Art and Chicano/Chicana

$29.95 paperback

Add to Cart

Exhibiting Mestizaje: Mexican (American) Museums in the Diaspora

Karen Davalos

In this authoritative study, Davalos challenges the sometimes hidden, sometimes blatant assumptions that underlie the practice of creating museum exhibits, and asks what happens when people of Mexican (American) descent put themselves in command of the collection, display, and interpretation of their cultural products.

Advancing a Chicana feminist interpretation, Davalos carefully explores both the history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century museum practices and the more recent phenomenon of physically locating Mestizo/Chicano art within "insider spaces," (such as ethnically or racially specific cultural institutions and alternative galleries). Just as public museums instruct visitors about who does and who does not belong to a nation's cultural legacy, Davalos makes clear that exhibitions in so-called minority museums are likewise shaped by notions of difference and nationalism and by the politics of identity and race.

Davalos pays particular attention to museum and cultural centers in major Mexican diaspora communities, including the Mexican Fine Arts Museum in Chicago and Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco. Throughout she critically examines Chicano, Mexican, Mestizo, and Mexican American subjectivities as they are expressed in curatorial decisions and practices, in educational materials and catalog texts, and in the performances and other public events that accompany museum exhibits. That practice--what Davalos calls "exhibiting mestizaje," produces complex representations of Mexican (Americans). Davalos's analysis shows clearly that the value of mestizaje and diaspora lies in their ability to create a cultural poetics from fluidity and conflict.

"Davalos accomplishes the difficult task of discussing Chicano art as both aesthetic and political work. She does not reduce artistic expression to political propaganda, but neither does she examine aesthetic issues in isolation from the social processes that give them shape and meaning.--George Lipsitz, Chair, Ethnic Studies Department, UC San Diego


Karen Mary Davalos is assistant professor of Chicana/o Studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She won a Smithsonian Institution Latino Studies Fellowship in 2000.


"Davalos's exciting, nuanced study makes . . . significant contributions to the history of Chicano/a art. She provides an innovative new approach that circumvents traditional binary judgements of Chicano/a art as either folkloric or Marxist. . . . "


Art Journal

" Exhibiting Mestizaje is a deliberate, well-developed book. The narrative is densely written but worth every effort to read with care."


Southwest BookViews

". . . Exhibiting Mestizaje is a must-read for any cultural critic, art historian, or native ethnographer . . . (it) contributes to the ongoing dialectic in a highly readable, theoretically sophisticated, often-brilliant text."


American Studies

" Exhibiting Mestizaje is an important work and, because of Davalos's strong and sustained critique of Chicano nationalism, is also likely to be controversial. It offers both a rich, in-depth case study of a highly regarded Mexican cultural institution, the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in Chicago, and a critical study of Chicano/a art that recognizes the complex representational practices of people of Mexican descent. Davalos draws on different theoretical models from multiple disciplines. As a result, the book will undoubtedly make a lasting contribution to the field of museum research and studies, gender stidies, Chicano/a studies, cultural studies, and art history. . . Davalos has contributed a very important body of work in Exhibiting Mestizaje."


Aztlán: UCLA Chicano Research Center

6 x 9 in. 274 pages 17 halftones