Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección is El Museo del Barrio’s most ambitious presentation of its unique, complex, and culturally diverse permanent collection in over two decades. Organized by Rodrigo Moura, Chief Curator; Susanna V. Temkin, Curator; and Lee Sessions, Permanent Collection Associate Curator, the exhibition will present approximately 500 artworks, including new acquisitions and artist commissions, through rotating displays over the course of one year. Something Beautiful cuts across traditional chronological, geographic, and media-specific categories, reconsidering the Collection through new interdisciplinary approaches rooted in El Museo del Barrio’s foundational history and legacy. This forward-thinking model focuses on the contribution of Amerindian, African, and European cultures as the basis of visual production in the Americas and the Caribbean. See list of participating artists.
The first rotation of Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección is organized in eight sections plus seven artist spotlights. Themes and motifs reappear across sections to create a larger conversation throughout the exhibition. Sections include: Ocama Aracoel: Taíno spirits and forms and their influence on the Nuyorican art movement; Cosmic Visions: Indigenous and non-indigenous artists evoking Amerindian languages, landscapes, and other cultural references; First Impressions: Focusing on early acquisitions and the graphic portfolio in Puerto Rican printmaking; El Barrio: Different facets of life in East Harlem and other Barrios in New York, especially around the stoop, the sidewalk, and the bodega; The Street Transforms: Artists’ and activists’ interventions in public space; Pathos, Hope, Glory: Transhistorical portraits and self portraits of artists reflecting the diversity of the Latinx experience; Clothed/Unclothed: Artworks that explore, exaggerate, and deconstruct what it means to be male, female, neither, or both; and Abstraccionistas: The protagonism of women in abstract art, matrilinear traditions, opticalities and the framing of reality through abstraction. Artist spotlights will feature the works of Jorge Soto Sánchez (1947 New York, NY – 1987 White River Junction, VT); Alejandro Diaz (b. 1963, San Antonio, TX; lives in New York, NY); Papo Colo (b. 1947, Puerta de Tierra, Puerto Rico; lives between New York, NY and El Yunque, Puerto Rico); Antonio Lopez (1943, Utuado, Puerto Rico – 1987, Thousand Oaks, CA); and Myrna Baez (1931, Santurce, Puerto Rico – 2018, Hato Ray, Puerto Rico).
Artists Maria Gaspar (b. 1980 Chicago) and Glendalys Medina (b. 1979 Ponce, Puerto Rico) were commissioned to create new artworks reflecting and responding to Something Beautiful. Composed of a sculpture and new site-specific intervention, Medina’s Cohoba invites viewers into the cohoba ceremony, the spiritual center of Taíno life. As a diasporic Nuyorican artist based in East Harlem, Medina has repeatedly returned to how knowledge is transmitted and remixed and how social structures can empower individuals. Presented in Room 110, Gaspar’s presentation, Force of Things, includes a new body of work that marks the demolition of the largest single-site jail in the country, the Cook County Department of Corrections. This exhibition responds to the violent conditions of carcerality through sculptures, paintings, and videos that examine what is often unseen and invisible.
On the occasion of Something Beautiful, an accompanying publication drawing from the contributions of 45 invited speakers introduces new expertise about the Collection and its future. Published as a dialogic mosaic, the publication includes excerpted reflections about El Museo’s role in institutional ecosystems. Select contributors include: Beverly Adams, Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, Marcela Guerrero, Gala Porras-Kim, Yasmin Ramírez, Taína Travierso, Adriana Zavala, and Julian Zugazagoitia, among others.
Something Beautiful: Reframing La Coleccion is made possible by the Terra Foundation for the Arts and The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, with additional support provided by Tony Bechara. Public support provided by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs. Additional Permanent Collection funding provided by The Mellon Foundation.