Arte Público, Project Lead, Humanities Interdisciplinary Project, 2018-19
Rank: Assistant Professor
Years at UCR: 7 years
Favorite place: Boulder, CO (what can I say, I’m a proud hometown kid!)
Favorite film that I encourage students to see: Mona Lisa Smile (Columbia Tristar, 2003) I love the way that Katherine Watson (played by Julia Roberts) is able to use the modern art and radically transform students’ perception of themselves and the world around them in 1953 Wellesley College. Plus, the film gives an an ordinary Van Gogh paint by numbers the platform it deserves!
iPhone or Android: iPhone!
Q. Summarize your research in one sentence…
I elucidate how the aftermath of AIDS activated alternative archives, radical modes of queer preservation and custodianship for queer Latinx artists ravaged by disease and devastated by cultural neglect.
Q. Is there a key question or thread that runs through your work?
I am centrally interested in not only how AIDS generated another afterlife for Latinx art beyond institutional mediation but also, how Latinx art might be redefined when we confront the lost oeuvres and visual vocabularies of queer artists little known because of the consequential erasures caused by AIDS.
Q: What are you working on now?
My current project is retracing the speculative impulse in contemporary Latinx and Latin American art and thinking through how charged nativist discourses of “the alien” have engendered empowering iconographies, personas and otherworldly possibilities. By empowering the alien as a cosmic action, optic or perspective, Latinx artists circumvent the paralyzing reality of borders, walls, and militarized detention by looking skywards.
Q: Why is teaching important to you?
As a professor and curator in the Inland Empire, exhibition venues are rare and artist infrastructures are lagging. The classes I teach at UCR, a Hispanic Serving Institution, are often the first to engage Latinx students in the art museum as a site of research and social practice. Indeed, the disparities surrounding Latinxs entrance into the museum profession and even the field of art history, archive/information studies, and/or cultural heritage studies are staggering. Despite the burgeoning Latinx demographics in Southern California, the demand to rectify this egregious shortfall is critical. I continue to introduce students to the powerful role of museums and archives because curating Latinidad has never been more pressing.
Q: Any new or exciting developments?
My exhibition, Mundos Alternos: Art and Science Fiction in the Americas, will travel to the Queens Museum and Leslie Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City this spring (opening in April 2019). My co-curators and I are elated to bring UCR’s accomplishments in speculative studies, science fiction, and Latinx studies to new audiences on the east coast.
Q: What are three influential texts that you rely on?
Some texts that have historically stirred my ideas include Richard Meyer’s Outlaw Representation and in particular, his writing on Robert Mapplethorpe’s living room as a mode of furnishing desire. Jennifer Gonzalez’s Subject to Display on race, installation art, and material memory was a critical lynchpin in my thinking early on as a graduate student in American Studies. Lastly, Simon Doonan’s Confessions of a Window Dresser placed all things I love into center focus: queer memoir and extravagant tales of 80s fashion and shopping culture in LA, London, and NY. Doonan would share a small story about a young Chicano artist named Mundo Meza, which would have an unexplainable aftereffect on me changing the direction of my research and professional career in archiving and curation.
Learn more or get in touch with Robb: english.ucr.edu/people/faculty/robb-hernandez
In Focus is a new interview series that features faculty associates of the Center for Ideas and Society.