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In the Art World, ‘Latinx’ Marks a Gender-Free Spot

Teddy Sandoval's 'Las Locas,' circa 1980, part of the Pacific Standard Time exhibition 'Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.' PHOTO: The New York Times/Paul Polubinskas

By Jori Finkel | 11 September 2017

THE NEW YORK TIMES — This week represents the official start of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, some 70 museum exhibitions, from San Diego to Santa Barbara, that explore Latin American and Latino art. With galleries getting into the act, too, visitors to the shows are likely to encounter tons of new work. And two new words: Latinx and Chicanx.

At the very moment that “Latino” and “Chicano” art are poised to make a big splash, some curators are pushing to replace those masculine words with new genderless terms they find more inclusive: “Latinx” for anyone in North America with roots from Latin America — male, female or gender-nonconforming — and “Chicanx” for anyone of Mexican descent.

Never mind that the neologisms have not made it into the Merriam-Webster or Oxford English Dictionary, or that the Getty Foundation, which financed Pacific Standard Time to the tune of about $16 million, is sticking with “Latino.” Several P.S.T. curators are dropping these new terms in panels and papers. Their publicists are using them in email blasts. Art magazines like Artnews, Flash Art and Frieze are following suit, while #latinx is gaining currency on Twitter and Instagram among political activists, student associations and various bloggers. (A recent tweet from the writers’ group Latino Caucus criticized when “a journal touts support for POC” — people of color — “yet no #Latinx people on staff or in their publication.”) “We’re seeing the terms become a lot more common, especially with young people,” Joan Weinstein, deputy director of the Getty Foundation, acknowledged. “But we really wanted to reach a wide audience with a wide range of ages, so we thought we needed language recognized by everyone.”

For her part, Macarena Gómez-Barris used Chicanx repeatedly in her catalog essay on the photographer Laura Aguilar, a key artist in a West Hollywood exhibition about the area’s pre-AIDS “queer” art scene. “Her gender does not fall within ‘Chicano’ and the people she studies with her camera are butches and femmes and gender-nonconforming,” said Ms. Gómez-Barris, the head of social sciences and cultural studies at Pratt Institute in New York. […]

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