Busy end of week on the border

Lots of art activity in the next couple of days. Opening tomorrow Thursday August 10) at the Rubin Center is Erika Harrsch’s show Under the Same Sky We Dream, a video and sound installation focusing on immigrant children crossing the border specifically from Juarez to El Paso . Also opening is a show of drawings and a hand drawn animation by Suzi Davidoff which concerns itself with human made changes in the natural world order ( to give an oversimplified version of the complexity of her concerns)
Also on Thursday over at the Centro de Los Trabajadores Agricolas Fronterizos, 201 E.  9th Ave,  Make America Great Again:  Doors Not Walls features art work from La Mujer Obreara youth group and ICE detainees from Otero County prison which details their individual journeys as part of a series of workshops   led by Haydee Alonzo. The opening is from 6-8 and will also feature music by Frontera Bugalu and food.
On Saturday Fablab hosts Expanded featuring augmented reality murals by well-known local artists including Los Dos, WERC, Jesus Cimi, Nani Chacon and others. This is from 4-10 and includes music, and food.
Over in Juarez I want to mention the State theater festival that has been going on all week. Last night I saw  a  production by Compania Strongylus of a play called Pelones y Pelucas which did a brilliant job of blending farce and history and a huge dose of audience interaction into an incredible production. All plays are free and every night I’ve gone the theater has been packed. This is in the smaller Octavio Trias theater at Centro Cultural Paso del Norte.
I also want to mention coming up on August 17th is Edible Carnival, an installation over at the Museo de Arte in Juarez.- David Sokolec

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Exceptional African American prints at EPMA

San Antonio art collectors Harmon and Harriet Kelly have put together an extremely impressive collection of African-American art. If they had collected nothing more than the works on view at the El Paso Museum of Art, they would have still made an impressive accomplishment. These works on paper  can be viewed in any number of ways, all of them satisfying.
The exhibit ranges from the late 1800’s to 2002 and does a pretty good job of providing a cross-section of important artists during that time. Most of these artists studied at prestigious art schools in the US and abroad, and many travelled extensively . One question raised by the exhibit is why aren’t these artists better known?
The early works by artists like Grafton Tyler Brown (1841-1918) who spent most of his life in Canada  or Lois Maillou Jones (1905-1998) or Henry Ossawa Tanner(1859-1937) who studied with Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy and then went on to spend most of his life in France generally focus on purely aesthetic concerns whether a shipwreck off the coast of Brittany or a ranch in western Canada. These are   highly skilled and well trained artists.
There is a shift a bit later with the rise of the Harlem Renaissance and with a general trend by many artists to focus on the society and social conditions around them. Although white artists like George Bellows and photographers like Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange have long been much better known, the skill and perception of an artist like Aaron Douglas (1899-1979) known as the Dean of the Harlem Renaissance among others makes us want to see more.
Although Europe was often a favorite place for these artists to live and study, a few also went to Mexico. Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) and Hale Aspacio Woodruff  (1900-1980) were among those who found inspiration in that country. Woodruff in fact  worked with Diego Rivera on murals.
The newer pieces in the show are generally far more overtly political, some using humor others straight-forward.
The Kelleys apparently started collecting this art when they saw a show and were somewhat embarrassed they were not very familiar with many of the artists. Their gain is also our gain in this excellent exhibition which can be seen purely from the point  of view of aesthetics as there are a wide variety of printing techniques employed and a wide variety of artistic skill at play, or  it can be seen as a socially relevant show documenting African -American life and concerns over a century or it can be seen as at long last bringing to view some extremely talented artists who are not nearly as well known as they should be at least to much of the general public. This show helps to rectify that situation.
It is free and on view until April 16.-david sokolec

 

 

 

 

Catrinas in parade

El Paso Museum of Art is currently showing on its first floor a dazzling array of Catrinas created by Las Cruces artist Wayne Hilton. Hilton, who spent some 5 years on these, and closely examined the work of Mexican artist Jose Guadelupe Posada who is usually  credited with popularizing these figures and using them for satirical purposes.
Hilton has created elaborate costumes, and painstakingly embellished them with all manner of recycled  fabric and odds and ends combined to make some really remarkable creations.His work, which was funded by crowdfunding, has received interest from various museums and institutions around the country. One of these pieces was shown a few years earlier at the museum, and now we have the completed series.


I don’t want to take anything away from the work, but  you do have to wonder about the fact that we are on the border and there are some wonderful Catrina makers on this side of it as we can see at the many varied displays occurring every Dia de los Muertos. I am not one of those people who think that only people from such and such group should have the right to create art which stems from that group’s heritage. I do think one needs to be careful though or there tend to be things like chocolate chip bagels and other culinary heresies or the US way of celebrating Cinco de Mayo. I want to be quick to say that nothing like that has happened here, but if the museum wanted to display Catrinas I think they might have also reached out to Juarez and El Paso artists as well. This has the whiff of studied culture about it due perhaps more to the well-written, but academic explanatory notes than to the work itself.  I am probably going on too much about this, the work is wonderful and should be enjoyed for itself, but this is an integral part of local culture and I can’t help wondering if the museum shouldn’t have made more of an effort to involve the community. -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

Busy week for art lovers coming up

Next week is going to be a busy one for art.

Of course on Monday there are Dia de Muertos altars and catrinas downtown and other places, but it is towards the end of the week that things are going to heat up on both sides of the border.

The Rubin Center at UTEP is opening Territory of Imagination, which is a series of programs connecting art and science, and specifically space travel (without rockets, but with balloons to protect the environment) as well as a series of other lectures and workshops. Most of the programs are at UTEP, but there is going to ba a launch at White Sands. More info and better explanations can be found on their web page, where you can also get info on their 10th anniversary gala dinner at the rail yards the following night.

On Friday, the lV Biennial opens to the public at both the El Paso Museum of Art and the Museo de Arte in Juarez. The opening in El Paso is simply scheduled for the regular time, while in Juarez there is going to be an opening at 6pm al punto (they say). I believe there is an opening in el Paso scheduled for members only on Thursday night, but if you’re a member you already know about it.

Then on Saturday night Artistas Unidos will be opening a show called Metamorfosis at the Centro Cultural Paso del Norte at 7 pm with vino de honor, great art and lots of attendees.-david sokolec

Caldo Collective-Taking it to the Streets

A group of artists in El Paso who want to not only support local artists both in terms of venues and  financially , but to involve the community at large in the arts,  set up a collective to do just that.  The Caldo Collective began last year with  various activities such as the frijol feast to provide financial support as well as an exchange of ideas with other interdisciplinary artists.

This Saturday ( July 11) , starting at 7:30, they are presenting the inaugural project of the Transient Triangle Project, called “Stand by Me.” Taking place in the Manhattan Heights neighborhood at Gold and Elm, artists from various disciplines are going to put in the streets their interpretation of a specific poem. The intention as I understand it, is to immerse the visitor in a block long multimedia event designed not simply to allow the visitor a chance to look at but to become enveloped by the various interpretations
Much more about the Collective, their goals and activities and the Transient Triangle Project can be seen at their website where they give a much fuller explanation of their ambitious and extremely worthwhile activities.-david sokolec

Art events this week

This week brings, among other things, a zip tour of the dibujos divinos show led by Curator Christian Gerstheimer at El Paso Museum of Art this Wednesday at 12:15. 
The next evening brings a Dr. Lydia Klich from Hunter College in New York, who will share her expertise on the important, if short-lived, movement “estridentismo” which was founded in Mexico in the 20’s, and included writers, visual artists and others who, from a center in Xalapa, tried to create revolutionary forms of art focused, if I have this correctly, on personal interpretations of reality rather than simply “copying” observed reality. The lecture will be at 6 pm.

Thursday night is also the opening of the UTEP student art show at the Rubin Center.

I also want to give a link to a relatively new  (at least for me) on-line publication focused on art on the border. It can be found at artmagazineelpaso.com.-david sokolec