Episode 4 — Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art — Jesus Moroles

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  • In this series, E. Carmen Ramos, curator of Latino art, discusses the exhibition Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This episode looks at the sculpture Granite Weaving by Jesús Moroles.  Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art presents the rich and varied contributions of Latino artists in the United States since the mid-twentieth century, when the concept of a collective Latino identity began to emerge. The exhibition is drawn entirely from the Smithsonian American Art Museum's pioneering collection of Latino art. It explores how Latino artists shaped the artistic movements of their day and recalibrated key themes in American art and culture.

    E. CARMEN RAMOS: This is Jesús Moroles’ “Granite Weaving” from 1988. Jesús Moroles is originally from Texas, and he has traveled worldwide. He’s a sculptor. His work, like many other artists working since the late 1960s, was interested in using materials drawn directly from the Earth. He was influenced by minimalism but also land art that used materials forged from the Earth itself. In the 1980s, he created a larger body of work that he called “Weavings,” where he cut and assembled various pieces of granite, which is the stone that he primarily works with, to give the appearance of the different vertical and horizontal registers of a weaving. In this case, he has put together large vertical slabs of granite and also horizontal slabs that are interrupted by little square pegs that we see in-between these. He was interested in letting the material itself and its history speak for itself.

    He often works in two modes; he often works with a saw to cut granite, but at other times he leaves the material in its natural state. You see a combination of these two different types of textures throughout the sculpture. The sculpture itself, sort of resembles a weaving in a way, because of its verticality and its horizontal registers, but it also gives the impression of a pyramid, of a stepped pyramid. Morales forms part of a larger generation of Mexican-American and Chicano artists that were interested in Native-American culture.

    This work, which evokes ancient architecture from Mexico, participates in a larger history of Chicano Indigenism, but Moroles will tell you that his work is very international. He’s traveled throughout the world, and he was very much influenced by the ancient art that he experienced in these other countries. His work blends references to various world cultures. It represents the different ways in which Latino artists have inflected movements of American art. In this case, he’s interested in exploring how the Earth itself can allude to ancient history.