HomeNews and EventsPhoenix Art Museum explores Southwest car culture in new exhibition

Phoenix Art Museum explores Southwest car culture in new exhibition

The exhibition was inspired by low rider and custom car culture


The Phoenix Art Museum’s latest exhibition explores the relationship between transportation, cultural identity, and the Southwest desert region. Desert Rider features work by Latinx and Indigenous artist like Cara Romero, Douglas Miles, Margarita Cabrera, Liz Cohen, and Justin Favela. The artists drew inspiration from the custom car and lowrider culture of the Southwest.

Gypsy Rose Pinata
Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Art Museum

“This exhibition amplifies voices that challenge preconceived notions around identify and the creative self,” said Mark Koenig, the interim Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “Desert Rider gives Arizona audiences the opportunity to see how Indigenous and Latinx perspectives and interpretations of automotive and skateboarding subcultures define the regional identity of the Southwest. We are thrilled to present diverse works, many by artists working here in Arizona.”

Desert Rider dives into the beginning of the custom and lowrider culture in the post-war era of the 1950s that helped start the American dependence and romanticization of the automobile.

The exhibition ties in contemporary art with counter-culture developments of the 1960s, as cars became symbolic of freedom, self-expression, and non-conformity. Mexican-American artists customized their cars with cultural and religious images that were a blunt denial of mainstream vehicles. For some members of the Latinx and Chicanx communities a lowrider remains a symbol of originality, cultural identity, and pride.

Seven Magic Tires
Photo courtesy of the Phoenix Art Museum

Desert Rider explores the ways car culture in the southwest, has influenced the work of contemporary Latinx and Indigenous artists who are examining the intersection of movement and motion, migration, gender, sexuality, labor, and identity,” said Gilbert Vicario, who curated the exhibition. “I hope guests see the impact that local culture has had on artists working in the Southwest and appreciate this piece of history from the land in which they were born.”

Desert Rider will be on view from April 24, 2022 through September 18, 2022 in Steele Gallery at the Phoenix Art Museum. 

David P. Castro
David P. Castro
The Santa Rosa, California native is an experienced automotive and motorsports writer with a passion for American muscle cars. He is a credentialed automotive, NASCAR, and IndyCar reporter that graduated from the University of Nevada. A devoted F1 and NASCAR fan, he currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, son, Siberian Husky, Mini Cooper, and 1977 Chevrolet C10.


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