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East LA exhibit features Latinx artists using sound: NPR


“Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” exhibition at the Vincent Price Art Museum in East LA

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East LA exhibit features Latinx artists using sound: NPR

“Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” exhibition at the Vincent Price Art Museum in East LA

Mandalit del Barco/NPR

An East Los Angeles museum is showcasing the sound work of Latino artists and artist collectives in an exhibit titled “Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art.” The show spans generations and genres, including experimental and avant-garde artists, spoken word artists and pop musicians.

“What’s emerging is this really interesting polyphonic expression of sound in our culture,” says Joseph Valencia, one of the curators of the Vincent Price Art Museum, located on the campus of East LA College. “The art in this exhibit engages with history, engages with community, political activism, art for identity formation, cultural belonging, collective healing.”

Raphael Montañez Ortiz performs his piano destruction ritual as part of the LA Art Show in 2017.

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Three floors of galleries open onto the work of Pauline Oliveros, a post-war experimental and electronic musician and composer, known for her work on the accordion and for having developed concepts around “deep listening”. Valencia says Oliveros’ work is important “because it shows a queer female figure who was really challenging the norms of musical composition at the time and really creating space for people like her.”

Much of art is political. A video by artists Guillermo Calzadilla and Jennifer Allora shows activists ‘reclaiming’ the island of Vieques, Puerto Rico, after it was used as a US military testing ground. In it, a character rides a motorcycle around the island, a trumpet attached to the exhaust pipe, the sounds meant to echo the bomb blasts heard on Vieques for nearly 60 years.

East LA exhibit features Latinx artists using sound: NPR

Ruben Guevara at the “Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” exhibition.

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East LA exhibit features Latinx artists using sound: NPR

Ruben Guevara at the “Sonic Terrains in Latinx Art” exhibition.

Mandalit del Barco/NPR

Other highlights include Raphael Montañez Ortiz’s destroyed piano, some of his practice dating back to the ’60s; the sound poetry of Ruben “Funkahuatl” Guevara; Penelope Uribe-Albee’s “Distant Lover,” which examines the impact of LA Art Laboe’s deejay responding to requests for songs for inmates from loved ones on the outside; and Project Ambos’ “96 Deaths,” a piece that uses the US-Mexico border wall as an instrument of tribute to the nearly 100 people who died trying to migrate.

You can listen to this story using the audio player at the top of the page.

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