We take this opportunity to reflect on the first year of publishing LALVC, plan for the future, and thank all of the contributors, peer reviewers, editorial board members, subscribers, and other supporters. The enthusiasm for LALVC's content, as revealed by submissions, subscriptions, mentions on social media, and in many personal interactions over the past year, reveals the importance of and need for a venue to publish the latest research on Latin American and Latinx visual cultures. We are delighted to partner with UC Press in this endeavor and look forward to year two.
To date, we've published fourteen original research essays, covering the entire chronology of art in the Americas: one essay on the ancient Americas, two on colonial times, one on modern (understood here as the nineteenth and twentieth centuries), five on contemporary, plus five on contemporary Latinx. Four different Dialogues have gone to press, curated by five guest editors and including twenty-two contributing authors, on an important array of cutting-edge topics, pushing the intellectual boundaries of our scholarship, as follows: The State and Future of Pre-Columbian Visual Culture Studies, Contours of Practice in Colonial Artworks, Addressing Diversity and Inclusion in Latin American and Latinx Art History, and the Visual Culture of Resource Extraction and Community Rights. Nineteen books and exhibition catalogues have been thoughtfully assessed in a carefully selected range of book reviews that encompass new scholarly titles, museum publications, and important studies that contribute to interdisciplinary dialogue in visual culture studies.
The contributors to LALVC are as diverse as their scholarship, and they represent the range of the field, as well as the potential for transdisciplinary collaboration. In addition to ten art historians, contributors to LALVC work in the fields of anthropology, archaeology, Chicanx and Latinx studies, comparative cultural studies, critical theory, film, Spanish and Portuguese, theater and performance studies, and women's, gender, and sexuality studies. Museum curators, educators, and conservators also wrote work published in volume 1 of LALVC. Artists, photographers, and activists brought important perspectives to the visual and theoretical material presented as well. Many LALVC contributors also “moonlight” as the directors of university centers and programs, podcasters, translators, performers, community organizers, and advocates. Our authors range from the most distinguished and established scholars in their fields to younger voices, including graduate students. Committed to training up young scholars, the editors employed a talented undergraduate, Miguel Samano of Stanford University, to assist in writing contributor's biographies. Creating a forum for this range of voices to both express themselves and create dialogue and intersection was the original mission of LALVC, and this will continue in volume 2.
It's a new day for the study of Latin American and Latinx visual cultures.
That was evident at the February 2019 annual meeting of the College Art Association (CAA), where Elizabeth Hill Boone, the Martha and Donald Robertson Chair in Latin American Art at Tulane University, was honored as the 2019 CAA Distinguished Scholar, the first Latin Americanist to be honored with this award. When asked for her thoughts on the field of Latin American art during the panel in her honor, she observed two major challenges facing the discipline of art history and visual studies: maintaining relevance and accounting for transcultural connections. Boone commented that “art history must articulate why it matters in these times.” Because more and more people are communicating almost exclusively through images by way of modern technologies, scholars of art history must work to, in Boone's words, “assert its place as a source of theoretical knowledge and of models for investigative practice.”1 Furthermore, as researchers begin to work between and among cultural traditions, global connections are made and reinforced. Boone's own research methodologies, projects, and interpretive strategies, as seen in her groundbreaking scholarship on Aztec, pre-Columbian, and colonial Latin American art, embody the globalism that she sees as one of the most exciting aspects of the field of art history and visual studies today.
The research essays published in the first year of LALVC have pushed visual studies forward in these two manners—articulating new theoretical paradigms and expanding the borders of the field. These two general trends demonstrate the desire to interrupt and challenge traditional disciplinary boundaries, in the process offering new investigative models to consider. A notable trend is an interest in critical race and gender studies. Afro-Latinx and Afro-Latin American topics are also well represented, another emerging, important subject area. Materiality, a trend in the humanities that dates back to the late 1990s and early 2000s with Bill Brown's description of “thing theory” and the 2013 consideration of the topic in The Art Bulletin, constitutes another vital avenue of inquiry.2 Several authors note the importance of conservation science to art historical understanding. Other submissions employ methodologies drawn from archaeology and iconography, revealing the continued vibrancy of these approaches. Contributors from varied fields, including literature, film, and ethnic, gender, queer, and cultural studies, offered new tools for expanding our visual knowledge. We see this wealth of approaches, theoretical tools, and new data in our publications this year.
Authors considered the body as archive or employed psychoanalysis in considering an artist's life; others examined censorship of Native art in the colonial era, the role of photography in telling migrant histories, the political power of maps, the relational nature of Black/Brown aesthetics, or how art can decenter Eurocentric understandings of history, making other histories—of enslavement, for example—newly visible. Others looked at bodily adornment in the ancient world, how reflective surfaces encode divinity, how public sculpture produces meaning, or the intertwining of art and activism in the contemporary world. Still other researchers challenged nationalist paradigms long entrenched in art historical study by centering hemispheric approaches to installation art or transnational feminist cultural studies, as in an essay on the body of Dominican actress Zoe Saldaña. Authors made queer visual histories visible. Important new knowledge was generated related to exhibitions and collecting expanded museum studies' engagement with art across the Americas. LALVC published submissions in Spanish, Portuguese, and English, with all abstracts presented in all three languages. Though we have yet to receive a submission in an Indigenous language, we look forward to future submissions achieving this milestone. Scholars from Brazil to Bolivia to Boston have turned to LALVC as a voice for the field.
Currently, the journal has over eighty institutional subscribers from around the world, and the reach of the journal continues to grow every day. Accessible through our online platform, LALVC is a digital humanities project that makes art historical and visual studies content available in innovative new ways. For example, the journal regularly publishes supplemental content that digitally aguments each issue. This feature allows scholars the flexibility to include moving images, multiple points of view, and previously unpublished content that would otherwise not be available to the field. The journal has also been able to extend its reach via social media, blogs, podcasts, and other forms of popular media, demonstrating the relevance of the field and engaging readers in unprecedented ways. Scholars whose work has appeared in LALVC are able to straddle the divide between traditional academia and popular culture as public intellectuals working from some of the most important universities around the world.
But our work is far from complete. We are at the beginning of a long journey. As Professor Boone stated, the fields of art history and visual culture studies must continue to assert themselves, and LALVC is committed to providing a forum where scholars can come together to push the boundaries of scholarly inquiry as they produce new knowledge.
LALVC has also emerged as an important forum supporting the work of public intellectuals. A number of essays, dialogue articles, and commentaries have ventured beyond the confines of academia to public calls for action, even activism. Contributors addressed the state of visual studies in the era of the border wall, diversity in academia, and the challenges (personal and professional) facing scholars of color in Latin American and Latinx art history. A commentary deliberated on the challenges facing us in the “post-truth” world; another confronted the politics of reproducing artworks. Our final Dialogue of year one addressed visual culture and activism centered on mining and resource extraction in the Americas. We are grateful for the “shout out” on the popular podcast, Latinos Who Lunch.3
LALVC's rigorous standards, profoundly critical approach, and reconfiguration of disciplinary boundaries have contributed to establishing its disciplinary legitimacy. The journal is now established as an essential tool for the discipline as it confronts the challenges of the twenty-first century. Providing an indispensable interface where scholars are able to present their in-depth scholarly work alongside leading-edge debates on the current state of the field, LALVC also champions alternative interpretive methodologies, transdisciplinary approaches, and multifaceted topics that encompass a broad scope of social actors. The journal is a space of including, one that is global in its content, conceptual framework, and reach. We look forward to the future of Latin American and Latinx Visual Culture and extend our thanks again to our supporters and contributors. ¡Adelante!