September is for art

It’s September and time for art on both sides of the border.

Rubin Center at UTEP is opening three shows this Thursday (Sept 20). Kerry Doyle, the indefatigable director, went to Oaxaca (does she have the best job ever, or what) and explored the booming print scene there. With co-curator Carmen Cebreros Urzais, whose extraordinary CV seems to go on forever, she has brought back a variety of prints for a show called Iconografica Oaxaca by artists who are blending the traditional indigenous iconography with the contemporary.

The second show called Revolutions is by Russian born artist Yana Payusova who uses the medium of ceramics to explore issues of power and gender. She has exhibited internationally and is currently teaching at University of Arizona in Tucson.

The third show features internationally known Mexico City based artist Betsabee Romero with a show called Tu Huella Es El Camino. Her themes include issues of immigration, globalization and cultural issues in general.

I believe this exhibit includes a large installation outside of the gallery.

So all of this is opening Thursday night from 5-7.

Meanwhile on this side of the border, the Museo de Arte, which is celebrating 50 years is opening a show called Exilios del imaginario which features a retrospective of photographers who have shown at the museum from 1968-2018. This is set to open on the 28th at 7pm.-david sokolec

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US Consulate Salutes Our Border Community

I want to give a shout out to the US Consulate in Juarez which just commissioned a huge mural to show its appreciation to the El Paso and Juarez community, and to emphasize all of the connections our two cities share.
Under the direction of Edgar Picazo Merino a group of local artists, including Haydee Alonzo, Justin Leeah, Martin A. Lopez,and Miguel Eduardo Vargas created the mural Nuestra Frontera which presents 36 panels which when conjoined form four circles which show the nature, architecture, history and familiar symbols from our shared community.
Congratulations to the Consulate for recognizing for sponsoring this work. Those guys have always shown a real appreciation and affection for the community, and congratulations to the artists who have created this great addition to the Consulate.-david sokolec31

The Border From the Border

Although the Transborder Biennial features the same artists in both museums, the two halves at the El Paso Museum of Art and the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez seem almost two completely different shows.
This may be due,in part, to the different size of the two spaces. Sometimes the more intimate space of the Juarez Museum provides a better venue with the relative coziness providing a certain coherence often lost in the larger more industrial feeling museum in El Paso. In this case, however the larger museum affords the opportunity for larger installations and videos which would overwhelm the smaller venue.
Angel Cabrales’s interactive piece “Hole in One” which allows one to sit in a chair and literally shoot a small rubber ball across to a golf green with a Mexican flag sticking up from the cup would be nearly impossible in the smaller museum while it only takes up a small corner here.
I went to the opening in Juarez first and was, frankly, disappointed in the show because it seemed to involve way too many conceptual pieces which failed to communicate and which seemed to involve some private vision whose point or significance I was often unable to discern. This was certainly not true of all the works which included some very fine pieces, but I just felt it as a whole a bit cold.
This feeling completely disappeared over in El Paso. Even though these were the same artists and not all of the pieces worked, (Some of the found objects should have perhaps been better left in situ) those pieces were subsumed into a larger totality. Unlike previous years, there was a stated theme for this show which was, not unsurprisingly, the border itself, and in this show one had a real feel for a border as seen and felt by the artists who live here. There were installations like the aforementioned Hole in One, Gil Rocha-Rocheli created a full size foosball game pitting police against sneakers moving forward; there were large spaces for videos of personal trips into the border, as well as large works taken from archival photos. Some of these also appeared in the show across the border but were of necessity much smaller.
Sometimes the smaller venue was better. Zeke Peña’s witty drawings work everywhere, but were perhaps a bit better served by the smaller Juarez museum museum in Juarez rather than in El Paso where they seemed a bit dwarfed. On the other hand, Adrian Esparza’s deconstructed sarapes looked good in both places, but the larger space allowed him an even more impressive installation.
The border is a huge subject but the show provides a visceral feeling for the border by artists who live here, and the show particularly in El Paso brought this feeling into coherence. This sense of unity and cohesion might have been due to the space, but it is just as likely due in large part to recently hired EPMA curator Kate Green who has impressive degrees, and tons of museum experience, most recently in Marfa. This is her first show for the El Paso museum and is one of the best things to happen here in years. It is also possible that because I saw this first in Juarez I already had a certain feeling for the show. In any case, it is important to see the works in both venues not only to see the complete show, but also to see how the different spaces can shape the perception of the work.
The show will be up through Mexican Independence day Sept. 16th-david sokolec

Busy Art Weekend on the Border

It’s going to be a busy weekend for art on both sides of the border.
The big event is, of course, the Border Biennial-Bienal Transfronterizo, an event shared equally by the Mueo de Art de Ciudad Juarez and the El Paso Museum of Art. This year there was actually a theme for the show which was,not unsurprisingly, the border itself. The jurors were Gilbert Vicario from the Phoenix Museum of Art and Carlos Palacios from the Museo Carrillo Gil in Mexico City. There is a members only opening at EPMA on Thursday night at 5:30, with an the show open for the rest of us the next day during their regular hours. In Juarez the official opening is Friday night at 7 pm, and as always it is for everyone.
So you can see both halves of the show on the same day, and it is really worthwhile to see both parts. The difference in the two spaces actually makes a difference in the feel for the show, and that, incidentally, is worth a whole exploration on its own.
If you’re not a EPMA member, or even if you are, you can stop by Artspace Lofts Thursday nightfrom 6-11 for the show Paradox Portals featuring artists Laura Turon and Mandy Shantyne
Back in Juarez on Friday architect Miguel Espejel is giving a presentation on the state of architecture in the historic center with a focus on Hotel Sur. This building erected in 1919 hosted a large number of notables in its heyday but like many other locations slowly was allowed to fall into decay and was actually finally closed a few years ago after a particularly ugly feminicida in which, I believe, the manager was considered a suspect. Last week there were some Tin-Tan museum markups for a restoration, actually a complete transformation of the building. These new proposals make it look sleek and chic. It looks amazing, but I didn’t see them saving this old ad currently on the side of the building.

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The talk will be at the Tin-Tan Museum on Juarez Ave at 5 pm.. CORRECTION. I just learned the talk has been moved to IADA bldgA at UACJ.

The Rubin Center at UTEP is opening two shows on Saturday from 12-2. Salidas and Entradas/Exits and Entrances is the work of video artists Jessica Hankey and Erin Johnson with the participation of three Senior Centers. This is also the opening of the show Labor in a Single Shot, the work of video students at UACJ under the direction of Leon de La Rosa Carillo. More info about both of these shows can be found at their website
So don’t tell me there’s nothing to do.-david sokolec

AFP covers the Border

Last year three photographers from Agence France Presse travelled the US-Mexican border fromSanDiego to Tamaulipas. Guillermo Arias, based in Tijuana travelled on the Mexican side from Baja California to Tamaulipas, Jim Watson, based in Washington DC travelled the US side from Californey will be up ia to Texas and AFP chief Yuri Cortez joined the others from his base in Mexico City. The result of their trip can be seen hanging on the fence along the Santa Fe International bridge going from Juarez in the direction of El Paso. The works are hung only as far as where the Mexican side of the bridge meets the US side. They are also on display in Anapra here in Juarez. No single trip and no amount of photography can completely cover the complexity of life here, but these are quite wonderful and show a great deal of sensitivity and a keen eye. They will be up until June 4 on the bridge and June 5 in Anapra. -david sokolec

Kress Collection Rehang Misguided

The Kress collection at the El Paso Museum of Art, comprising works roughly from the 14th through the 18th century, is a remarkable treasure and has often quite correctly been called the crown jewel of the museum. Contrary to what some have said it really was rehung some 8 years ago along traditional historically linear lines with each room painted a different color to further emphasize the different time periods on view. This was not all that dramatic a change, but simply neatly divided the work up in historical categories.
Apparently the current administration decided the collection needed a complete reorganization, received a grant from the Kress foundation to do so and hired Dr. Elizabeth Dwyer, who fairly recently received her PhD from the University of Virginia for the task.
She decided to hang the collection thematically and to that end chose to hang the works based on the categories of “Madonna and Child”, “Honored Saints” “Sacred Stories” and the “Rise of Secular Art.”. This latter includes the sections world views, Rococo portraits, Nature’s outlines and grand portraits.
While the section of secular portraits and domestic scenes are fine, it is the art in the first rooms which focus on religious content rather than the treatment of that content and, more appallingly, explanatory notes which are too often mere religious propaganda and proselytizing which makes this current approach extremely troubling.
While individual exhibitions with a limited shelf-life are often created to call attention to content or to some link between different artworks not immediately apparent, more permanent displays, such as this is intended to be generally are designed to call attention to the skill involved or to historically important works. As such the display of religious works of art in public museums has always been universally acceptable precisely because museums, at least good ones, take care to take an objective, non-religious view of the art regardless of the relation individual patrons might have with the content.
The display would perhaps not be quite so objectionable were it not for the accompanying informational cards which too often read like religious propaganda.
One card begins “For two millennia, men and women of remarkable faith, fortitude and virtue have shared in St. Jerome’s desire for eternal salvation.”
In another card concerning St. Francis, someone for whom I have a great deal of respect, the card reads more like a Sunday school catechism class than something appropriate for a museum. There are far too many “Our fathers” and other such verbiage spread about which creates something deeply troubling and ultimately off-putting.
The thing is it didn’t have to be this way. The works themselves are nicely displayed. As in the rest of the museum, the walls have been painted bright white or covered in white wall covering with a vaguely Italianate background,. and whether it is the reflection of the light against the now bright white walls or whether they have intensified the lighting, the effect is that details are more easily seen. This is a little shocking at first as we have lost the more intimate feeling which was provided by dark crimson walls and subdued lighting from before, but does make the fine detail more available. Reminds me of a certain club in Chicago back in the day which turned on all the lights at 5 in the morning when they wanted everyone to leave. You could see every detail-scary in the club, helpful here.
Even with the works displayed to focus on the religiosity of the work, there could have been a more thorough objective discussion. For example a larger discussion of how the portrayal of the Madonna and Child from a purely otherworldly view to a more human one reflected the profound change in thinking resulting in the Renaissance. This was mentioned on one of the cards, but the theme could have been much better developed, along perhaps with a later discussion of how as money began flowing to individuals rather than only to the church, art changed from glorifying religious figures to glorifying wealthy individuals. This would have provided a better bridge to the later works in the show which seem a bit unconnected. There could have been a discussion of gold leaf or the importance of certain colors, or the inclusion of certain patrons within what were exclusively religious works. These religious works were, of course, originally intended as instruction, but art museums have been correctly and fairly scrupulous in avoiding this aspect. Here it seems to be predominant and this is completely unacceptable.
An art museum is a place for everyone, regardless of personal belief, to feel welcome and a close scrutiny of much of this rehung collection does the opposite. Despite a few interesting bits of historical information such as that on a Jacopo del Casentino altarpiece, the misguided choice to focus on theme has led to a display which is too often off-putting, divisive and deeply troubling.-david sokolec

Transborder Biennial Artists Selected

Congratulations to all of the artists who were selected for this year’s Transborder Biennial. This is the fisth edition of the biennial and I am pleased to see that for this one there was a specific theme given for the exhibition. In this case the theme was the transborder itself in whatever way one wanted to duiscuss it. In years past there has simply been a request for entries with no guidance or suggestions whatsoever as to what qualities or characteristics or ideas the judges might be looking for. In this case, it was at least narrowed down a bit.
The judges for this biennial are Gilbert Vicario,Selig Family Chief Curator of the Phoenix Art Museum and Carlos E Palacios, Curator of the Museo De Arte Carrillo Gil in Mexico City.
The bienial is unique in that the art, which was selected from artists living within 200 miles and on both sides of the US-Mexico border, is simultaneously exhibited in museums on both sides of the border at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez and the El Paso Museum of Art.
The Transborder Biennial opens on June 1 and runs until September 16.
Here are a list of the artists selected, and again a big congratulations to all of them.-David Sokolec
Animales de Poder (Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua)
Apodaca, Alexia G. (Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua)
Avila, Abraham (Tijuana, Baja California)
Blancas Beltran, Andrea (El Paso, Texas)
Boils Terán, Gabriel (Tijuana, Baja California)
Cabrales, Angel (El Paso, Texas)
De la Rosa-Carrillo, León (Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua)
De los Reyes, Tony (Los Angeles, California)
Elsoldelrac (Tijuana, Baja California)
Esparza, Adrian C. (El Paso, Texas)
Galería Perdida (Rancho Cucamonga, California)
Gere, Rich (Corpus Christi, Texas)
Gutierrez, Guillermo (El Paso, Texas)
Hernández, Ingrid and Pieter Wisse (Tijuana, Baja California)
Hernández, Nayeli (Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua)
José Crespo, María (Tijuana, Baja California)
Kline, Wes and Erika Lynne Hanson (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
Leyva, Ingrid (El Paso, Texas)
Manríquez, Iván (Monterrey, Nuevo León)
Meador, Daryl and Andres Cardena (Brownsville, Texas)
Partegàs, Ester (Marfa, Texas)
Peña, Zeke (El Paso, Texas)
Pimienta, Omar (San Diego, California)
Randall, SV (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
Rocha-Rochelli, Gil (Laredo, Texas)
Sáenz, Mauricio (Matamoros, Tamaulipas)
Turounet, Paul (Cardiff, California)
Unknown Fish (San Diego, California)
Vielma, Carlos (Saltillo, Coahuila)
Villalobos, Jose (San Antonio, Texas)