Sunday, February 4, 2018

The US-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility

The exhibition, “The US-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility” opened at the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles and is currently split between 516 Arts, a gallery in downtown Albuquerque, and the Albuquerque Museum.

It was conceived long before the current U.S. administration made an extreme effort to kill the goose that laid the golden egg.  Our relationship with Mexico is at an all time low because of the lack of understanding of the mutual good that our countries can do for each other.  This is not to say there are no natural tensions between neighboring countries as there are between husband and wife!

Lowery Stokes Sims a very old friend from New York, and her colleague Ana Elena Mallet, a Mexico City based independent curator, were co-curators on this exhibition. We heard them speak about it at the Albuquerque Art Museum last week.  Lowery went to great lengths to explain that this show was not directed at the border or the issues there at the moment, but rather the artistic production of artists who live in close proximity to it as well as artists who cross it regularly.

The press release from 516 Arts puts it this way, “The contemporary artists in this exhibition explore the border as a physical reality (place) as a subject (imagination) and as a site for production and forward thinking solutions (possibility).

At the lecture we heard the story of Daisy Quezda, who grew up in Southern California, a block from the border.  In the evenings her mother would hang clean clothes on their laundry line for immigrants to take, leaving their torn and dirty garments to appear there the following morning. That childhood experience is symbolized by the dirty shirt cast in ceramic hanging on a rod above dirt collected at the border by the artist.

Elizabeth Rustrian Ortega is a Mexican artist who sees the border in an interesting way in her jewelry.  In 2013 she created  the “Cruce de Armas” necklace made in silver, gold plated silver and  barbed wire with a figure of the Christ child sitting on the barrel of a rifle with more rifles on  both sides.  This is a piece I would not advise wearing but rather keep it in a showcase!  (image of barbed wire necklaceChiricahua Apache artist, Bob Haozous has a unique way of seeing the border and his 1991 sculpture is shown outside  the museum entrance. The front is painted in bright colors with O’Keefe clouds in a sunny sky above the mountains of New Mexico but it is edged with posts bristling with barbed wire. On the back is a somber view in rusted steel. A door with the words “Border Crossing” is secured with two locks, on one side of the door is an airplane, and the other andarmed guard waiting for those who cross over by foot.

In works titled “The Space in Between” fitting commentary is also provided by Margarita Cabrera who has created cacti as a symbol of the land that surrounds the border, sewn out of the border patrols uniforms.

A project called “Repellent Fence” was created in 2015 by Postcommodity, a collective composed of indigenous artists who lived in Arizona and New Mexico. They created 26 scare-eye balloons that were enlarged replicas of a product marketed to repel birds from, for instance, orchards where you don’t want them eating the fruit.  “Repellent Fence” required a great deal of cooperation between Mexico and the U.S. as it consisted of a 2-mile line of balloons with their large eyes floating over the border fence built by the U.S. In the museum a video of the project is shown with one of the actual large balloons looming above you.  For more details on the project go HERE.

The show loses some of its continuity by being in two venues but it is well installed in both.  If you can I would suggest starting at 516 Arts and then going onto the museum but that is not a must.  There will also be other events related to the show around Albuquerque.  It will be on until mid April.

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