A Decolonial Atlas: Strategies in Contemporary Art of the Americas

April 22, 2017 - July 22, 2017

Drawing from the hemispheric context of the Americas, and broad questions of civilization and culture, A Decolonial Atlas: Strategies in Contemporary Art of the Americas presents recent works by artists from the United States and Latin America grappling with continued questions of colonialism and postcolonialism in an effort to locate “place” in contemporary society. The exhibition highlights the medium of video as a critical tool for expanded narratives and immersive imagery, in addition to painting, photography, sculpture and works on paper.

Divisions between the "material" and "spiritual" development of culture, a distinction advocated by Alexander von Humboldt after his expedition in North and South America at the beginning of the nineteenth-century, untether inherited and ancestral knowledge formations from empirical observation. Such ethnographic accounts of the Americas by European colonizers are representative of the contested histories that have unfolded over past centuries, and which have replicated in the modern era under new geopolitical forces. In the twenty-first century, contemporary artists actively contend with this legacy to broach new discourses of decolonization. Foregrounding questions of place and positionality, these artists seek to unsettle established narratives through counter-hegemonic perspectives.

Structured around four thematic constellations, the artworks in this exhibition consider an alternative mapping of the region, charting new courses for the present and future. Works presented in the section Recasting Indigeneity subvert the exoticized view of indigenous cultures in the imperial gaze, by reasserting native identity formations, beliefs and practices situated in the contemporary moment. Rupturing a linear notion of time, works within Dislodging Time maneuver the viewer out of an ordered Gregorian clock into abstract cycles. In the section Countering Extractivism, featured works intercede the anonymity of state and private extractive economic practices to bear witness to the depletion of natural resources and methods of social control. Lastly, works within Intervening the Archive disrupt the official narratives of specific places and events, broadening the confines of the archive, from the contemporary, to the colonial, to the origins of conquest.

A Decolonial Atlas: Strategies in Contemporary Art of the Americas is organized by Pilar Tompkins Rivas. Artists in the exhibition include Iván Argote, Isabel Avila, Raul Baltazar, Tania Candiani, Carolina Caycedo, E.D.E.L.O (Caleb Duarte and Mia Eve Rollow), Ricardo Estrada, Martine Gutierrez, Pablo Helguera, Laura Huertas Millán, Carlos Motta, Paulo Nazareth, Camilo Ontiveros, Eamon Ore-Giron, Naufus Ramírez-Figueroa, Marton Robinson, Javier Tapia, as well as a selection from the museum’s permanent collection of historic Native American works.

Exhibition Tour Schedule

Aidekman Arts Center, Tufts University
January 16, 2018 – April 15, 2018

Mandeville Gallery, Union College, New York
January 19, 2019 – June 16, 2019

Installation Shots

Images by Monica Orozco