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El Museo takes art to the (S)treets

Gerard Ellis, "Backyard (Afternoon of Disasters)," Gerard Ellis

Gerard Ellis, "Backyard (Afternoon of Disasters)," Gerard Ellis (2010) Credit: Gerard Ellis, "Backyard (Afternoon of Disasters)," Gerard Ellis (2010)

In 1999, El Museo del Barrio launched "The (S) Files," a biennial survey show of emerging New York Latino-American artists. The museum's renovations, however, meant that it had to skip the 2009 edition.

To make up for that absence, the exhibit this time around has expanded, showcasing 75 artists (up from 50 in 2007) across seven venues through January 2012. Themed around the street, the show features works inspired by graffiti, made from found objects or otherwise reflective of urban life.

We spoke with curator Trinidad Fombella about assembling the show.

What were your criteria for the artists this year? Well, this is the first time that we had a clear theme in mind, [which was] dictated by the works that the artists are producing today. The selection process was very easy because we noticed that all the artists are influenced by the events that are happening in the street, the fashion that you see in the street.

The artwork in the exhibit, even though it's in a museum, feels very connected to the living city. I think that if you walk through the exhibition, you can feel the energy of New York City. It's key for us to exhibit the work of Latino artists who are residing in New York.

The show seems to stay away from identity politics, however, and the work on view addresses issues that are universal. Was that a conscious direction? Absolutely. Although we represent the artists who are of Latino heritage, what we're showing in this exhibition is contemporary art.

Do you have favorites from the exhibit? It's very difficult to say "the favorites;" it's been amazing to be able to have so many artists. We have 75 artists - we're so proud of all of them. They have all done their best work, and they have worked really hard to present their best pieces.


"The (S) Files" is at:

• Chashama at the Donnell (20 W. 53rd St.) through Friday.
• El Museo del Barrio (1230 Fifth Ave.) through Jan. 8.
• Socrates Sculpture Park (32-01 Vernon Blvd., L.I.C.) Sunday through Aug. 21
• Lehman College Art Gallery (250 Bedford Park Blvd. West, Bronx) June 22-Jan. 6.
• Times Square Alliance (Broadway at 46th St.) July 14.
• Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance (178 Bennett Ave., third floor) Sept. 13-Nov. 18.
• BRIC Rotunda Gallery (33 Clinton St., Brooklyn) Nov. 10-Jan. 7.

For more info, visit

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