The Archives of American Art has collected primary sources that document the contributions of Latinos to the visual arts in the US since its founding in 1954. Both independently and with support from the Latino Center, the Archives’ permanent staff and a network of expert associates have conducted and collected dozens of oral histories of Latino artists, scholars, collectors, and curators in California, Texas, and Southern Florida since the mid-1990s. In 2015, I inherited a collection rich in Latino content on which I continue to build, now in the role of the Archives’ national collector. Some of the documents highlighted in this essay derive from acquisitions that predate my tenure at the Archives, while others entered the collection over the course of the two-year Latino collecting initiative I oversaw from 2015 to 2017. A common thread runs through each example: evidence that Latino art is integral to the story of American art. The Archives’ Latino holdings not only add quantitatively to the histories of American art legitimized at a national level by their presence at the Smithsonian, but also alter fundamentally the terms and categories we use in defining the field.
Read full essay here.