Carla Rippey- Resguardia y Resistencia

I am really looking forward to the opening of Carla Rippey’s retrospective  at the Museo de Arte here in Juarez this Friday night. Rippey is the current director of “La Esmeralda”(La Escuela Nacional de Pintura,Escultura y Grabado) and the first woman to hold that position. Although born in Kansas City, she has lived in Mexico since 1973, having fled Chile after the fall of Salvador Allende.
The exposition, covering the years 1976-2016, recently opened at the Museo de Arte Carillo Gil and from all I can gather  it seems a magnificent show which not only demonstrates her extraordinary skill at interweaving photography and printmaking among other artistic talents, but also, and more importantly, shows her interest in preserving her personal memory, exploring the female and cultural cross-currents.
Should be an incredible show ,particularly for those interested in print making and drawing  but also anyone interested in seeing the workl of this important and involved artist.
The opening is set for Friday 17th at 7 pm.
I also want to mention there is still time to see the show Encuentro de Mujeres Artistas at Alianza Francesa. Thirteen local artists combined forces to show 30 pieces in various media. The work shows just some of the remarkable talent here in Juarez, and the wide range of subject matter and media used. It includes a video, and a wonderful installation in a nook just inside the entry which combines music with shell forms hanging from the ceiling into each one of which is delicately inserted a drawing.
The show continues through April 10. -david sokolec

 

 

 

Fallas de Origen-Artists from Colombia

The show Fallas de Origen opens this Friday (July 15) at 7 pm in the Museo de Arte de Juarez with work by Colombian artists in a wide range of media including video, installation and murals, painting among other types.. Curated by Alejandro Luperca Morales, of Proyecto Impala fame, the show’s artists are apparently focusing on some themes which are all too familiar to everyone here in Juarez as well as in Colombia, such as narcowars, problems with housing , and of course some situations which are different such as guerrilla warfare. There was also a desire to break with the usual stereotypes which have been imposed on both places and give a more realistic portrait of  life.
Morales has had extensive experience in Colombia, having studied and shown there as well as his recent residency. So after that residency he arranged for some Colombian artists to come here to show their work.
The piece which gives the show its title (and I want to thank El Diario for this info) was created by Wilson Diaz in 1997 and currently in the collection of the Bank of the Republic of Bogota. It recreates a house  with televisions instead of windows and a garden with cocoa plants instead of the usual garden flowers. It is being recreated here but, (and I find this hysterical,) since there is a legal ban in Mexico on transporting or exhibiting cocoa plants, the “garden” will not be like the original which had 100 cocoa plants, but will have plots of earth.
Although the show itself opens at 7, there are two presentations beforehand. The co-curators TRansHistor(ia) will talk about their work at 4 pm and at 5  the artists will present their portfolios and will have a conversation about their work.
This should be a great show and we don’t get to see enough art from Latin America and especially Colombia which has a rapidly developing important contemporary art scene. So this is a wonderful opportunity to see some exciting work by some committed contemporary Colombian artists.-david sokolec

 

 

Proyectos Impala Leaps Forward

After an incredible amount of work, Alejandro Luperca Morales and friends are taking their mobile art gallery, Proyectos Impala, on the road starting today (April 6). Designed as a means of helping inform the public about contemporary art, they will be traveling around the city parking at various locations for a few days at a time. Todaythey will be parking their movable visual feast (to shamelessly steal from Hemingway) at UACJ-Iada from 3 pm where it will be on exhibition until Friday at 8.
Their first exhibition features Kurt Hollander’s La Arquitectura de Sexo with a talk by the artist.
For more information check out their website at proyectosimpala.com.-david sokolec

 

MACJ offers Climent Retrospective

This Thursday, April 7, the Museo de Arte se Ciudad Juarez opens a retrospective of Enrique Climent. Climent (1870-1980) was born in Valencia, Spain and during the first part of his life was extremely involved with many of the avantgarde European artists of the early 20th century. He was a professor of art as well as an illustrator and political cartoonist. The Spanish Civil war put paid to that life and he went into exile in Mexico in 1939.
This was not an easy time for him either personally or artistically. He had a singular artistic vision and was extremely attached to Spain. When he had the chance he went back to Spain, but realized he had reached a point where he didn’t fit into Spain and really didn’t fit into Mexico, but nevertheless returned to Mexico where he lived and worked until his death in 1980. The 50’s and 60’s were generally considered some of his most productive times where he experimented with abstraction and other ideas while working to maintain his own distinctive vision.
This show opened at the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico last year, and there the show consisted of an enormous quantity of drawings, cartoons and other works. Curated by his daughter Pilar Climent, the show fully revealed the full sweep and work of the painter through the decades from the early Spanish years to the productive Mexican ones of the 50’s and 60’s.
The opening is scheduled for 7 pm.-david sokolec

But Can He Tie a Bowtie?

Internationally renowned Mexican sculptor Sebastian, famous locally for his humungous X sculpture in Juarez and his Aguacero sculpture at the international bridge in El Paso  and the new Esfera Cuantica Tlahtolli on the UTEP campus, is showing  a something of a retrospective of 53 works at the El Paso Museum of Art .

Called Knot: The Art of Sebastian, it illustrates through a variety of  media his ongoing  exploration of meshing geometric formations, technology and physical science with sculptural forms. This exploration has been an integral part of his work. When he last gave a talk at EPMA, he demonstrated the importance of  geometric forms to work.  Obviously this has only deepened and developed over the years and he is now on to Quantic and parallel universe sculptures.
The show opens tomorrow (feb 23) and the next day Sebastian will give a talk open to the general public at 7 pm. On Saturday there will also be a family day with Sebastian.

The exhibition is sponsored by the Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso.-david sokolec

Prints of the desert

My friend Karl has been bouncing around the Southwest like a pinball for a number of years trying to create a conversation among artists in the area. Because he likes prints-they’re portable and generally more affordable than other media- one of his projects was to get prints from artists in Tucson and El Paso. He showed these at Chalk the Block a few years ago,  and a selection is opening tonight (Friday 29TH) at Juárez Contemporary 4105 November 20th at 6pm.
His current major project, opening. Sunday at the El Paso museum of art, is
“The Desert Triangle carpeta”. For this he commissioned 30 artists from Tucson,  Albuquerque and El Paso to each make a print in an edition of fifty on any theme. Some of these were printed in Mexico City at 75 grados,  and during a presentation on April 14th he is going to try to bring some of those printers up to make a live presentation. Another goal is to give local artists greater exposure, so in addition to shows all over the Southwest, and a few in Mexico, he is tqaking this up to a national print show in Portland , Oregon in March.-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