By Samantha Iniguez
Vincent Price Art Museum partnered with The Huntington, inviting Carolina Caycedo and Mario Ybarra Jr. to construct The Huntington’s third exhibit of arts initiative /five.
After studying the Huntington’s Library, Art, and Botanical Collections, both artists designed their exhibit, keeping in mind the collections previously displayed while simultaneously sticking to their theme: the concept of identity.
Rituals of Labor and Engagement is the third of /five. The Huntington Library’s website states, “/five is a five-year project of contemporary arts initiative focused on creative collaborations.
“Each year, a different arts or cultural organization is selected to bring in artists to create works in response to The Huntington’s library, art, and botanical collections in new and unforeseen ways.”
Caycedo composed a video titled “Apariciones/Apparitions.” It shows brown, black, and queer bodies meant to be spirits of the past roaming through the library’s collections, practicing their cultural rituals and disturbing the peaceful displays of historically white spaces.
“I think of the collection as a time machine that captures, classifies, and manipulates the past.
History itself often leads to authenticity to a collection, giving it status. But what if the past rebels and becomes a force that now haunts the presents?” Caycedo says.
East Los Angeles College student Remmy Bravo says “Apparitions” was confusing until the message behind the video is read.
“The strong message then becomes apparent and more powerful,” Bravo says.
Displayed alongside Caycedo’s video were the photos she said she used to draw inspiration from. It includes images of plants, animals, California and its people as it progressed. The most thought-provoking photos were of brown and black people photographed tired and hopeless with nothing but one another during one of the nation’s vast displacement of minorities.
Caycedo also included self portrait photos of her close friend and photographer, Laura Aguilar. Aguilar photographed herself nude at a desert landscape, comparing her body to the shapes of the rocks.
Aguilar said the photos celebrate the beauty she possesses although it’s not up to par with Eurocentric beauty standards.
Ybarra’s portion of the exhibit displayed bright marker, ballpoint pen, and acrylic art. He sends messages of the good and bad going on in his culture through the use of urban Chicano vocabulary.
He also includes many Latin figures such as Mexican-American singer Selena Quintanilla, Pablo Escobar and El Chapo, “two of the most admired, fetishized, and despised drug lords of all time.”
In one of his drawings Ybarra takes on the modern struggles of hyper-capitalist times titled “Stacks of Bread.”
Ybarra says the stack of money depicts the message that the blue-collar workers of our nation still struggle to make a comfortable living despite working hard day to day.
The exhibition opened on Nov. 10 and remained on view until Feb. 25. Although it is no longer on display, there is a video about the exhibition and the artists on YouTube.