History of the Latino Art Now! Conference

The Latino Art Now! Conference was first held in New York in 2005 as the Assessment and Valuation of Puerto Rican, Chicano, Latino and Hispanic-American Art Symposium. The initial gathering was sponsored by the Appraisers Association of American, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, and the Inter-University Program for Latino Research (IUPLR) and focused on appraising Puerto Rican, Chicano, Cuban, Dominican, and other Latino/a Fine Art, to draw critical attention to Latino/a artists considered to be working outside the mainstream Latin American art world.

In 2008, as a response to processes of globalization impinged on the contemporary art world, the conference considered the decade of 2000 as one of demographic transition and shifting cultural paradigms in the United States. The growth of native born citizens, Latinos now constitute the largest ethnic group in our society, but as the conference organizers observed, the creative expression of the Latino imaginations were not being recognized, valorized, and integrated into mainstream narratives of American art.

The name of Latino Art Now! (LAN) was adopted by IUPLR as a moniker for the series of conferences that have ensued since. LAN has evolved into the leading national forum for artists, art professionals, educators, scholars, critics, and art dealers to periodically explore the contours of Latino art, its future directions, and its relationship to contemporary American visual culture. As such, the conference seeks to advance understanding, awareness and education of the value of Latino art as integral to American art and visual culture.

In the initial series, LAN explored the historical evolution of Latino art; the artistic manifestations of specific geographical areas: the Caribbean, Central American, South America, and U.S. Latino/a artistic expression and their inter-relations with North American visual culture; critical evaluation of the production of individual artists and artists’ groups; the U.S. Latino art infrastructure (community-based cultural organizations, culturally-specific museums, publications, teaching and training); theoretical and cultural framework in the presentation/reception of Latino art and media; and Latino art in the global context.

By early 2010 a larger number of exhibitions of Latino artists in museums and galleries worldwide were being held. There was also an increase in the publication of catalogs, books and online resources. The development of long term projects to recover and publish key primary sources and writings of artists were under way as well as the continued institutionalization of the field in academia with more institutions now granting M.A. and Ph.D. art history degrees in Latino Art. A presence of specialized art galleries catering to an ever expanding clientele composed of institutional, corporate and private collectors was complemented with the Commission to study the potential creation of the National Museum of the American Latino in Washington DC. Reflecting on the substantial growth of the emerging field in the previous five years Latino Art Now! The New Wave / La Nueva Ola was held in Los Angeles.

In 2013, LAN made it to Washington DC to the Smithsonian American Art Museum where it explored a new global moment in the internationalization of American art. The LAN conference Nuestra América: Expanding Perspectives in American Art questioned the extent of developments contributing to a wider, more comprehensive, global American art. It posed questions about the presence of Latinidad in American art in theoretical and methodological approaches; the presentation of Latino art in mainstream and culturally-specific museums; and given continuing demographic changes; asking how communities of Latino artists and art collectives shaped the current narrative; and in established communities, how their pre-1960 production was being re-assessed?

For the most part missing from the Latino art narrative and canons, the Midwest and Chicago was the site of the fifth conference to explore new perspectives on the transnational and global contexts of many Latino artists. The underlying tenet was the question if Latino art activity could be mapped within a larger transnational, hemispheric, and global context and discourse. New topics and themes were considered such as the global networks and intersections between Latin American and Latino art; artist’s artivisms and social practices; digital interventions; the city as site and source, queer Geographies of Latino Art, and art as an economic stimulus. For the first time, the conference featured a three month-long celebration of Latino art—The Spring of Latino where more than 60 local museums, galleries, cultural centers join in presenting Latino art and artists.

Scheduled for Houston in April 2019, the new edition of the Latino Art Now! Conference with the theme of Sight Lines and Time Frames will explore Houston’s and the nation’s vibrant contemporary art scene from the perspective that Latino art is an evolving notion traversing multiple generations and varying historical and social contexts. More than twenty museums, galleries and cultural centers have signed to join in the Spring of Latino in Houston, Texas.