Artists and art scenes in the American Southwest share common ground, with dialectics of culture emerging at the intersection of demographics, experiences, materials, and iconography. Three contemporary artists who identify with Mexican, Chicanx, and Latinx origins, and who hail from and foster connections throughout the Southwest — Ricardo Islas of San Diego, Rigoberto Luna of San Antonio, and Vicente Telles of Albuquerque — pooled their regional art knowledge and financial resources to curate the multi-city, multi-venue exhibition Son de Allá y Son de Acá / They are from there, and they are from here.
In an interview with Hyperallergic, the curators talked about the impetus for and goals of these shows. In addition to enhancing visibility for the region’s creators of color, Islas, Luna, and Telles also discussed the importance of creating pathways and fellowship for Mexican-American, Chicanx, and Latinx artists throughout the Southwest.
Luna explains that combating isolation among Southwestern artists also served as inspiration for the exhibition. “Artists can see other artists working similarly all over the region and the Southwest in the same lexicon,” he said. “It also inspires the next generation, who start seeing names that look like our names. These artists look like us and understand what we’re making, and that’s a big part of why we’re doing this. I don’t think everyone has seen what contemporary Latinx art looks like in Texas, in Albuquerque, in San Diego — so we brought it all to one place and hope to take it to other places.”
The Son de Allá y Son de Acá iteration in Albuquerque — itself the second phase of the interstate artistic exchange — brings together work by 60 emerging and established artists of color living and working in the Southwest. The exhibition found a home in Burque at four galleries embedded within and responsive to their communities: Tortuga Gallery in the Barelas neighborhood, El Chante: Casa de Cultura in downtown, and Exhibit/208 and the South Broadway Cultural Center, both in the South Broadway neighborhood.
Beyond community engagement, Telles notes that South Broadway Cultural Center and El Chante were also selected because they are spaces guided by people of color. Burqueño Telles said, “They are majority either brown-curated spaces or brown-led spaces,” highlighting Augustine Romero of South Broadway Cultural Center, an exhibition artist and the city’s only male curator of color, and praising El Chante founder Bianca Encinias’s organizational and outreach work.
While Luna has curated San Antonio’s Presa House Gallery for over a decade and also worked on the Texas Biennale’s latest multi-site iteration, two-thirds of Son de Allá y Son de Acá’s curatorial triad — Islas and Telles — are newer to curating large exhibitions. The culmination of that freshness of vision with a solid experiential and procedural grounding is highlighted in the show’s compositional width and breadth.
Whatever modern state these artists now call home, similarities of experience abound. As Luna says, “We’re all from different states but we have so much in common. There’s so many parallels between our upbringings and the status of our communities. Here in the region next to the border, we’re from everywhere. I’m Mexican American and we have a complicated relationship with the border — there was no border. Now we do have physical borders to bring these artists across to see the similarities — not only in the theme but also in medium.”
The works in Son de Allá y Son de Acá boast a multiplicity of materials. From the ethereal or avant-garde — Paseño artist José Villalobos’ original on-site performance El agua que nos carga — to the traditional — colcha, tin work, and Telles’ natural santero pigments — to the contemporary, the included art evidences passionate exploration of and experimentation within mediums.
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