickly paced drama of the films capitalizes on the rhythm of cinematic events to reshape notions of escape and their conceptual possibilities in postmodern action film.
In the third scholarly essay of this issue, Keith Jordan turns our attention to the movement of form and iconography across pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. Jordan argues that the ancient Mesoamerican chacmool, which was a prevalent form in Early Postclassic Tula and Chichén Itzá, can be understood as representative of elite ancestors. Using architectural, iconographic, and material evidence, Jordan demonstrates how the representation of recumbent ancestors became a widespread ancient Mesoamerican tradition. His research shows that the form was present in many more contexts and with more variation in style and costume that reflect local adoption and transformation of the sculptural genre. The complex and fluid symbolism of ancient Mesoamerican chacmools indicates that social and intellectual boundaries were more porous than previously posited by scholars.
The Dialogues in this issue of LALVC are guest-edited by Idurre Alonso and Maristella Casciato, scholars of architecture and photography at the Getty Research Institute. Casciato and Alonso have gathered together four young scholars to reflect on the theme of encounters of power and architecture in Latin America. The transformation of the human experience through architecture and urbanism has shaped life across Latin America in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Leaders, architects, and individual users manipulate physical spaces to promote political power and legitimize rule. The Dialogues examine how political history, power, and architectural development have shaped modern and contemporary Latin American life. Grounded in current debates in Latin American architectural history, the scholars employ diverse interpretive strategies (printed materiality, Pan-Americanism, memory spaces, and Blue Cultural Studies) to address the erasing, representation, and building of rubrics of power. Camilla Querin's cultural history introduces two case studies, the Cais do Valongo and the Antigo Museu do Indio, to reflect on the problematics of memory spaces and monuments in contemporary Rio de Janeiro. Catalina Fara hones in on Horacio Coppola's modern book, Buenos Aires 1936: Visión fotográfica, which was designed to circulate images of urban life with the goal of cultivating an urban imaginary for the Argentine capital based on its urban transformation. Cristóbal Jácome-Moreno draws on books, magazines, and conference proceedings to show how the Eighth Pan-American Congress of Architects of 1952 was used by Mexico's Partido Revolucionario Institucional to legitimize its local power, while at the same time transforming Mexico into a key player in Latin America's modern urban transformation. Finally, Lisa Blackmore's Blue Cultural Studies project investigates how water-related projects were used by Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship in the mid-twentieth century to reinforce dictatorial power, reconfigure the spatial order, and modernize the Dominican Republic.
It is the new disciplinary burden of visual culture studies to demonstrate its relevance in an increasingly digital, interconnected world. As the essays presented in this issue of LALVC demonstrate, the study of Latin American and Latinx historical and contemporary images is a potent scholarly platform for the creation of new analytical models that produce fresh sources of theoretical knowledge. The transmission of these ideas and images shapes our collective cultural memory in a foundational way that goes beyond aesthetic appreciation to affect real social change.