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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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)

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

Pacific Standard -More Than A Time Zone

Although it is not happening on our part of the border, I have to say something about Pacific Standard Time:LA/LA, the amazing series of exhibitions opening this Thursday all across southern California devoted to Latin American and Latino art.
Sponsored in large part by the Getty Foundation, Pacific Standard Time is a series of thematically linked exhibitions involving museums galleries and Universities all across the region all dedicating themselves to exploring Latin American art. Though in the main dedicated to contemporary visual art it will also include some ancient traditional Mayan and Aztec art as well. It is not devoted exclusively to visual art but will include other arts such as as dance, food and music.
Although this is happening away from our part of the border, some of our local artists will be showing. Alejandro Almanza Pereda will be in a 3 person show at IBID gallery and I understand that Haydee Alonso will also be showing there. There may be others, and I apologize if I’ve left you out. It wasn’t my intention. , though I haven’t heard eactly where yet. Incidentally, she is also one of two El Paso artists selected to be in this year’s Texas Biennial (the other artist is Angel Cabrales) and I want to send a big congratulations to both of them.
Pacific Standard Time LA/LA opens tonight and runs through January 2018. Their website is full of info. -david sokolec

Frida y Diego en Blanco y Negro

There is a reception tonight (Sept 7) at the Franklin Smith Gallery in the Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso for what appears to be a great exhibition of photographs taken of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.
Sponsored by the Consul General of Mexico in El Paso the show called “Una Sonrisa a Mitad del Camino”features photographs of the daily life of the pair by such luminaries of photography as Edward Weston and Manuel Alvarez Bravo among others.
The reception scheduled for 6 pm will also feature the participation of the group Euterpe Jazz Flamenco.
The exhibition will continue until December 22. -David Sokolec

All Along the Watchtower 


Francisco Mata Rosas (b Mexico City) tends to focus his lens on those people and places  usually marginalized in order to give them, if not a voice, at least an opportunity to be seen. A few years ago the Museo de Arte here in Juarez mounted a show of his series Tepito (Bravo el Barrio) in which he photographed residents of that somewhat notorious Mexico City barrio with excellent professional lighting against a white backdrop in order to afford each of them a dignity and recognition which they perhaps rarely receive from others.
In the series called “La Linea” which opened last Friday night at the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez, he has focused on the border. For five years he has focused his attention on the border using his camera to capture some of the people and reality of the line between Mexico and the United States through a variety of means including a drone.
The photographic images, which are presented here without informational cards, take varied forms and sizes from more or less standard size photographs to landscapes that take up a whole wall. Here, as in his other series, he focuses on those who are often ignored or shunned, including  drug addicts as well as those who are doing the best they can in difficult circumstances. Many of the photographs focus on the detritus left behind by those attempting to cross from one side to the other or on some of the absurdities inherent in a situation in which those desperate to escape difficult situations bump up against the implacable forces which attempt to deter them.
The photography is wonderful, Francisco Mata has a keen sensibility and a sharp eye for the often overlooked and the small things which can imply much more, so why did the show leave me somewhat dissatisfied even while I admired the individual pieces?
There is a scene in Alain Resnais 1959 film  Hiroshima Mon Amour, which concerns both the destruction of Hiroshima and an affair  between a Japanese architect and a French actress , in which she says something like “When I  was in Hiroshima…” and he responds “You were never in Hiroshima.” (This despite the fact the film is set in Hiroshima). This kept playing in my head as I was wandering around the exhibit because unfortunately many people who live outside the border region probably believe these images constitute the totality of the border region. Many people tend to view the place as a wild and marginalized area consisting mostly of nothingness and desperate people trying to cross over or the very poor scrambling to get by.  While that is clearly are an integral part of the border, it is only a part.  Those of us who live here know that the border is an enormously dynamic place. There is a huge amount of trade and commerce which happens daily, there are universities and arts and a rich cultural mix which creates a distinctive culture. Despite a general misconception, the border is not simply  bicultural but  is filled with people from a wide variety of cultures. In Juarez alone there are people from an enormous number of  countries as well as many different indigenous groups. The number of languages spoken is enormous even though this isn’t often realized in daily life. I’ve been thinking lately that the border is a bit like the Nile in that there is a large swath of desert spreading out from either side, while along the banks or la linea  a distinctive and rich culture has sprung up on both sides.
The excellent photographs in this exhibition show an integral and important part of that culture, but it is important to remember that it is only a small part of the much larger and much more varied world this border forms.
For those who cannot see the show in person Francisco Mata’s website (Francisco Mata.com.mx) provides an even more complete selection of photos, though of course they are better seen in person, particularly for the variety of forms and sizes they take.

The exhibition runs through October 15.-david sokolec