Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities, the most in-depth exhibition to date exploring the formative 1980s activist campaign Artists Call Against US Intervention in Central America, will open Tuesday, Sept. 6, at The University of New Mexico Art Museum. The exhibition will be on view in all of the UNM Art Museum’s galleries through Dec. 3.

Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities is organized by the Tufts University Art Galleries and curated by Erina Duganne, professor of Art History at Texas State University, and Abigail Satinsky, curator and head of Public Engagement for Tufts University Art Galleries.

Artists Call’s campaign, initiated in New York City in 1984, used public demonstrations, film, art exhibitions, mail art, performances, and poetry readings to protest U.S. military interventions in Central America, educate the U.S. public, and develop transnational networks for community organizing, solidarity, and exchange. Artists Call was grounded in the political organizing of artists and activists such as Daniel Flores y Ascencio, Lucy Lippard, Doug Ashford, Leon Golub, and Coosje van Bruggen, and grew to be supported by more than 1,000 artists in New York, and many more in over 25 cities across North America.

Installation view, Beatriz Cortez, 2022. Peter Harris Photography.

Art for the Future explores the robust history of the campaign and its intersection with art and activism today. The exhibition includes major works by Josely Carvalho, Jimmie Durham, Dona Ann McAdams, Ana Mendieta, Claes Oldenburg, Martha Rosler, Juan Sánchez, Nancy Spero, Zarina, and many others. Among the featured works from the campaign are Hans Haacke’s U.S. Isolation Box, Grenada, 1983, which recreates an isolation chamber used by U.S. troops to detain prisoners at the Point Salines airport following the U.S. invasion of Grenada. Reconstruction Codex (1984) by Sabra Moore and 19 collaborators, including Emma Amos, Camille Billops, Virginia Jaramillo, Nancy Spero, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, among others, is also included. This work pays homage to the ancient Indigenous cultures of Latin America by reconstructing a Mayan codex. The exhibition, in addition, highlights ephemeral materials from the personal archives of organizers Lucy Lippard and Doug Ashford.

Benvenuto Chavajay, Doroteo Guamuche, 2016. Photograph courtesy of the artist. 

Besides historical works, the exhibition also features contemporary artists in conversation with Artists Call. These art works include Carlos Motta’s wall-sized installation from his ongoing series, Brief History of US Interventions in Latin America Since 1946. Beatriz Cortez’s 1984: Space-Time Capsule collapses artistic and political trajectories to examine ideas of resilience, solidarity, and creative freedom. Naeem Mohaiemen’s film Wooster Street thinks through community via the relationships of Artists Call participants Judy Blum, Krishna Reddy, and Zarina. Benvenuto Chavajay’s photo installation Doroteo Guamuche reclaims the Indigenous identity of lauded Guatemalan long-distance runner Doroteo Guamuche Flores.

“The exhibition is an intergenerational conversation of artists’ mobilizing their collective voice in protest, action, and commitment. We can learn from these efforts to build different futures,” said Satinsky.

All exhibition and catalogue text for Art for the Future is fully bilingual in Spanish and English. The illustrated catalogue surveys Artists Call’s mobilization of writers, artists, activists, and art organizations and looks at the campaign’s legacy today. It features essays by artists and the exhibition curators as well as interviews with Artists Call organizers.

UNM Associate Professor of Art History, Kency Cornejo, contributes an essay titled Writing Art Histories from Below: A Decolonial Guanaca-Hood Perspective. The catalogue places Artists Call within a wider visual, historical, and sociopolitical context and fills a gap in the examination of political and aesthetic actions across the Americas, both then and now. Catalogues will be available for purchase during the run of the exhibition.

“We are delighted to host Tufts University Art Galleries’ exhibition, Art for the Future, which is about art, activism, and solidarity. Contemporary works by Latinx artists update this historical exhibition in crucial ways. Among the 100+ artists in the exhibition, we celebrate contributions by fellow New Mexicans Lucy Lippard, Sabra Moore, and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, whose long-standing commitment to art and activism continues to inspire,” said Mary Statzer, curator of Prints and Photographs at UNMAM.

Major support for the exhibition and catalogue was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Institute for Studies on Latin American Art (ISLAA).

The UNM Art Museum will be open Tuesday – Thursday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Friday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., effective on Tuesday, September 6. Admission is always free. 

Top image: Dona Ann McAdams, Procession for Peace march with Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America banner, New York, 1984. Silver gelatin print. Courtesy of the artist.