Organized by Amy Rosenblum-Martín and Ron Kavanaugh
Inspired and enabled by the people who live in the vibrant community where the Bronx Museum is located, local artists John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres have become world-famous for their portraits of their South Bronx neighbors. While museum-goers elsewhere have celebrated these renowned sculptures honoring Bronxites for four decades, this is the first time a large group of these artworks will be exhibited together at home for the very people represented therein. This major survey exhibition mirrors the creative and loving residents of the South Bronx whose personal stories and innovative aesthetics both reflect and shape culture internationally.
Ahearn and Torres are often praised for uplifting their subjects, thus representing social justice, diversity, dignity, and equity. This exhibition conveys how the subjects also uplifted the artists, making these portraits powerful by contributing their knowledge and spirit as well as their physical form. These timeless artworks celebrate the swagger and tenderness—the true power—of our beautiful, stylish neighbors. The show aims to bring attention to the value of every individual and family who has helped shape this proud, unique, and influential community. Swagger and Tenderness is framed by and for the very community that nurtured and empowered Ahearn’s and Torres’s creative talents.
This show will feature over 60 portraits alongside archival materials from 1979 to the present, from the Bronx Museum Collection and other public and private collections. In addition, works from the artists' personal collections will be presented publicly for the first time, together with rarely seen Polaroids of South Bronx residents portrayed in the sculptures. The exhibition catalog will include interviews with portrait subjects, poetry by Bronx authors, illustrated curatorial essays, and a graphic novel written by Ron Kavanaugh and illustrated by Sole Rebel, both from the Bronx. The exhibition will be designed by the curators in collaboration with Bronx-based architect Jorge Plazas and Darío Nuñez-Ameni (former architect of Vito Acconci Studio–Acconci was born in the Bronx). Curatorial advisors from the community include Alveda Alston, Leenda Bonilla, Johnny Chavarria, Luís A. Pagán, and Moisés Rivera.