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

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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

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)

Chicano Works on Paper

In addition to the show Ethics, Excess Extinction in the main gallery upstairs at the El Paso Museum of Art, there is a really wonderful show of works on paper from Cheech Marin’s extensive collection of Chicano Art.
Entitled “Papel Chicano Dos” the show brings together a hugely diverse group of artists working with different techniques and exploring a wide range of themes. Many of these works form a series, rather than standing alone.

Vincent Valdez has a boxer series in black and white called “Estaciones” (stations) which consists of twelve different events in the course of a boxer’s death with obvious reference to the Stations of the Cross, while Sonia Romero has a quiet series called “Awakening” consisting of three pieces showing a nude woman emerging from a constraining form like a chrysalis. In this and in a work called inner landscape, she is using the female nude to make a very personal exploration. Sonya Fe has a series retelling the story of La Llorona

There are a number of works by Glugio Gronk Nicandro showing his imaginative and fanciful vision. It’s a wonderful show full of talent and life.
On Saturday March 3 there is going to be a huge celebration at the Museum from 12-4. There will be music, and food trucks and undoubtedly lots of people.
The show itself will be on view until June 17. – David Sokolec

Above Reimagining La Llorona #1-6 Sonya Fe

Estaciones Vincent Valdez

Lifeboat Glugio Gronk Nicandro

Extinction and Excess

In the show Ethics, Excess, Extinction currently on view at the El Paso Museum of Art, the elephant in the room is the elephant in the room, or rather three large white puffy elephants created by Billie Grace Lynn. I don’t know whether the artist considered the idea that the term “white elephant” refers to a usually large, expensive undesirable purchase or if white was simply the color of the material at hand, but in either case they are here to remind us of the danger to the species as well as the danger to many others. One of the really heartbreaking photos in the show is by Nick Brandt, whose black and white photos of park rangers in Africa holding elephnt tusks is a simple but powerful image of the destruction men have wrought on these wonderful animals for the sake of money.
The show consists of a wide variety of approaches to the subject. Karen Knott has a haunting group of photos from her India series which shows an animal ensconced within the walls of a beautiful India interior.
Internationally known artist Kiki Smith contributes a number of huge tapestries portraying various wild animals. There is documentation of performance artists and videos linking people at a flea market with animals foraging.
All of the works in this show remind us in various ways that we are not the only ones on the planet,and that extinction not only means a loss to the animals but a profound loss for the world.
The show is organised by Artworks for Chicago and runs through May 13.-david sokolecIMG_20180221_140256701~2.jpgFotor_151925865347478.jpgIMG_20180221_140740398~2.jpg

Dreams Under Border Skies at Rubin Center

I thought the day the DACA program was rescinded would be a good day to visit Erika Harrsch’s installation Under the Same Sky..We Dream at the Rubin Center.
Before I talk about the show, I want to talk about the flood. No, not that flood, but the one that hit the Rubin Center here in El Paso. It seems the intense rain last Friday completely flooded the first floor of the center. There had been problems during rains before, but this was so bad that everything had to be ripped up and torn out from the small auditorium to the offices. The first floor currently looks like a construction site. Fortunately the main gallery space upstairs was untouched, and the indomitable director Kerry Doyle is currently running her empire from a card table set up in the small corridor between the reception desk and the back room. Here’s hoping that all get repaired soon.
As I said the upstairs gallery is fine and that means one can certainly explore the current exhibions. Erika Harrsch is based in New York, but she has spent a fair amount of time on the border and her work often concerns immigration and border issues. A year or so ago, she set up a huge spinning wheel here in which participants could “win”a North American passport”” which presumably would give one the right to freely cross all borders in North America. Revolutionary concept. Shengen convention anyone?
Here she has done something quite moving.
Hanging from the ceiling and completely stretching from one side of the gallery to the other is a cutout of the US-Mexico border completely filled with a video composed of 35,000 photographs of the sky over the Juarez-El Paso border. This video consisting mainly of shifting cluds is projected on both sides of the cutout. Ducking through this low hanging cutout (well, some probably have to duck, others of us can just fit beneath)brings one immediately to a darkened space filled with the same mats and blankets used in ICE detention centers. On each mat is a “Dreambook” illuminated by an attached reading light, containing the words of the “Dream Act.” From stereo speakers comes the magical voice of Mexican singer Magos Herrera singing those same words and thereby transforming the pure legalize into something truly wonderful. I was vaguely reminded of the practice of singing the words of the Torah, which also transforms what are, at times, purely prosaic words and some fundamental laws into something somehow much greater.
One is encouraged,to sit on the mat, read the book, listen to the words being sung and wafting over the room and then looking up at the shifting clouds projected above and ponder, reflect and perhaps to dream.
This is a deceptively simple, and perhaps precisely because of the simplicity powerfully moving work.
The installation is accompanied by a collection of interviews with various dreamers made by the Santa Fe Dreamers Project. Around the corner from Harrsch’s installation photographers Sylvia Johnson and Kerry Scherck show portaits of dreamers and a short interview with each one in which they discuss their life and hopes and dreams.
The two parts of the show combine perfectly into a profound reflection on an extremely relevant and important issue.
Erika Harrsch and some of the “dreamers”will be holding a panel discussion on September 28 at the show’s closing. It is scheduled for 6 pm, but check with the center for more details. -david sokolec

Tin Tan Museum opens At Last

After what seems like a very long time, the museum, or officially Sala de Arte dedicated to international film star and local hero German Valdes or Tin-Tan finally opened last Thursday night with an exhbition titled, appropriately enough, TinTan illustrado. This featured various artists portraits of the star who, though born in Mexico City, was raised and started his career in Juarez.
The Sala is smallish but airy and still seems to be not quite complete. It will be interesting to see what they do with the space.
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It sits just off Juarez avenue in between that street and Mariscal, which was famous for years for being filled with seedy bars, strip clubs and generally the sort of thing that brought some topurists over to Juarez back in the day. During the years of violence all of that was torn down with vague promises for redevelopment. Unfortunately there were no real plans and less money so the whole area simply sat vacant for a number of years.
In the last year or so however there have been concerted efforts to make it a new family friendly destination. They built a new park, called Juan Gabriel park, after the other local international star who got his start here. They are soon going to erect a statue of him in the park. They commisioned Calavera Collectivo and Collectivo 8 to paint huge wonderful murals along the backs of the buldings all along the street and plans were developed for the now opened Tin Tan museum.
Hopefully the whole area will become popular again with a slightly different crowd this time. We’ll see.-david sokolec