Sanctuary and Home

The concurrent exhibitions Sanctuary, featuring work by the American artist Andrea Bowers, and Home, presenting work by the Guatemalan photographer Andrea Aragón, were meant to be seen in dialogue, each singularly providing a different perspective of immigration in this country. This dual presentation was the second iteration of The Neighbors, an exhibition series at The Bronx Museum of the Arts addressing cultural uprooting and belonging, as well as social mobility and political resistance.

Sanctuary included a selection of artworks from 2007 to date by Los Angeles-based artist Andrea Bowers. For developing most of her projects, Bowers collaborates with activists and advocacy groups. In creating the works included in Sanctuary, particularly, the artist worked with individuals and organizations fighting towards a more considerate and humane treatment to immigrants, whether documented. Bowers creatively participates in cause-driven efforts apart 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. For years, she has also drawn subject matter for her work from these kinds of events. One of the most socially committed artists working in the US today, Bowers intently recurs to figuration and citationality, a longstanding exploration by the artist on the politics and aesthetics of representation.

Neighboring Sanctuary in the same gallery space was the exhibition Home, featuring a selection of work by the photographer Andrea Aragón. For years, Aragón has been steadily documenting the effects of emigration from her native Guatemala, where the artist lives and works. The exhibition included a precise selection of work: nine photographs taken by the artist between 2000 and 2016. Mostly shot in rural areas within her country, her pictures present culturally hybrid traces connecting locals Guatemalans with their family members in the US. The photographs are individual and group portraits of people who present these traces, and these are organized under three basic groupings: uses of symbols, specifically the American flag; acquisition or markers of class mobility and acculturation, and; communication between those who leave and those who stay. All casual portraits, Aragón takes these portraits in the people’s immediate environment, whether these are inside their home, their vicinity or village streets.

These exhibitions were the second iteration of The Neighbors, guest curated by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy for the Bronx Musuem of the Arts. Central to The Neighbors is an investigation of the 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, on the one hand, shared yet delimited territories; on the other hand, 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. The exhibition series features work by artists Andrea Aragón, Firelei Baez, Andrea Bowers, Rochele Gomez, Ignacio González Lang, Margaret Lee, Irvin Morazan, and Alejandra Seeber. For each exhibition, the graphic designer Gerardo Madera is producing a gallery leaflet out of his Common Satisfactory Standard Print Shop.

The first exhibition of The Neighbors was Caza, featuring artworks by Gomez, Lee and Seeber. It took place from July 13 to September 25, 2016.

The second set, Sanctuary – Andrea Bowers and Home – Andrea Aragón, was on view from October 12, 2016 to February 12, 2017.