New Space at Museo de Arte

Tomorrow, Thursday 23, the Museo de Arte in Juarez is opening a new space dedicated to promoting local, national and international artists who deal in new media. Called Antecamara de proyectos it will be inaugurated by a film called Reflexiones en Torno al Cielo by Mexico City based artist Alexandra German who will be attending the opening, and curated by Victoria Vinamaragui.
Here is the description in Spanish from the museum. Looks like a wonderful new addition.
Antecámara de Proyectos del Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez tiene el enfoque de promover y difundir la producción y consumo de arte actual y nuevos medios. A partir de curadurías y diseños de exhibición que nazcan desde el museo. Antecámara es una sala alternativa que se logra dentro de una dinámica de rotación de artistas locales, nacionales e internacionales, para así lograr alcanzar mayores públicos.
the opening is set for 6 pm.-david sokolec

Plans for a Nuevo Siglo

The folks at Los Paisanos de la Chamizal have an ambitious plan for a new huge Hispanic themed festival designed to bring artists and performers from all over the world as well as the inclusion of local talent in what sounds like a wonderful proposition. They have the support of the City and County of El Paso as well as the National Park Service and are looking for local talent, businesses and people in general to join in. Their website is  at Nuevo

I have to say that one of the things I found exciting when I moved here was the Siglo de Oro theater festival at the Chamizal. Under the leadership of the indefatigable Virginia Ness, theater groups and academics from all over the world came to both sides of the border to perform widely varying interpretations of plays from the Golden Age of Spain. I could never figure out why the city and various arts organizations didn’t use this as an opportunity to join hands and create a citywide, or binational wide, festival which would attract theatergoers from all over a la Spoleto festival in Charleston or the Santa Fe Opera. At last there  seems to be a recognition that a festival bringing together local and national talent to the region would be an enormous boost for the region.I’m not sure the new plan is designed to include the Siglo de Oro festival, which has unfortunately been allowed to dwindle to a pale shadow of its former self, or if , as it appears to be, an entirely new type of festival. In either case, it sounds wonderful and good luck to them.-david sokolec

Chalk the Block Rides Again

A reminder that this weekend is Chalk the Block weekend, and this year features an enormous dragon and the perfect selfie lighting. It’s been great to watch this fair grow and change and become really one of the major family events  in El Paso
The dragon, an enormous multi-ton light breathing monster using a dump truck as a base, is the brain child of Hong Kong artist Teddy Lo and Detroit artist Ryan Doyle. The selfie wall is a modular wall featuring the prospect of a wide variety of lighting situations so you can take the perfect view of yourself. I might be the only person who doesn’t  quite get the point of selfies other than as a possible hedge against dementia. They vaguely remind me of kidnap situations where you are asked to hold up the day’s paper to prove you’re alive, but everyone else seems to love them and this should be quite wonderful.
Among other art events here is also going to be a mural wall anchored by the El Paso Museum of Art and the Convention center. Artists are well-known and seemingly ubiquitous local street artists like Jellyfish collective and Los Dos as well as artists from Albuquerque and elsewhere.
And of course there will be lots of chalk drawings.
In any case the weather promises to be nice and it should be, as always, a lot of fun-david sokolec

Cinema magic

Here in Juarez there is an even greater than usual opportunity these days to see  interesting and varied films from all over the world. There is the 20thTour de Cine Francaise sponsored by Alliance Francaise, among other organizations, which features one film every day through the 13th at Misiones Mall.. This is perhaps the most commercial of the film series on offer, but commercial does not mean some blockbuster adventure film, but some of the better or more interesting films recently produced in that country. Incidentally, Alliance Francaise also shows French films every two weeks at its headquarters here and recently wrapped up a six day showing of some amazing shorts from all over Europe.hese
Over at the MUREF (Museo de la Revolucion en la Frontera) they are showing a series of internationally made documentaries promoted by Documental Ambulante Asociacion Civil, a national organization founded in 2005 devoted to promoting documentary films. These are shown Friday at 4 and Saturday at noon, and the series runs through the end of the month.
Cafe Unico, which always shows different cycles of films on Thursday, is this month featuring German films selected by cineclub kino Juarez.
While admission at Cinepolis is the usual admission price to the theater, the rest of the films are free.
So while I was watching an ad for the Morelia film festival I couldn’t help wonder why doesn’t Chihuahua have an international film festival and I don’t mean the local binational film festival but a really large statewide affair. There are any number of local filmmakers, and if the push in El Paso for more state funding for filmmaking is successful, you might have a really interesting situation. Morelia, Oaxaca and other states seem to have big international film festivals, so how come not here?  David sokolec

Border Biennial spans the Rio Grande

There are a lot of ways to set up a biennial or art festival.  You can have a group from the sponsoring body scour the landscape to handpick artists a la Whitney or you can have an individual select a portion of the festival with other galleries or countries sending in their own choices a la Venice. The El Paso Museum of Art seems to have adopted what I’m calling the Emma Lazarus approach. To paraphrase that poet’s words from the Statue of Liberty “Send me your oils, your videos, your installations, yearning to be displayed.” Anyone living within a 400 mile radius of the border can submit work, but there is no criteria given, no theme, simply a request for entries with judges deciding based on their own private criteria. This is perhaps more democratic than some other methods, but I can only imagine it leaves some people scratching their heads. In any case, this year some 285 artists responded, a larger number than previously and of those 44 were selected. They were pretty evenly divided on either side of the border with 21 from Mexico and 23 from the US.
This year’s judges were Santiago Espinosa de los Monteros from Mexico and Eduardo Diaz from the United States, although  a few days before the opening Mr Diaz resigned in protest over the exclusion of a local artist who he had selected to be included. (I have been told there are lawyers involved at least on one side so I want to leave the matter alone except to say that the grounds for exclusion apparently involved a perceived violation of one of the few requirements for entry.)

Santiago has a long and distinguished career as an art critic and curator in several Latin American countries writing for  Art Nexus among other publications;He also worked in the cultural section of the Mexican embassy in Venezuela and later Canada.  and in 2008 was named National Coordinator for Plastic Arts at  the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura(INBAL). In short he seems to have spent his life dealing specifically with contemporary art as both critic and administrator.

Eduardo Diaz is currently the Director of the Smithsonian Latino  Center, though El Pasoans might remember him from when he was a consultant  in San Antonio and was paid a great deal of money by the El Paso City government to form a master plan for the city arts department which included, among other things,  putting all of the major cultural institutions under one umbrella organization rather than having them continue to run as separate fiefdoms.
From this MCAD came into being. He also had a meeting with artists where he spent a fair amount of time explaining his plan and they spent a fair amount of time yelling at him; I forget why. Prior to being named to the Smithsonian post, he was the  Executive Director of the National  Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, the largest such  center in the country.

A major interest of Mr. Espinoza was to select art which “had something to say”. This is not only a view currently in vogue-many festivals and biennials all over the world have suddenly discovered they need to take a look at the world around them, but I have long believed that a great majority of Latin America art has long concerned itself with societal issues, sometimes overtly and others obliquely, but always taking society or local history into account. This in contrast with northern attitudes which too often seem to be about me and what I found in the trash or my bed.
There is of course an alternative view which  is perhaps more interested in purely aesthetic matters or other ideas. This tension might have played a part in deliberations for this biennial, but I would say the bulk of the show reflected, in a variety of media, societal concerns such as immigration and violence, life on the border, and the use of reworked  historical iconography to express present day concerns.  The works were mainly two dimensional but using widely varied techniques and media.There were also videos, sculptures and in one case, yes, found objects
I want to mention  a series of small elegant pencil drawings by Ana del Aguila Malvaez illustrating health pointing out health hazards in maquilas, and large oils by Rigoberto Gonzalez imitating Caravaggio to show powerful but horrifying scenes of modern cartel violence  in “Medusa” and “Perseus with the head of Medus”. There were photographs of daily life on the border and a series of small cards remembering the 43 disappeared students at Ayotzinapa.

Not all was specifically border related. Quing Liu’s Tea Dream series showed beautiful  delicate brush and ink work on tea bags, and others were concerned with color and composition and I very much liked Rebeca Mendez’s two deceptively simple videos El Norte and Circumpolar.
Artists had to submit two works because the show opened simultaneously in El Paso and Juarez, and it is really worthwhile to see the show in both museums. not least because the difference in spaces also makes a difference in the show. The larger El Paso Museum of Art was originally a bus station while the smaller circular Museo de Arte was built specifically to show art. What this means in practice is that in Juarez the smaller space makes the show seem more intimate while in El Paso the works seem more separate. Something the El Paso museum does is to provide text taken from the catalogue in which the artist  talks about the specific pieceon view. I know there are differing opinions about text on gallery walls, and some artist statements can be problematic, but here it often does much to enhance the work.
Without the text, we might not really know what Rebeca Mendez was doing trudging back and forth in the snow with a Mexican flag (she was trying to symbolically claim a part of the Arctic for Mexico) nor would we understand that Andres Troncoso’s overweight virgins came about because he was troubled as a child in church from  the discrepancy between the images of the flawlessly beautiful Virgin he saw in paintings and the women he saw around him in church, wondering why the Virgin didn’t look like them. Many reading fashion mags are asking the same thing, so I’m wondering if these early religious images were the Vogue or Elle for the faithful, but I digress.

There is much to like in this show, though I have to say much of it seemed famiiar. Perhaps this simply reveals a unity to be found here-the distinctive voice which emerges from this very distinctive culture, but of course, there are thousands of artists living on the border and many of them are working in an entirely different vein or with different concerns. Regardless the show which will be up through early February is definitely worth an exploration.

The bilingual catalogue is for sale in El Paso, though not at the Museum in Juarez. -david sokolec

Roundtable on Mexican design

Want to call attention to the roundtable discussion tomorrow night on contemporary Mexican design at the Museo de Arte aqui en Juarez. The discussion is at 7 and free to all.-david sokolec

La exposición “De ida y vuelta. Diseño contemporáneo en México” producida por el Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, será clausurada en el Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez el próximo 5 de julio y como última actividad se realizará la mesa redonda “Diseño, innovación y desarrollo el próximo 18 de junio a las 7:00 pm. en el Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez con la participación de los diseñadores y empresarios Ariel Rojo, Mauricio Lara y Sebastián Lara, moderada por Sergio Villalobos, coordinador de la carrera de Diseño Industrial de la UACJ.


Le invitamos a que nos acompañe en esta destacada intervención y visite nuestras exposiciones, recuerde que esta y todas las actividades de este Museo son gratuitas.


Esperamos contar con su asistencia.

Artists for the Border Biennial

The artists for this year’s  Cd Juarez-El Paso Biennial have been announced. There were 287 entries, more than in past years, and of these, 45 were selected. I’m happy to see the inclusion of a pretty fair representation of artists from Mexico including many fron Monterrey as well as artists from Tamaulipas and Baja California. This year Mexican sculptor Mely Barragan Chavez, winner of the 2013 Biennale award, will create a site specific piece at the El Paso  Museum of Art. There is no indication if  she will also create a piece at the Museo de Arte in Juarez.

The exhbition will open on October 11 and run through January 24. Congratulations to all those selected.


Karina Amaya – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
Robert Armando Cárdenas – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua / Guadalajara, Jalisco
Colectivo Estético – Monterrey, Nuevo León
David Garza – Monterrey, Nuevo León
Héctor Herrera – Ensenada, Baja California Norte
Mayra Huerta – Tijuana, Baja California Norte
Héctor Jaramillo – Chihuahua, Chihuahua
Andrés Juárez Troncoso – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
Humberto Jiménez – Matamoros, Tamaulipas
Paola Rascón Tello – Chihuahua, Chihuahua
Isaac Rincón – Monterrey, Nuevo León
Alejandro Sánchez Rodríguez – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
Yasadori Sánchez Zavala – Sierras Santa Catarina, Nuevo León
Abimel Villaseñor García – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
Ana del Águila Malvaez – Tijuana, Baja California Norte
Sabrina Loghin Tiu – Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua
Rebeca Cordero Valdez – Coahuila, México
Abrajam Escalante – Nuevo León, México
Gerardo Méndez – Ensenada, Baja California Norte
Rocío Sáenz – Chihuahua, Chihuahua
Carlos Vielma – Saltillo, Coahuila
Roberto Zamarripa – Guadalajara, Jalisco

Ricky Armendáriz – San Antonio, Texas
Kristin Bauer – Tempe, Arizona
Sarah Castillo – San Antonio, Texas
Esteban Delgado – San Antonio, Texas
Claudio Dicochea – San Antonio, Texas
Daniel Domínguez – El Paso, Texas
Juan de Dios Mora – San Antonio, Texas
Jessika Edgar – Las Cruces, New Mexico
Arturo Enríquez – El Paso, Texas
Nabil González – El Paso, Texas
Rigoberto González – Harlingen, Texas
Robert Jackson Harrington – Austin, Texas
Suzanne Hesh – Tucson, Arizona
Mónica Lozano – El Paso, Texas
Tony de los Reyes – Los Angeles, California
Beliz Iristay – San Diego, California
Qing Liu – San Antonio, Texas
Chris Macías – El Paso, Texas
Rebecca Méndez – Los Angeles, California
Alejandra Platt-Torres – Tucson, Arizona
Harriette Tsosie – Albuquerque, New Mexico
Federico Villalba – El Paso, Texas
Karla Zanelli – El Paso, Texas