No Place for Selfies

The fine photography show “Exilios del Imaginario” at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez(MUACJ) attempts to review the past 50 years of photography in Juarez in keeping with the current celebration of the 50 years of the museum’s existence. As the show’s curators point out photography came to Juarez much earlier when the Mexican Revolution brought many war photographers to the city. Curators Jaime Bailleres and Itzel Aguilera show the progression of photographic development in the city beginning with some news photography and then showing how each generation learned from the previous one and developed a style of its own.
The show starts with Saul Sepulveda, who was a news photographer in the 50’s and 60’s, and who worked with a panorama camera which helped give his photos of such things as parades,for instance, as seen here, a wider scope, than the usual camera could manage.
From this point we can see more personal expression and some experimentation start to come into play. The mostly black and white photos show a desire to play with technique and material.There is are examples of non-camera image making, and using different material on which to print.
What clearly was a huge influence in the development and spread of photography was the establishment of a Visual Arts degree at UACJ in 2001. This seems amazingly late, but better late than never. From this point on in the show we see here a greater interest in more formalist concerns, more experimentation and some very good examples of the craft.

There are 61 photographers and 165 photographs in a mix of black and white and color, as well as as a mix of analogue and digital techniques. Although many of the pictures are taken in Juarez, there are also many taken in other parts of Mexico and in other parts of the world. The emphasis here is on the photographer, rather than the city itself.

Of course, even with 165 photographs the surface is barely scratched. I remember seeing a number of shows by local news photographers, which showed an amazing talent, and, in many cases, an ability to get beyond the immediate event recorded to create images which were haunting. There have been numerous shows at other venues by a great number of other equally talented photographers as well as by many who are on view here.
It occurred to me that an interesting auxiliary show might be an historical look at the real street photographers, by whom I mean those hard-working souls who have worked since time immemorial in the Plaza de Armas by the Cathedral taking pictures of tourists and locals who wanted a memento of their visit, and whose job was much easier when not everyone had a camera, and when selfies didn’t exist. It would be interesting to look at how their life and photographs have changed.
In any case, the show serves to remind us of some of the amazing talent in the city, whose practitioners continue to try to continue to explore the practice of photography in diverse ways.
For the past number of years, Alukandra, whose work is in the show, has been hosting a series of “Charlas Photographicas” (Photography talks) with different people speaking on some aspect of the field. This month it is being held on
Sundays, from 12-2 at the Juarez Monument, which dovetails with the Bazaar at the Monument also held every Sunday.
Last Saturday Alex Briseno, also included in the show, held another photowalk in which people turn their cameras loose on the city.
In short, there is a huge amount of talent and energy here and it would be nice if the rest of the world took notice of this aspect of the city, rather than the more dismal events which usually seem to be the only time the city is mentioned.-david Sokolec

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US Consulate Salutes Our Border Community

I want to give a shout out to the US Consulate in Juarez which just commissioned a huge mural to show its appreciation to the El Paso and Juarez community, and to emphasize all of the connections our two cities share.
Under the direction of Edgar Picazo Merino a group of local artists, including Haydee Alonzo, Justin Leeah, Martin A. Lopez,and Miguel Eduardo Vargas created the mural Nuestra Frontera which presents 36 panels which when conjoined form four circles which show the nature, architecture, history and familiar symbols from our shared community.
Congratulations to the Consulate for recognizing for sponsoring this work. Those guys have always shown a real appreciation and affection for the community, and congratulations to the artists who have created this great addition to the Consulate.-david sokolec31

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

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

AFP covers the Border

Last year three photographers from Agence France Presse travelled the US-Mexican border fromSanDiego to Tamaulipas. Guillermo Arias, based in Tijuana travelled on the Mexican side from Baja California to Tamaulipas, Jim Watson, based in Washington DC travelled the US side from Californey will be up ia to Texas and AFP chief Yuri Cortez joined the others from his base in Mexico City. The result of their trip can be seen hanging on the fence along the Santa Fe International bridge going from Juarez in the direction of El Paso. The works are hung only as far as where the Mexican side of the bridge meets the US side. They are also on display in Anapra here in Juarez. No single trip and no amount of photography can completely cover the complexity of life here, but these are quite wonderful and show a great deal of sensitivity and a keen eye. They will be up until June 4 on the bridge and June 5 in Anapra. -david sokolec

Aurora Reyes-A Revelation

I’ve been reading a book in which the author points out that while there were hundreds of women artists in Paris before and after WW1, for the most part only the male artists have been remembered.
In Mexico while everyone knows the name of male muralists like Rivera, O’Gorman etc, Aurora Reyes, considered the first female muralist is almost unknown even in her birth State of Chihuahua. The retrospective of her work which opened last Friday night at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez will hopefully go some way to rectify this situation.
Reyes was not only an artist but a passionate fighter for social justice and for education. She believed murals were not only the best way of spreading her message but also the most Mexican form of art as she saw a link to traditions which predated the Spanish arrival.
Working with rural school teachers perhps her most famous mural Atentado a las Maestras Rurales is from 1936 referencing a bloody confrontation resulting from the Government attempts at education reform in 1934. (Some things never seem to change).
In Mexico City she was artistically and politically active joining the Communist Party and she was friends with many of the better known artists of the period such as Frida Kahlo whose portrait is included in one of the paintings in the show.
The exhibtion shows an artist who is not only politically involved, but also a superb artist. There are oils, prints, drwings and, of course, murals. All of them show a great talent who has unfortunately been for too long not just ignored, but totally forgotten. This should begin a restoration.
The show is on display until May 26.-David Sokolecimg_20180316_195855403141312498.jpgimg_20180316_200443112_burst000_cover_top1434793339.jpgimg_20180316_2002560011254545703.jpgimg_20180317_120539_4411853254565.jpg

Lots to do this week in Juarez

Contrary to what people outside of Juarez often believe, there are always cultural events of one type or another going on here. This week is particularly full.
Tomorrow, Wednesday Nov 8 at the Museo de la Revoluticion de la Frontera (MUREF) begins a series of lectures, photo exhibitions, theater works etc on various aspects of the Mexican revolution. This includes some heretofore unseen photos of Emiliano Zapato in an exhibition curated by Miguel Angel Berumen. Registration for the event starts at 9 tomorrow morning, the photo exhibition has its official opening at 12:15 with words by the curator. The conference and all of the events continue through the 11th.
The next night over at the Museo de Arte, the ever industrious and irrepressible Brenda Ceniceros (I keep running out of adjectives for this extraordinary woman) will be presenting her 2nd book, Cartografias de la Frontera. According to the invitation this is a visual documentation of the frontier as symbolic urban space. The urban landscape and specifically the border region as both a reality and a symbol seems to be an underlying theme of Cenicero’s work, which also is concerned with urban development in all senses of the word. The notice from the Museum lists the presentation at 7, but her Facebook page shows the event beginning at 6.
The next night at the Centro Cultural de las Fronteras is the opening of a Photowalk exhibit accompanied by Jazz with Jazz Euterpe. This is scheduled for 7.
There are a number of other things as well on the other side of the border. On Thursday the El Paso Museum of Art is giving a lecture on how they build a Collection. If they were being accurate it would probably be subtitled Schmooze or lose, but I suspect that’s not the aspect of the process they’re discussing. Should be interesting to hear how they decide what to add and how they go about doing that.
On Saturday Fab Lab is also having a 3-d laser printing demonstration. The list goes on. Enjoy.-david Sokolec