Guadalupe Rosales brings curatorial eye to LACMA’s Instagram as first digital artist-in-residence

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Guadalupe Rosales’ Instagram posts of snapshots from SoCal Latino youth and party culture of days past are amazing in and of themselves. But in relation to each other, the individual images—a group photo of the “homegirls of Elm St., Watts,” for instance, or a picture from a Los Feliz high school prom in 1995—become much more than the sum of their parts.

Veterans_and_Rucas  and Map_Pointz, her two accounts, are something like virtual museums, preserving and unpacking and celebrating snippets of marginalized histories. So it makes total sense that LACMA has crowned Rosales as their first Instagram artist in residence, with her six-week reign starting yesterday.

The artist, who also took over the New Yorker’s social media last year for a week, kicked off her residency with an image of Badge of Honor, an installation by Pepón Osorio that presents a teen boy’s bedroom complete with ephemera like a Lebron James poster and shiny gold trophies. It’s a piece from the larger Home—So Different, So Appealing,’ LACMA’s decade-spanning exhibit of Latin American artists that explore the concept of home with all of its socioeconomic and political implications. Rosales' caption about her feelings toward the piece are  compelling, but the selection could also be considered boring—a LACMA artist-in-residence posting pictures of a LACMA exhibit might easily come off as contrived PR.

But Rosales’ next post totally changes the dialogue: an image of her friend in her pink-walled and carpeted bedroom in 1998/99, surrounded by party flyers and mall glamour shots and a Taz the Tasmanian Devil toy. It’s the kind of totally special, totally genuine and intimate little piece of teen life that Rosales has such an eye for and a fascinating complement to the Osorio installation.

Rosales wants to not only put these images in conversation with each other, but to spark conversation among herself and her viewers. Much of the Instagram commentary is seemingly mundane reminiscing—e.g. “I remember that Cypress Hill smoke out flyer *x-eyes emoji*”—but, as with the accounts themselves, on a larger scale there is something more significant happening.

LACMA hopes the digital residency will “break down barriers,” according to Rita Gonzalez, curator and acting head of Contemporary Art, and is accompanied with an acknowledgement of the way people experience museums now: often through the camera on their smartphones (you already know this from the innumerable Tinder profile pictures set under the giant chairs at the Broad).

This mission is also completely in-line with Rosales’, who intends for the residency to promote accessibility and democratic conversation in an arena that can sometimes feel insidiously white-tower-academia-elitist.

“Whether someone studied art or not, all feelings and opinions are valid,” she said.

Even if the comments are mostly facile recollections of having had the same show poster or Taz merch in their room, the little bits of excited nostalgia and small stories the posts provoke are significant. Rosales knows that tiny moments of lives lived add up to a very important and ever-relevant history, and she is keeping it alive.

As Rosales wrote with her first LACMA post: “Pepón Osorio’s work has taught me to value everything I have experienced (every memory and every place I have been in) and to reflect on those experiences because that is what has built the person I am today."

Written by: Kylie Obermeier

Images courtesy of LACMA and Guadalupe Rosales