What brings us together? What sets us apart? Originating in London, gentlemen’s clubs became popular in much of the world during the19th century as exclusive private establishments for their upper-class members. In the United States, university clubs in Boston and Cambridge promoted social duty and intellectual activity among their members, but despite its declared social mission, the identity of a club is predicated on its exclusivity.
This evening of performances and lectures in “Club Americano” reflects on the history of the social club, tribalism, and the impulse to try to distinguish ourselves from others. Four presentations exemplify how some objects—such as Paul Revere’s Sons of Liberty Bowl—come to embody a sense of belonging while others were designed to distinguish and divide. The program addresses racial hierarchies as depicted in Spanish colonial casta paintings and examines through personal perspectives how this legacy survives in contemporary society. Academic and poetic lectures provide context on mestizaje in Spanish colonial music and contemporary culture, focusing on African influences. Helguera performs a negrilla, a type of 15th to 18th-century Spanish colonial carol incorporating elements of African slaves’ music and speech.
Pablo Helguera is a New York-based artist working with installation, sculpture, photography, drawing, socially engaged art and performance. His most renowned projects include “The School of Panamerican Unrest” (2003–2006), a nomadic think tank that traveled from Alaska to Patagonia making 40 stops in between, and “Librería Donceles” (2013–2017) an itinerant Spanish-language secondhand bookstore addressing the lack of outlets that serve Latino communities. Drawing from his experience as educator, his artistic projects often incorporate pedagogical devices such as the classroom setting and lecture format. Since 1991 he has worked in a variety of contemporary art museums and currently serves as director of Adult and Academic programs at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 2008 he was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and also was the recipient of a 2005 Creative Capital Grant. Helguera is the author of Education for Socially Engaged Art (2011) and The Pablo Helguera Manual of Contemporary Art Style (2007), among numerous other publications, and is the maker of Artoons, a series of cartoons poking fun of the art world.
Benjamín Juárez is professor of Fine Arts at Boston University, where he served as dean of the College of Fine Arts from 2010 to 2015. Benjamín has championed the music of Mexico, Spain, and Latin America as a researcher, conductor and educator for many years. He has released more than a dozen recordings of Mexican music from the 16th to the 19th centuries as well as orchestral repertoire of the 20th and 21st centuries. He has collaborated with many contemporary composers of this region for world premiere performances and recordings of their music. He previously directed the Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexico City, running professional schools in music, dance, arts, theater, and film, research centers, the organization’s TV channel, and more than 20 theaters and performing spaces. Professor Juarez has also served as director of Cultural Activities for Universidad Anáhuac del Sur and as head of Music and Dance at the National University of México. From 1992 to 2002, he led an international research project on Mexican cathedral music that provided for the transcription and performance of hundreds of works composed between the 16th and 19th centuries. The work, underwritten by UNESCO and other funders, were favorably reviewed by international music critics and received a Latin Grammy nomination.
Zaira Meneses, Mexico’s “First Lady of the classical guitar” (Diario de Xalapa) is a cutting-edge 21st-century artist celebrated on the concert stage, in the international press and on the web as “Mexico’s cultural ambassador on the international circuit.” Praised by the New York Times as “an arresting performer full of colorful touches,” Meneses has built a stellar reputation for her warm sound, limpid technique, and superb natural musicality. She has performed in many of the great concert halls of the world including New York City’s Alice Tully and YMHA halls, Boston’s Jordan Hall, and the Great Hall of the Shanghai Conservatory. In addition to her performing career, Zaira Meneses is also director of outreach at Boston Guitar Fest where each year she forges new connections between the festival and the community. Meanwhile, she directs the guitar performance seminar for classical guitar majors at the New England Conservatory and also teaches younger students through the NEC Preparatory School and Walnut Hill School for the Arts.
Yvette Modestin is a writer, poet, and activist born and raised in Colon, Panama. Modestin has been named one of “30 Afro Latinas You Should Know” and one of the 100 Most Influential African Diaspora Leaders in the world. Locally, she has been profiled by the Boston Globe as “The Uniter” for her work bringing together the Latin American and African American community, and for her activism in building a voice with the Afro Latino community. Modestin is founder/executive director of of Encuentro Diaspora Afro in Boston and a co-founder of ARAAC EEUU-Regional Council of People of African Descent from Latin America and the Caribbean. She is a contributor to several books, including Afro-Latin@s in Movement: Critical Approaches to Blackness and Transnationalism (2016) and the Dictionary of Caribbean and Afro-Latin American Biography (2016). Her poetry book, Nubian Butterfly: The Transformation of a Soulful Heart will be released in Panama in 2017.
Liz Munsell is Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art and Special Initiatives at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and was a visiting curator at Harvard University’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies from 2012 to 2017. She received a Fulbright Scholarship to Chile in 2006. Since 2012 she has worked to establish the MFA as one of the first encyclopedic museums in the US to fully integrate performance art into its exhibitions, programs, and collection. Munsell’s latest exhibitions include “Embodied Absence: Chilean Art of the 1970s Now” at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University (2016–17); “Marilyn Arsem: 100 Ways to Consider Time“ at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (2015–6); “Permission To Be Global / Prácticas globales” at CIFO Art Space, Miami, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, (2014); Her writings have been published in print and online publications such as MoMA’s post: Notes on Modern and Contemporary Art around the Globe and artforum.com
Darianna Young is a member of the MFA’s Teen Arts Council.
Performance Art at the MFA is supported by Lorraine Bressler.