Artists Space

The Low Riders

October 24 – November 21, 1981

As part of the U.S. Projects series, Jean-Edith Weiffenbach selected Meridel Rubenstein to exhibit a body of photographs entitled The Low Riders that had previously been exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts in Rubenstein’s home city of Santa Fe.

The project documents a community of folk artists whose work consists of “adorning and displaying the car,” revealing the cultural meanings underneath that practice. In the series, men and women pose roadside with their cars, sometimes along with other possessions – a t-shirt emblazoned with the pietà, or a striped picnic blanket. Behind the figures, our view opens onto the expansiveness of the New Mexico landscape.

The Low Riders occupies a space in the lineage of American photographic ethnographies after Robert Frank’s The Americans (1958), along with the projects of photographers like Diane Arbus and Roy Decarava. Rubenstein contextualizes the Low Riders lifestyle broadly: “These Hispanic young men and women are descendants of not only the ‘cruisers’ of the 50s but of every culture that has loved and adorned their mode of transportation. This includes Mexican bus drivers, Spanish conquistadores, and Roman gladiators… [these vehicles] have been not only chariots of festiveness but also reliquaries of ancient psychic messages in which one tests the Fates.”

This installation of video, photographs and a color portfolio was shown at The Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico where Meridel Rubenstein also lives.

Programming at Artists Space is partially supported by funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Jerome Foundation.