Review: Cultural Cousins: a show of Latinx and Filipinx artists at ChaShaMa
Cultural Cousins: a show of Latinx and Filipinx artists
ChaShaMa, 320 West 23rd St, New York, New York 10011
July 2–13, 2019
This show featuring work by ten artists stages a dialogue between Latinx and Filipinx visual cultures. Co-constituted first by Spanish colonialism and then U.S. neo-imperialism, these heterogeneous cultures share material histories and structures of feeling made legible by the work of these artists.
What moved me most about this collection of work was the emphasis on the materiality and tactility by which we recognize each other and our pasts: tribal patterns in the work of Donnabelle Casis, the texture of banana leaves and the bright pops of plastic food wrapping from dried mango and shrimp chips from Jeanne F. Jalandoni, and the mise-en-scène of a living room staged with gilded silver picture frames and wooden carvings of animals (staged by Jalandoni). Other Proustian sights for me included piano benches used as extra seating and the grotesque baroqueness of heavily frosted cakes and ceramic figurines from Maria Liebana.
Jalandoni, who also curated the show, has several works that accentuate tactility through textiles. “Under the Same Mosquito Net” highlights the poignantly mismatched printed linens of the family bed, while “Family Photo” combines photography, paper drawing cut-outs, woven banana leaf, and various fabrics to evoke a family memory that is literally stitched together (with neon pink thread) from multimedia. Max Sarmiento’s bright, plaintive paintings make flatness touchable, quoting Matisse, Faith Ringgold, and South American folk art.
“Cultural Cousins” doesn’t take pains to neatly identify who is Latinx and who is Filipinx. It suggests and questions, rather than outright argues for, a family resemblance. Maia Cruz Palileo’s striking “The River Crossing” paints a group of people leading a water buffalo across an indeterminate jungle. Likewise, Emely Francesca Perez’s necklaces assemble objects that confuse assumptions about their origin: “Cacahuate” includes peanut shells, carved bone, yarn pom poms, elm leaves, palo santo, a buddha icon, and Catholic imagery. Locatable neither as Asian nor Latinx, they read somehow as both, encapsulating the syncretism that marks the artist’s Mexican-Korean self-identification.
The comparative mode of this show complicates stale discussions of identity that rely on geographic boundaries and nationalisms to find internal coherence. By focusing on materials and their usages, it is a reminder of the shared “roots and routes” of people, objects, and thoughts borne out of centuries of imperialism.