Contesting Freedom: “Pop América, 1965–1975” Curator Conversation with Esther Gabara [Video]

The ground-breaking exhibition Pop América draws attention to Latin American and US Latino/a artists who turned the “Pop” of Pop art into a verb by using familiar images of modern life—including mass media, fashion, food, and advertising—to make forceful interventions into art and society. On October 2, 2019 The Block Museum welcomed Esther Gabara, curator of  Pop América, for a discussion about the politics of Pop and the artists from across the hemisphere who shared dreams and struggles over the idea of a singular América.

Esther Gabara is E. Blake Byrne Associate Professor of Romance Studies and Art, Art History & Visual Studies at Duke University. She was joined in conversation by Alejandra Uslenghi, Northwestern Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese and Comparative Literary Studies, and Daniel Quiles, Assistant Professor of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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The Block Museum is pleased to provide the lecture recording with both English and Spanish captions.

Chilean artist Hugo Rivera Scott, whose collage Pop América provides the title for this exhibition, recalls, quote, “We always thought about it as “Explode America, blow up America.” In Rivera Scott’s telling, pop is an action. If we were to diagram the grammar of pop, it would be a verb rather than a noun or an adjective, a kind of popping that produces America as its direct object. Even if it had early proponents in England, Pop Art is indelibly connected with the image and idea of America.

This exhibit, I think, is the first to really delve into a fuller and deeper view of that Americanity. It’s a weird word, but it’s one that offers an idea of what that America is, the dreams for it, the struggles over it, and the relationships across that continent, that in Spanish is singular. America. It’s not Americas, plural, it’s just America, singular.

Rather than filling in the definition of an art movement or style, this is not an exhibit of Latin American pop in its difference or relative indebtedness or originality in comparison to better-known examples.In this exhibition, pop is a range of artistic activities that welcome viewers to an America comprehended as a single continent, and invites them, invites you to participate actively in its making.

Esther Gabara, curator of Pop América, 1965-1975

Images from the Evening

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