February 24, 2022

Aperture magazine and the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art presented this final event in a series of online public programs that accompanied the winter 2022 issue of Aperture, “Latinx,” where photographers, historians, and writers reflected on imagery that celebrates the dynamic visions of Latinx people across the United States. In a conversation introduced by Pilar Tompkins Rivas (guest editor of the “Latinx” issue of Aperture, and chief curator and deputy director of curatorial and collections at the Lucas Museum) and moderated by professor and writer Jesse Alemán, artists Sofía Córdova, Ken Gonzales-Day, and Perla de León reflected on the importance of narrative art, storytelling, and the role archives play in documenting forgotten histories.

Read Pilar Tompkin Rivas's essay "What Can Photographs Tell Us about Latinx Identity in the US?" in Aperture.

Pilar Tompkins Rivas is chief curator and deputy director of curatorial and collections at the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art. Previously, she was director of the Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM) at East Los Angeles College, where she spearheaded partnerships between the museum and the Smithsonian, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), and Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens; she also launched diversity pipeline programs, including a museum studies certificate program. Prior to her tenure at VPAM, Tompkins Rivas served as coordinator of curatorial initiatives at LACMA, codirecting the institution’s UCLA-LACMA Art History Practicum Initiative and the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program, in addition to cocurating exhibitions in partnership with the Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative. Tompkins Rivas has also served as curator and director of artist-in-residence programs at 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica; arts project coordinator at the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center; and curator at the Claremont Museum of Art, California.

Jesse Alemán is a professor of English at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, where he teaches nineteenth-century American and US Latinx literary and cultural histories. His scholarship focuses on recovering and analyzing published and unpublished Latinx writings, with special attention to racial formation, emergent Latinx literary genres, and representation in print cultures. He’s coeditor of The Latino Nineteenth Century (2016) and at work on a new book titled Latina/o Civil Wars.

Sofía Córdova (born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, 1985) makes work that considers sci-fi as alternative history, dance music’s liberatory potential, colonial contamination, mutation as an evolutionary force, climate change and migration, and recently, revolution within the matrix of class, gender, race, and late capitalism and its technologies. She works in video, performance, photography, sculpture and installation, and sound. She is one half of the music duo XUXA SANTAMARIA, with Matthew Gonzalez Kirkland; in addition to discrete projects, they collectively score all of Córdova’s video and performance work. Córdova is recipient of a Creative Work Fund grant, and her work is in the permanent collections of Pier 24 Photography, San Francisco, and KADIST.

Ken Gonzales-Day’s (born in Santa Clara, California, 1964) interdisciplinary and conceptually grounded projects consider the history of photography, the construction of race, and the limits of representational systems, from lynching photography to museum displays. Gonzales-Day’s work has been exhibited internationally and is in the permanent collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; École des Beaux Arts, Paris; National Portrait Gallery, and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, among other institutions. His monographs include Lynching in the West: 1850–1935 (2006) and Profiled (2011). Gonzales-Day holds the Fletcher Jones Chair in Art and is a professor of art at Scripps College, Claremont, California. He is represented by Luis De Jesus Los Angeles.

Perla de León (born in New York, 1952) taught photography and video production in New York City to junior-high, high-school, and college students before working as a technology teacher-trainer for the Board of Education, where she also produced instructional video shorts. De León has freelanced in video and independent film productions and produced Latin American photography exhibitions. Her work has been exhibited internationally and included in a variety of publications. Current ongoing projects include Decades under Fire: The Invisible Puerto Rican-(American); Chapel of Gratitude, an installation on slavery in New York; and projects that celebrate the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–24).

About Aperture

Aperture, a not-for-profit foundation, connects the photo community and its audiences with the most inspiring work, the sharpest ideas, and with each other—in print, in person, and online. Created in 1952 by photographers and writers as “common ground for the advancement of photography,” Aperture today is a multiplatform publisher and center for the photo community. From our base in New York, we produce, publish, and present a program of photography projects, locally and internationally.