What it is: Two new exhibitions of work by Chicano and Latino artists at Phoenix Art Museum - "Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement," an international show curated by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and "Locals Only," a similar collection put together by Phoenix Art Museum that features the work of artists living and working right here in the Valley.
Why it's special: "Phantom Sightings" is the first comprehensive collection focusing on the legacy of Chicano art in two decades. It's also the largest exhibition of Chicano art ever shown at Phoenix Art Museum.
What you'll see: 147 works by 44 artists, from a soft, hand-sewn sculpture of a yellow Volkswagen Beetle to a palm tree-adorned paleta (or Mexican popsicle) cart. As in a lot of Chicano art, many of the pieces have some elements in common: bright colors, folk or pop-culture motifs, elaborate ornamentation, the use of found objects and satire. But some of the artists don't even identify as "Chicano artists," resulting in a surprising array of styles and formats.
Who you might know: The dozen "Locals Only" artists are Lalo Cota, Claudio Dicochea, Dose (a Phoenix graffiti artist), Fausto Fernandez, Luis Gutierrez, Annie Lopez, Melissa Martinez, Monica Aissa Martinez, Martin Moreno, Hector Ruiz, Mykil ZEPata and Mesa's own Roy Wasson Valle, whose work is also on display at Arizona Museum for Youth in Mesa.
What background you need: In 1981, Chicanos were described as a "phantom culture" within American society, meaning they lived their lives largely unperceived, unrecognized and uncredited by the mainstream. Back then, Chicano art offered a counterpoint to that reality, putting forth work that unapologetically stressed cultural pride and political empowerment for Mexican Americans. Many of the artists in these shows came of age in the 1990s, insulated from previous generations' fervor for the Chicano Civil Rights Movement, yet influenced by it and their heritage. The show is an invitation to rethink Chicano art in the hands of a new generation.
Why you should hurry: "Phantom Sightings" moves on to another city after Sept. 20, and "Locals Only" will come down when it goes.