Estamos Bien – The Message from Latinx Artists at El Museo del Barrio

Now that museums have reopened, although still with restrictions, we can now get out to see some of the exhibitions we thought we might miss. One to put on your list available to view through September 26 is Estamos Bien – La Trienal 20/21 at El Museo del Barrio, at Fifth Avenue and 104th Street. 

There is nothing ho-hum or predictable about the works from more than 40 Latinx artists from across the United States and Puerto Rico. While many are playful, even humorous, there’s a more serious theme running through these artworks. Family is placed front and center either as part of the art or in notes that explain what inspired the artist. Social issues, of course, are given prominence. But the message comes through in the exhibition’s title – Estamos Bien – We are fine. That doesn’t mean that the struggles are over, but that hope, faith, strength, and resiliency will be present to push through the difficult time ahead. 

The title of the exhibition, and certainly the tone, was inspired by a work from one of the participating artists, Candida Alvarez, a former member of El Museo’s curatorial team in the 1970s, and the only artist who has a previous exhibition history with the museum. As stated in the exhibitions notes: “Her 2017 painting Estoy Bien (photo above) takes its title from the resilient and obliquely sarcastic response to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Now pluralized, the phrase resonates with the present-day moment, as the works in the exhibition address issues of race and identity politics, gentrification and displacement, climate change, as well as the particular effects of the global pandemic to Latinx and other BIPOC populations.”

Here are some highlights from the exhibition.

Genealogy of Struggle, Carolina Caycedo, 2021, Acrylic paint and marker on wall and various materials.
Credit: Courtesy the Artist. Mural painted by Lena Hawkins

Carolina Caycedo’s work focuses on the struggle for environmental justice. She is from Colombia where, along with Brazil and the Philippines, are the countries where environmentalists are most often murdered.

Defeat and Victory, Patrick Martinez, 2020, Stucco, neon, Mean Streak, ceramic, acrylic paint, spray paint, latex just paint, banner tarps, ceramic tile, tile adhesive, Plexiglas, vinyl decal, family archive photo collage, and LED sign on panel.
Credit: Collection of Ric Whitney and Tina Perry Whitney

Patrick Martinez’s “Defeat and Victory” is part of an ongoing series that focuses on Los Angeles. The bright neon stands out, but there are more subtle marks of life in the City of Angels – fading murals and memorials and the “For Lease” sign – that signal constant transition.

Disappearance Suits, Maria Gaspar, 2012-20, Missed Media
Credit: Courtesy of the Artist

In “Disappearance Suits,” four photographs show the artist, Maria Gaspar, in four different coats in four different settings. She’s seen on the shore of Captiva Island, Florida, in high grasses, in California’s Marin Headlands, in the snow in Switzerland, and amid rocks in Iceland. Alongside the photos is a coat rack where the four suits hang.

Estamos Bien? Luis Flores, 2021, Yarn, AAA T-shirt, Levi’s jeans, Vans shoes, socks, and drywall.
Credit: Courtesy the Artist and Salon 94, New York

Don’t be surprised if you don’t realize these two figures are part of the exhibition. They are life like, depicting two men reaching into the wall towards another hand. The artist, Luis Flores, was exposed to the art of crochet by his mother, but learned the skill himself.

Untitled, Yanira Collado, 2020, Cuaba soap
Credit: Courtesy the Artist

Yanira Collado’s sculpture made from Cuaba soap resembles other substances, honeycomb and perhaps wax, linking the figures to nature and spirituality. While the pieces seem strong, they are also fragile, perhaps a reference to areas susceptible to national disasters. Her larger piece, a black panel, is set adjacent, leaning against the wall.

A Century of Shine, Roberto Lugo, 2019, Porcelain, china paint, and luster
Credit: Private Collection

Roberto Lugo is a potter, painter, and poet. “A Century of Shine” immortalizes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, placing them on an ornate vase similar to those used to honor kings and queens.

Estamos Bien – La Trienal 20/21
El Museo del Bario
Fifth Avenue at 104th Street
Through September 26, 2021

About Charlene Giannetti (511 Articles)
Charlene Giannetti, editor of Woman Around Town, is the recipient of seven awards from the New York Press Club for articles that have appeared on the website. A graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, Charlene began her career working for a newspaper in Pennsylvania, then wrote for several publications in Washington covering environment and energy policy. In New York, she was an editor at Business Week magazine and her articles have appeared in many newspapers and magazines. She is the author of 13 non-fiction books, eight for parents of young adolescents written with Margaret Sagarese, including "The Roller-Coaster Years," "Cliques," and "Boy Crazy." She and Margaret have been keynote speakers at many events and have appeared on the Today Show, CBS Morning, FOX News, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and many others. Her last book, "The Plantations of Virginia," written with Jai Williams, was published by Globe Pequot Press in February, 2017. Her podcast, WAT-CAST, interviewing men and women making news, is available on Soundcloud and on iTunes. She is one of the producers for the film "Life After You," focusing on the opioid/heroin crisis that had its premiere at WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival, where it won two awards. Charlene divides her time between homes in Manhattan and Alexandria, Virginia.