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Studio Check In with Angelique Rosales Salgado

Studio Museum

Angelique Rosales Salgado and Yume Murphy talk on Zoom

Angelique Rosales Salgado (left) and Yume Murphy (right) talk on Zoom

Studio Check In was born out of a desire to tell the stories of the people who work behind the scenes at different arts and cultural institutions. Institutions are defined by the people who work within them, but they are also defined by the community members, artists, and audiences that intersect with and support the work and mission—different audiences and participants help make the story more full, more human, and more alive.    

In this Studio Check In, Yume Murphy speaks with Angelique Rosales Salgado, a Mexican-born curator and writer based in Brooklyn. Currently, Angelique works as a curatorial assistant at The Kitchen and was previously a Joint Curatorial Fellow in Exhibitions between the Studio Museum and The Museum of Modern Art.  

Could you begin by telling our readers a little about yourself?   

I'm a curator, writer, and arts worker born in Mexico City, and now based in Brooklyn. My work has focused on artists of a Latin American or African diaspora working across intersections of gender in mediums like video, performance, and sculpture. I’ve been thinking about how to build structures of access through artists and through those practices within museums and cultural spaces, working inside institutions across different contexts to build projects, conversations, exhibitions, and programs. Currently, I'm a curatorial assistant at The Kitchen. I studied art history in conjunction with gender studies and museum studies during my undergrad, and I entered the realm of museum studies through critiquing the museum and researching artists-run spaces and collective/experimental practices from the 1970s through the 90s in downtown New York. I did a lot of research on Ana Mendieta’s work too and then started integrating performance and decolonial studies as interests through her practice.  

Wow, I didn’t realize how expansive your curatorial practice was in terms of research areas.  

I’m a bit nerdy about specific things.  

What drew you toward curatorial work? Was there a specific person or event that catalyzed the decision to become a curator? 

I love this question because it engages with a person's relationship to art and art history.  

Before my family and I moved to the United States, my dad, who is an architect—my grandpa was also an architect—would always take my family and me to art spaces. He's interested in large, public-scale architecture and what that means when it becomes an intimate experience: parks, plazas, gardens, rooftop architecture are so important to Mexico and gathering spaces there. He would take us to any space that might have “art.” It didn't matter whether it was a library, a design space, a museum, or a gallery. He always asked my brother and sister and me  “who made this?” or “who made that?” and I would never get it right. I became obsessed with trying to remember and nail down who the artist or designer was. As a kid, I would see visual similarities and try to piece them together. I remember thinking, “When he asks me next, I'll get it right.”  

Looking back, that taught me the importance of asking who makes things, who can make things, and linking that directly with how a visual thing can arrive into the world and the context around it.  

And then, early in high school, I saw this show at the Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC) in Mexico City, which is part of the university there called National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).  

Mónica Mayer, who is an artist, activist and critic, has a deep archival practice in Mexico. At the MUAC, I saw her retrospective exhibition, Si Tiene Dudas…Pregunte, which means “If You Have Doubts, Ask…”, and saw one of her most famous social practice works. It's a sculpture constructed like a clothesline where Mayer invited eight hundred woman-identifying people in Mexico City to respond to the prompt: “As a woman, what I dislike most about the city is...” on pieces of paper that were then hung all together. It was really feminist and really queer and interrogated the politics of gender. At seventeen, I was blown away by spending time in that exhibition. I had never seen anything like that before, and I didn't know her as an artist before visiting. I was in an angsty moment at that time so in my visit, I spent all the time there. I even went to the bookshop to buy the exhibition catalog. I saw how different networks of collaboration exist and how to program through a curatorial practice through an exhibition. The curator of the show, Karen Cordero Reiman, called it a “retrocollective” instead of a retrospective, as an active way to name collective work within an artist's practice. I was like, “I want to be in the care of creating those kinds of things in the world.”  

As a queer and Mexican-born curator, how has your identity and lived experience influenced your research and curatorial interests? 

I spoke a little bit to Latin American-ness as a whole, but in arriving in the United States, I was drawn to specific curatorial interests through studying migratory research, displacement, and affect studies as they relate to queer theory and performance studies.  In undergrad, I began to interrogate identity foregrounded by world-building in a diasporic way. I found belonging in reading people like José Esteban Muñoz, who was one of the most incisive and poetic writers I dove into who explored a utopian imaginary, and who informed other parts of my life, like queerness and nightlife and collective practices.  

Recently, I was listening to this radio show titled “Black Queer Aesthetics in the Age of Catastrophe,” on Montez Press Radio. In the conversation, the artist Xander said, “anything that keeps you alive, you will become astute in.” It was such a beautiful, lovely thing to focus on—knowledge and learning through your body, in a way, as a rooted value rather than a form of power. I’m interested in holding different histories and I think queerness and aesthetics are directly tied to that—time, architecture, and participatory things. Queerness and aesthetics tie your subjectivity to others’.  

Can you speak a little bit more about any linkages you've seen between nightlife and your curatorial practice? 

I'm really interested in audio-visual material, movement, and dance. I think some of the most exciting performances across history interrogate those linkages directly. Like, I love Funk Lessons (1982-1984) by Adrian Piper and I frequently return to Ligia Lewis’s recent (performance) film deader than dead (2020). 

I think the heavy conceptual element you sometimes don't feel when you're participating in nightlife is often present in performance. That's what feels great about it—feeling like your body can be free to be in space.  

Video, too, is so exciting to me for those same reasons. Recently, I was at Sadie Barnette's installation The New Eagle Creek Saloon at The Kitchen, during the Saturday Sessions. It was invigorating to step into the gallery during the day—I saw you a couple of times there, too—and being in an art space while interacting with the blurred boundaries and letting go of what is assumed of a space such as a raver house or an art space. 

To splay this quasi-nightlife-performance space open?  

In a way, yes.  

Speaking of The Kitchen and hearing about how you’ve come into experimental exhibition-making, your curatorial role at The Kitchen makes so much sense. You’ve held positions at a number of arts and cultural institutions including Pioneer Works, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Museum of Modern Art. Why art institutions? Why now? 

With all of those institutions, obviously, there's a difference in scale. A museum is less oriented to process regarding what we see, but is just as invested in the showing and long-term care of artwork in a public realm. In my experience, nonprofits and alternative organizations might be more invested in experimenting, both in the capacity of how people are working there and in the ways they support artwork and artists.  

I think our institutions and cultural spaces have an agency to exist adjacent to life and to query it. There’s so much radical thinking that can be done collaboratively at a smaller space—that's what I love about The Kitchen. The Kitchen is propelled by the depth of its history and its archive, along with the folks who have carried, or at times disrupted, that legacy with intention, in which artists have always been at the center.  

I value how our work can be deeply citational and recall people, research, and different modes of presentation. I think art institutions now are trying to build more relationships with people. That feels less extractive. My work thus far has focused less on collections, rather on supporting projects directly with artists. I love that aspect of artists being present in the institution, together interrogating contexts and what it means to steward the history of an artwork forward. As people are spending more time in art institutions, hopefully, these institutions are shifting toward us, rather than toward themselves.   

When you say people, are you speaking about audiences, artists, or people more broadly? 

I’m speaking about audiences, artists, art workers, curators, funders. At the end of the day, sometimes it’s not useful to say the word “institution” without also asking what makes it up—the patterns of behavior that exist within them. 

It’s apparent that the way you work alongside artists and collaborators isn’t a momentary occurrence, it’s not tied to the lifetime of an exhibition or program.  

So far this year’s program at The Kitchen has platformed the work of many BIPOC and queer artists, such as E. Jane and Sadie Barnette, both of whom were artists in residence at the Studio Museum. How have artistic communities supported you and informed your work? 

Those are all fantastic projects, organized shortly before I began working at The Kitchen, but building community was a wholly integral part of my work in The Studio Museum in Harlem and MoMA’s Joint Fellowship. The relationships I’ve developed with curators I worked with throughout those two years and my fellowship cohort, who are all doing fantastic things across spaces in New York and beyond, have supported me the most. In shared spaces with artists, we’re learning and unlearning together and allowing any hierarchical structures to be broken, or reimagined. Seeing the constellation of relationships, especially in the Studio Museum’s Artist-in-Residence program, is so exciting because it speaks to how foundational it is to create a model that resources artists directly—with physical space, community, and support overall.  

I think there’s so much need for mentorship in the art world that is learned in a doing space. I want to share that intergenerationally, as well. It’s all built off of trust, you know? To build spaces that are femme-led, that are anti-racist, that are multilingual, that support hybrid models of working, that have capacious approaches to time. I’m able to exist in all these spaces because of who I’ve worked with and been supported by. 

You also maintain a writing practice. Could you speak about how you’ve developed this over the years? Does this feel tied to your curatorial practice? 

It does feel directly tied to my curatorial practice. As I mentioned, I love research. I love how artists research. I always sort of struggled with being called a historian in school. I was like, “I don't love that word, but I deeply care for history and future histories.” So I see writing as a fundamental and durational part of sorting, archiving, and documenting an artwork, especially in the mediums I like to bring into focus.  

I've been involved in a lot of publishing projects across institutions and I love the physical aspects that can exist with writing. I'm a bit slow in my process but I love for ideas to expand over time. A previous professor of mine—her name is Ann Reynolds and she taught this course called “Performing Art History,” which focused on the work of Joan Jonas—she named all of her research, all these texts and ideas and things you focus on along the way, “fellow travelers.” They could be anything that informs your writing process, really. When you interrogate what things you are carrying with you, you can ask different questions, and in those questions look for patterns, then understand why they exist, disrupt those patterns, and maybe even create new ones. There's an accountability and participation present in this approach that culls knowledge together in weird ways.