Haunting images of a troubled land.

For the last number of years when people think of Tamaulipas, if they think of it at all, it is probably only as a place of violence. However much like Juárez, which often suffers much the same sort of reputation, there is more to the area than the horrible things people do to each other.

Local artist Jair Tapia was awarded a three months arts residency there and has produced a haunting work entitled “Espacios en Vigilia” which was shown last weekend at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez.

This was Tapia’s first visit to Tamaulipas and his work is something of a visual tone poem reflecting his impressions of Victoria and the surrounding area. Four projectors present a simultaneous stream of images. This is not a straight forward portrait in the usual sense. In fact, there seems to be little or nothing which even tells us where we are. There are no people or well-known landmarks to indicate geographical specificity. This is the polar opposite of those old travel shows of the This is Tamaulipas! variety. Instead the mostly pastoral scenes create an impression of a mostly beautiful area, but the background music as well as the images themselves which, though often beautiful, nevertheless give a sense something is off, that there is something definitely seriously amiss. There is a sense, if not specifically of danger, then of foreboding running through the series.

I found that long after I left the museum the images, or more specifically, the mood of disquiet evoked stayed with me, and actually continued to grow stronger throughout the rest of the evening.

Through this series of seemingly random images located somewhat out of time and place, Tapia has been able to evoke the sense of both beauty and danger he felt while living there, and has enabled us to feel something of the same.

Unfortunately, for technical reasons, this will only be shown once more this upcoming weekend, but hopefully he will be able to find a way to get the necessary equipment and venues to show it in other places. It is a beautiful and haunting work and deserves a larger audience.-David Sokolec.

Border art themed openings

There are two openings this focused on border issues.

Tonight (Friday) Metalworker extraordinaire and good friend Ale Carrillo-Estrada is opening her solo show “Itinerant Dialogues” at Xolo Gallery 2800 N Piedras from 6 -9 pm. A too brief summary is that she fuses carefully constructed jewelry and other metal items with themes concerning immigration and border culture.

Tomorrow from 2-4 at the Chihuahua Desert Museum on the UTEP campus there will be the opening of “Uncaged Art”. This important and probably heartbreaking show is the art work of 13-17 year old immigrant children who were held in the detention center at Tornillo. Current UTEP President Diane Natalicio as well as other special guests will speak at 3 and I’m hoping it will show that you can cage the body but not the spirit. – David Sokolec

Sensory Riches at Museo de Arte

The Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez here has a new director, Christian Diego Diego, so what better for an opening show than to go back to basics.

In her show “Cromática”, Tania Candiani explores the three primary colors as a means of showing and helping preserve indigenous traditions and craftsmanship as well as showing how colors, in this case, the red, yellow and blue primary ones, can and should interact with all of our other senses. She also wants to remind us of how the making of these colors for textiles and other things is an interaction between the fabricated and the natural world. As curator Blanca de la Torre notes red dye traditionally came from the Cochineal bug and therefore from the animal world, anil blue (azul anil) from plant life and the yellow pigments were made from the mineral world. So there is this man-made natural world interchange.

Each room in the exhibit is devoted to one of these three colors and provide information on how these colors are made as well as ways of interacting with the items to heighten our other senses. In the main “red” room there is an enormous loom hooked up to a loudspeaker and at the opening we were treated to a symphony of sorts by the playing of the loom. In the yellow room there are yellow birds, which are actually ocarina which can be played by means of an attached bellows. These birds are reminiscent of whistles often found in the south of Mexico . For years I used to have a black clay bird whistle I bought in Chiapas.

Each room also features a series of hand embroidery with quotes about the specific color featured. There is also detailed information as to how these colors are formed, videos showing traditional methods of dye making and large hanging examples of wool both dyed and undyed.

All of this is specifically related to native cultures and I believe at some point during the show there will be dances by the members of the Raramuri community. The show itself runs until June 16.

This is a really exciting show and a great beginning for this new chapter in the museum’s history. – david sokolec

Margarita Cabrera Named Texas Artist of the Year

Congrats to Margarita Cabrera for being named Texas Artist of the year by Art league of Houston. The former El Paso resident was cited for her work deeply involving communities and inviting the audience as active participant in her projects. She will be given a huge solo show later this year and a gala dinner. You can read more about it at: https://www.artleaguehouston.org/2019-ALH-awards – david sokolec

Busy arts week in Juarez

This week (April 1-7) is going to be pretty busy for cultural activities.

Monday is the opening for the week long Fiesta de los Libros book fair at Centro Cultural de la Frontera. There will be presentations, workshops and films. This will also be one of the venues for the usual wonderful Ambulante documentary series, which has been travelling throughout Mexico and will finally open here. The series begins at the center on Friday April 5,but for more info and other locations check out http://www.ambulante.org.http://www.ambulante.org

On Wednesday this month’s Charlas Fotográfico kicks off at Cafe San Angel with Juarez born Mexico City based photographer Luis de la Luz. The talk starts at 7. For more info on the rest of this month’s talks check out the Facebook page.

On Thursday night at 7 the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez will open Tania Candelaria’s show Chromatica.

On Saturday from 2-7 there is Festival de los Sueños at Plaza Cervantino.

And, of course, the the show on King Tut which opened Friday at Centro Cultural Paso del Norte continues with free admission on Wednesdays.

So there’s no excuse for staying home.-david sokolec

Big Change at Museo de Arte

After some 20 Years at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez, Rosa Elva Ruiz is stepping down as director. She joined the museum in 1993 and became the first female director in 2001. After so much time it may be natural for her to want a change, but it’s going to be strange not to see her introducing artists, musicians and writers at various events.

I have so many fond memories of events at the museum- not just art shows but also concerts, literary events, and lectures. She has been responsible for so much activity including the long reconstruction of the museum after a devastating fire some years back. There have been remarkable expositions and, of course, there is the border biennial which began while she was director.

On the other hand, stepping into the role of director, is artist Diego Diego and it will be interesting to see what new and exciting things he’ll bring to the museum. The Museum is a part of the National network so there is really a lot to draw from although I believe money to do so is somewhat meagre

In any case I want to wish Rosa Elva all the best and extend congratulations and great success to Diego Diego. There are a lot of possibilities for this museum and I’m looking forward to seeing in what direction he will move it. – David Sokolec

Speed Demons

Marfa is known for minimalist art mainly because of Donald Judd, who lived there back in the day ; Julie Speed, who lives in Marfa now, provides an answer, or perhaps an antidote, in her intriguing show “East of The Sun, West of the Moon” currently on view at the El Paso Museum of Art.

This is a dense, reference packed show show comprising collages, oils and even an immersive video projection room.

Many of her collages feature a meeting of Eastern and Western historical or archetypal figures as a central theme. This, however is only the beginning. She fills the sides of the work with small inserts referencing a wide variety of subjects and references both artistic, biblical, historical-essentially everything but the proverbial kitchen sink.

Speed shows both wit – there is a painting called “Eating Warhol’s Lunch” , which shows a couple eating tomato soup, and another titled “Judith Reconsiders” which portrays Judith with the severed head of Holofernes, as well as a very dark side.

The works often include insets or background scenes of violence. A recurrent theme seems to involve bears devouring a fish or other wild animals behaving like wild animals. There are scenes of domestic chaos and sharpened knives.

Sometimes you can take in a painting at a glance. These are not those sort of paintings. They require close attention so as not to miss everything going on.

All of this is wonderful and exciting and something different. The Museum has also turned a conference room at the back of the exhibit into an immersive recreation of Speed’s own studio with video projection of her paintings filling the walls and a soundtrack playing her favorite music which is as eclectic as her art.

The show is up through April 7.

It feels almost sacriligeous to be talking about Jacob Lawrence second in this review. In 1938 this Lawrence , one of the best known artists of the Harlem Renaissance, made a series of paintings about Haiti. Near the end of his life, he made a series of prints from that series in which he concentrated on Toussaint L’Ouverture, the famous General and leader of the slave revolt which brought freedom to the island. It is this series of important prints shown in their entirety upstairs at the museum.

This will be up until Feb 27.-david sokolec