A Layered Presence–Una Presencia Estratificada

On view at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art through September 8, 2024, is the free exhibition A Layered Presence—Una presencia estratificada. This project is the third in the museum’s initiative to celebrate and center local artists, “KC Art Now.”

A Layered Presence features twenty-two multigenerational artists who not only live, work, and make art in our community, but who also have cultural ties to Latin America, making them members of a strong and growing population on both sides of the state line. The artists represented in the exhibition include some long-revered as pillars of Kansas City’s creative community as well as others newer to the scene just beginning to make their mark: Emily Alvarez, Rodrigo “Rico” Alvarez, Maria Vasquez Boyd, Ruben Bryan Castillo, José Faus, Israel Alejandro García García, Cesar Lopez, Jessica Manco, Rodolfo Marrón III, Adolfo Gustavo Martinez, Jenny Mendez, Sue Moreno, Juan G. Moya, Carlos Ortiz-Gallo, Eulalia C. Pulido, Socorro Rico, Miguel Rivera, Chico Salvador Sierra, Kiki Serna, Vania Soto, Isaac Tapia and Hugo Ximello-Salido.

A benefit of collaborating with area contemporary artists is the opportunity that proximity provides to build relationships and learn from one another. Upon accepting the invitation to participate in this exhibition, the artists had to trust the Nelson-Atkins to honor their vision and voices and not speak for them while establishing a framework and a dynamic space for visitors to engage with their art. The museum, in turn, placed its faith in the artists to create meaningful and impactful new work to enliven the gallery and connect with audiences. From this foundation of mutual trust, A Layered Presence was collectively shaped without a predetermined theme—or initially even a title—to which the artists were asked to respond. The collaboration hinged on many individual conversations and a frank group discussion that exposed a desire held in common by both the artists and the museum. Above all, the exhibition needed to be authentic—a true reflection of each artist and their practice free from artificially imposed associations or superficial connections based on presumed commonalities.

Each of the artists in this exhibition is a nuanced individual. Many layers—beyond their cultural identities—inform who they are and the stories they choose to tell through their art, including their personal and familial histories, their passions, ways of moving through the world, and the roles they play in our community. Just like the artists themselves, their art is equally complex and multifaceted. It is composed of layers of subject matter, materials, processes, and meaning. At the intersection of these layers, there is evidence of lived experience. There is reckoning with ancestry, immigration, memory, family dynamics, healing, place, queer identity, and much more. While some of these layers reveal, others purposefully protect and conceal. Although there are points of intersection to discover throughout the exhibition, every artist and each work of art resonates as a uniquely powerful layered presence.

To help ensure that that power was not flattened or the artists’ presence lessened, and because a tenet of “KC Art Now” is the belief that the power to tell one’s own story is significant, each artist in A Layered Presence was invited to write the label that accompanies their work and to share a favorite portrait of themselves to include on their bilingual labels. To further foreground the artists’ individual voices, visitors are invited to scan each work in the exhibition using the free Smartify app to access supplementary content that includes audio clips from the artists that unlock additional layers of meaning.

A Layered Presence—Una presencia estratificada was made possible through generous support provided by Paul DeBruce and Linda Woodsmall-DeBruce, Evelyn Craft Belger and Richard Belger, Sara and Bill Morgan, and the Jacques & Natasha Gelman Foundation. For additional information about the exhibition along with programming details, please visit nelson-atkins.org/exhibitions/layered-presence-una-presencia-estratificada/

–Stephanie Fox Knappe, Sanders Sosland Senior Curator, Global Modern and Contemporary Art, Head American Art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

Photography by Dana Anderson

CategoriesArts Consortium

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