Carla Rippey shows what can be accomplished when great skill, willingness to experiment and unity of vision combine. Her superb retrospective called “Resguardo y Resistencia 1976-2016 currently on view at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez takes us on a journey through the past, or rather a journey through many different pasts as well as to dreamscapes and to other worlds by means of a variety of techniques often built on a solid foundation of drawing and printing skills.
Rippey was born in Kansas City, but has lived and worked in Mexico since the 1970’s. In 2013 she was named director of “La Esmeralda” (Escuela Nacional de Pintura,Escultura y Grabado), the first woman ever named to that position, and this retrospective perhaps is an indication of why she was selected.
It presents a unity of theme which is not so much a linear stroll down memory lane as a wash of impressions and images which creates a sense of the past as well as a concern with the female form. This show feels a bit like those images which flit through one’s brain just before waking or just before drifting off to sleep.
Maybe I’m going on a bit too much about this or maybe it is a result of the wonderful large prints from the series called “Esclavos del Sueno” (Slaves of the dream) which poses a languorous figure, often nude,surrounded by imagined landscapes- the whole filled with somnolence and other lands and time. Like most of the prints in the show these are in black and white which adds a sense of out of time and place.
In some cases her concern with the female figure leads her to create highly detailed portraits, while in other instances she has applied thinner to a face drawn on a sheet of newsprint which erases part of the detail, contributing to the unreality. The show includes a pillow book she has drawn which seems like a scene from a telenovela, as well as other little books and fold out creations. She has appropriated old post cards from Cambodia placed on vintage material for a series called Turista.
One whole wall is given over to her judicious selection of archival photos from Nebraska, where her own ancestors came from, and Mexican archives with photos from around the time of the Mexican Revolution. There is one photo from 1914 which shows US troops from Nebraska camped on the Mexican border, this in a nod perhaps to referencing her own personal history.
Some retrospectives concentrate on how an artist has chaqnged technique from realism to abstraction for example, or how a change of media. This show despite a plethora of techniques seems to show a continuity of theme and purpose. It also shows the power inherent in skilled draftsmanship.
It takes a show like this to remind one of what power there can be found in pure technical skill combined with a willingness to invent, and an idea to explore. It makes so much of what is often on view seem like the gawdy trinkets of a two-bit street hustler.-david sokolec