New York City, NY
For the second iteration of The Neighbors at The Bronx Museum of the Arts, guest curator Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy organizes two concurrent exhibitions: Sanctuary, featuring work by the Andrea Bowers, and Home, presenting work by photographer Andrea Aragón. These dual exhibitions are presented in dialogue and provide alternative perspectives on immigration in the United States.
One of the most socially committed artists working in the United States today, Andrea Bowers collaborates with activists and advocacy groups in the development of most of her projects. In creating the works included in the exhibition Sanctuary, the artist worked with individuals and organizations fighting towards a more considerate and humane treatment of immigrants, whether documented or undocumented. Bowers creatively participates in cause-driven efforts apart from her own art making, but also as part of an expanded practice that encompasses and makes use of her artistic skills and cultural agency. One of the ways that Bowers has actively participated in these efforts is by investigating and sourcing, as well as by creating and documenting imagery, placards, and ephemera of historic and current demonstrations.
Sanctuary features a body of work inspired by the story of the once-undocumented immigrant Elvira Arellano, who took sanctuary in a church in Chicago. Ms. Arellano, who Bowers interviewed for the creation of her work, was separated from her American-born child Saul when deported in 2007. The exhibition also presents a series of drawings from Bowers’s 2010 installation No Olvidado (Not Forgotten). Made in collaboration with the volunteer organization Border Angels, the work lists the names of individuals who have died while crossing the United States-Mexican border as a form of memorial.
The exhibition Home includes nine photographs by Andrea Aragón taken between 2000 and 2016. For years, Aragón has been steadily documenting the effects of emigration from her native Guatemala, where the artist lives and works. Mostly shot in rural areas, her images present the cultural connections that exist between local Guatemalans and their family members in the United States. Featuring individual and group portraits, the photographs are organized under three basic groupings: use of symbols, specifically the American flag; acquisition or markers of class mobility and acculturation; and communication between those who leave the country and those who stay behind. Aragón takes these portraits in the people’s immediate environment, whether inside their home, their neighborhoods, or village streets.
The exhibition series The Neighbors investigates artistic concerns and visual languages dealing with identity, an issue tackled less as a personal exploration of ethnicity alone than as an examination of the ways in which social classes are constructed and their divisions purportedly manifested. As the title may suggest, the series explores shared yet delimited territories, as well as the fact that the participating artists in the exhibition are in close proximity to (closely related, perhaps, although not exactly inhabiting or native of) the communities that they are working with or representing in their work.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.