In This Review

Forty-two Latino and Latin American artists present a mostly grim view of low-income urban life and reduced opportunity, whether in the shantytowns of Bogotá and Buenos Aires or the housing projects of the Bronx. The exhibition, organized by LACMA, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, includes works in many media—drawings, paintings, photographs, installations, videos—and encourages the viewer to see mundane domestic objects as artifacts laden with historical and psychological meaning. But the overwhelming, strident political commentary is disturbingly pessimistic. Ugly slums brutalize vulnerable children, loudly flapping buzzards loom over heaps of trash, jarring inequalities separate the prosperous from the impoverished. Latino immigrants to the United States confront class divisions, bogus patriotism, and long, wrenching jail sentences. New single-family housing developments in Mexico and the United States alike appear as bleak, dehumanized wastelands of consumerism. In these artists’ eyes, the American dream is an illusion, and there is no exit from the Western Hemisphere’s social nightmares. Ironically, these images of despair are more akin to U.S. President Donald Trump’s vision of “American carnage” than to Barack Obama’s “audacity of hope.”