These days, you are as likely to hear a foreign language spoken on any street corner in Indianapolis as you are in any other metropolitan area. The Latino community, if such a generalization can be made, speaks to the city"s growing diversity: and Carlos Sosa believes that it is a community of many voices.
From the exhibit, "AMOR: Latino Art in Indiana" at Dean Johnson Gallery.
Sosa, who conceptualized and co-organized the exhibit AMOR: Latino Art in Indiana at Dean Johnson Gallery, wants Indianapolis residents to know that Latin culture is more than Mexican food, salsa dancing, and street festivals. "What I wanted to do," explains Sosa, who owns a graphic design business here, "is present this community with a Latino event that wasn"t a street festival or a dance. I"ve been here for twenty years and I"ve seen the [Latino] community explode." The Latino community of which Sosa speaks in this case includes artists of Columbian, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Venezuelan, Mexican, and Dominican Republic descent; all of these artists now live in Indianapolis but claim Latino ethnicity. But Sosa is quick to correct anyone who might lump these cultures together. "There is no Hispanic culture," he says. "There is no Latino culture Ö We all speak Spanish, but we all speak the language differently." Sosa is speaking both literally and figuratively; art, in this case, is the universal language. Symbolically there are differences, rich layers of cultural traditions over centuries make each of these expressions unique. The exhibit, which includes the work of more than a dozen artists, is the first such effort for both the gallery and the city. Touted as the city"s first all-Latino art show, it calls attention to the fact that there is a strong Latino presence here and, further, that this presence is diverse. Bernie Carreno, a metal sculptor who teaches at the Indianapolis Art Center and whose work is included in numerous collections, is of Cuban descent; but his art, in this exhibit, includes tabletop-sized figures that have the rough-hewn, skeletal abstractness of the artist Giacometti. "Impotente (Powerless)" is an effective symbol of marginalization, both culturally and individually. Here, a female figure stands with arms splayed and blunted into stumps where her hands would be. She floats, footless. The more graphic-oriented work of Sosa, on the other hand, plays with stereotypes and cultural icons. "Papi Art: Goya meets Warhol" is a digital image of a can of Goya Red Kidney beans (Habichuelas Rosadas) - a la Warhol"s Campbell"s Soup. The quality of the art, overall, also reflects a diversity of expression: here, the work of self-taught artists such as Dolly Muniz of the Dominican Republic is hung alongside the work of Orlando Pelaez of Colombia, whose paintings reveal his artistic training and years of practice. Pelaez, in his own way, also addresses stereotypes: reflecting on cultural icons in much the same way as Native American artists do, his large-scale abstract-figurative paintings make ironic statements about mainstream acculturation that threatens to water down cultural uniqueness. "I think that overall the message is that the work is fresh," says Sosa, who grew up in New York City and is of Puerto Rican descent. "It all started with a couple of markers." These markers sketched the word "AMOR" in the shape of Robert Indiana"s "LOVE" image. While the exhibit closes at Dean Johnson on Nov. 7, a selection from the exhibition will open at Clowes Memorial Hall at Butler University from Nov. 8 - in tandem with Ballet Hispanico"s performance there - through Nov. 25. The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, call Carlos Sosa at 940-7672.