Wednesday, February 12, 2014

VISUAL CLAVE - Latin Album Cover Art Show Comes To SUAG


 The Evolution Of Salsa Graphics And 
The Expression Of Latino Identity 
Through Album Cover Art
Student Union Art Gallery, in the Student Union Building, UMass Amherst Campus, Amherst MA
Opening Thursday, February 27, 2014 
5:00 PM -7:30 PM
(feturing DJs spinning vintage Latin vinyl)
Dance Party with Jesús Pagán and his Conjunto Barrio 8:00 PM Cape Cod Lounge (next to the art gallery) All events: FREE, open to the public 
(bring your family!)

Visual Clave proposes that the album cover is not only an invitation to dance but is also fine art worthy of serious consideration. The exhibition’s premise is that the record jacket is not just an ephemeral mass-produced object to be relegated to the trash heap of a bygone era, but rather a unique 12 by 12 inch window onto a culture's soul.
Through the premise of this proposal, Visual Clave explores the evolution of Latin music album cover art over the last 50 years, paying critical attention to issues of identity and aesthetics, with an emphasis on historical context and the unsung artists who helped present Latin music — and its attendant socio-cultural themes — to the world. The concept of “clave” is essential to understanding Afro-Antillean popular music forms and the dance culture that surrounds it; it is the 2-3 or 3-2 beat used in all genres from the Cuban son to the Dominican merengue. It is this fundamental cultural essence, with its roots in Afro-Caribbean culture, that Visual Clave picks up on, offering a unique way of studying the evolution of attitudes and notions of culture, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality through the graphic presentation of Latin music in both domestic and international markets. Themes of transnationalism, social justice, immigration, civil rights, sexism, and racism will raised through the presentation of album covers specifically chosen to inspire debate and reflection. Some well-loved examples of Latin LP jacket design will be sure to inspire feelings of nostalgia in older viewers who might have collected or danced to the music 'back in the day", but other covers will speak to universal concerns that require no cultural allegiance or prior knowledge of Latin music. In addition, examples of covers chosen purely based on the merit of their design aesthetics alone.

A gallery of rare 1940s and 1950s 78 RPM and 10 inch LP 
album jackets featured in the show
Many of the album covers on display have fascinating stories behind their creation. Taking inspiration from Pablo Yglesias’ book Cocinando, 50 Years of Latin Album Cover Art, this exhibition aims to tell these stories through the display of multiple album covers that trace the history from 1930s and 40s 78 RPM album jackets through the “golden era” of the 1960s and 70s vinyl LP cover to today's digital era where even Latin CD covers can be innovative, and vinyl is experiencing a new vogue. There will also be a unique opportunity to see original artwork that was used for some of the most well-known and beloved salsa albums of the 1970s, ranging from paintings and illustrations to photography and sculpture. 
Once the Latin music industry in New York was taken over and run largely by Latinos in the 1960s and 70s, the visual presentation of salsa became more of a "Latin thing" and that is when the level of design really began to reflect some of the themes mentioned above. The viewer will become familiar with the mainly New York-based designers from this era, and will learn the names of the graphic artists who labored largely behind the scenes or in obscurity: Chico Alvarez, Ely Besalel, Warren Flagler, Pam Lessero, Ron Levine, Lee Marshall, Abel Navarro, Charlie Rosario, Yogui Rosario, Izzy Sanabria, Manny Vega, Jorge Vargas, Angelo Velázquez, Walter Velez, and others. The show will include actual original work by some of these pioneers of salsa graphics.

Student Union Building, UMass Amherst

Gallery programming is made possible by generous funding from The Student Government Association (SGA) and the Graduate Student Senate (GSS), and through UMass Arts Council grants and an ECSA (Engage, Connect, Serve, Achieve) grant. ECSA Grants are funded by the CSD and the Division of Student Affairs & Campus Life. Also, with generous help from WMUA and station advisor Glenn Siegel.