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Featured Case: XicanX: New Visions


Artist: Xandra Ibarra

Year: 2020

Date of Action: February 2020

Region: North America

Location: San Antonio, Texas

Subject: Sexual/Gender Orientation


Confronting Bodies: San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture

Description of Artwork: Created in 2014 from a live 2004 performance, Ibarra’s work addresses racial and gender stereotypes through the artist’s performance as a minstrel Mexican housewife who takes on her “racial bondage to hot sauce, tacos, and demographic panic” in a humorous retro border corrida.

The Incident: Suzy González and Michael Menchaca, under their collective name “Dos Mestizx,” curated the exhibition “XicanX: New Visions” celebrating Chicano art at Centro de Artes, a downtown gallery owned by and funded by the City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture. On the day of the opening, Ibarra’s video work “Spictacle II: La Tortillera” was removed upon orders from the city, despite the curators complying with city requests to curtain off the work with advisory signage. San Antonio’s Department of Arts & Culture removed the artwork by Xandra Ibarra from this exhibition because of apparent discomfort with its unconventional representations of sexuality and the challenge it presents to gender stereotypes.

San Antonio’s city attorney determined that the work violated a Texas statute disallowing “obscene content,” despite the work not meeting the legal definition of obscenity upheld in Miller v. California (1973), which exempts material with “serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.” Ibarra is a well-recognized performance artist. Her work has been shown in museums and other established venues like El Museo de Arte Contemporañeo (Bogotá, Colombia), the Broad Museum (LA, USA), ExTeresa Arte Actual (DF, Mexico), PPOW Gallery (NYC), Anderson Collection (Stanford) and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (SF). The work in question has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including at Centro Nacional de las Artes in Mexico City, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC.

Results of Incident: Despite a determination that the work did have serious artistic value, the Arts Commission voted to leave the final decision to the director of the Department of Arts & Culture, Debbie Racca-Sittre. Racca-Sittre has stated that she has no intention of returning the video work to the exhibition.


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