Sunday, May 13, 2018

Gen Next: Future So Bright

“Gen Next: Future So Bright”, what a great title for a show.  It kind of says it all but like all simple statements there is so much back-story.  The show is at the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe. The museum is under the umbrella of the Spanish Colonial Art Society (SCAS),  which was founded in 1925 with the very limited purpose of collecting the then neglected traditional arts of the region and encouraging their revival through an annual fair called Spanish Market. I learned in Art 1 that Spanish Colonial Art came from all the parts of the New World conquered by Spain way back when!  Here it became very limited to just northern New Mexico and southern Colorado.  In 2002 a museum was opened to show the collection and present the tradition to locals and tourists alike.

In some ways directors of SCAS and curators of the museum seemed to take their guidance from the artists rather than the other way around. Since no one likes change Spanish Colonial Art was not only limited to a small area in the United States but to religious retablos (paintings) and bultos (carved wood figures) in the  regional style that emerged in the late 18th century.  When artists, as artists will, wanted to branch out and bring the art up to date considering current issues, the traditionalists did not allow their work in Spanish Market. Artists organized a separate Contemporary Spanish Market. Traditional and Contemporary Markets now take place at the same time every July around the Santa Fe Plaza.

The administration of the Society changed this year.  The new Acting Director, Joseph Diaz, gave the green light to  his young curator, Jana Gottshalk, to expand the definition of traditional Spanish Colonial Art  in a wonderful exhibition with the title above. Introducing  a section called, “Those Who Lit the Way”, i.e. the forerunners of the young artists in the surrounding galleries, curator Jana Gottshalk writes, “The Artists of GenNext have truly found their individual voices, but the idea of pushing the boundaries of traditional art is not new.” 

The first thing you see on entering the main gallery is a work by Brandon Maldanado. It is a cross, something central to the Spanish Colonial  heritage, but this one is made out of large empty water  bottles and is called “Border Memorial”.  Like all art, however, you need to look at it for a while and with a 3-dimensional subject from all angles before the significance starts to dawn. While from one angle it recalls Charles Schultz’s Snoopy, overall it is a stinging indictment.  It relates to the tradition of descansos, decorated  roadside crosses that mark where someone has died. The knapsack slung over this cross refers to the immigrants crossing  the border with only what they can carry on their backs. As you have probably read immigrants trying to cross the Mexican border and arrive in the United States have to pass through desert where some die of thirst.  There are a few humanitarian groups, however, that leave out water bottles  so they can survive their ordeal.  These bottles often include encouraging messages.  Those who leave the bottles risk arrest. Two of Maldonado’s paintings hanging near the water bottle cross deal with the issue of the border in a bitterly satirical vein.

Vicente Telles tells a much simpler story in La Sagrada Familia (The Sacred Family) lent by John Donnelly.  He asks the question are not the Holy Family and our saints the original super heroes who perform miraculous and superhuman acts?

Here is a typical subject for Spanish Colonial art by Thomas Vigil on loan from the Evoke Contemporary,  “The Immaculate Heart of Mary” but the technique is highly unusual and very contemporary. Vigil has used spray paint on license plates giving in my opinion an extra, shall we say, moving power!

About one of my favorite artists curator Jana Gottshalk writes, “Using traditional European painting styles, combined with themes and formats of retablos, Patrick McGrath Muñiz constructs contemporary thought-provoking statements on the current state of our country and the world”.   It is obvious that he has studied the Old Masters closely.  This painting also  lent by Evoke Contemporary, is called, “Revelation”. As with all the images in my Missives you can click on it to see it enlarged. With this painting you will be richly rewarded with the discoveries you can make for yourselves.

A carved and painted group by Arthur Lopez from 2004 called, “It Is As It Was”, partial gift of Diane and Sandy Besser, speaks volumes about the imperfection of the Catholic Church. Above the throngs stands the Pope in white with his back turned on his people or is it the Jewish plight during WWII?  One man standing in front of a tombstone that has a six corner star on top and says, “Holocaust 11,000,000 Dead” and a nun is holding a sign saying, “I can’t become a Priest so I will hold out for Sainthood.  Look at the three images below and you will find much more.

The show will be up until the fall but get there don’t wait.  It is bound to be a must see  stop this summer.

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