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.
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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.
Islas said, “It’s not just a painting show — there’s carving, there’s sculpture, there’s everything. Seeing artists work in all sorts of media also inspires other artists, opening up their ideas of what art can be. Maybe they saw themselves as a painter and now they’ll consider expanding what they do to sculpture or working with textiles.”
At South Broadway Cultural Center, the Son de Allá y Son de Acá exhibition runs through September 29, and showcases discourse between expressive painterly work including Adrian Delgado’s “Cherries” (2021), Guadalupe Hernandez’s “Mercado San Juan” (2021), Jaylen Pigford’s “El Negrito” (2022), and Telles’s own “Ahí Viene Vicente” (2022). Jenelle Esparza’s “Landscape Tapestries” (2022), exquisite textile art composed of rosaries, metal fencing, and cotton and acrylic yarn, is on view, and objects referencing José Villalobos’s “El Agua Que Nos Carga” performance plus an accompanying photograph on glass, “La Necesidad y Su Peligro.”
At publication time, three exhibition sites — El Chante, Exhibit/208, and Tortuga — have run their course. Above and astride the mantel at El Chante, contemporary art engaged in dialogue on the gallery’s colorful walls. Created from pine, cottonwood root, gesso, and natural pigments, and sealed with trementina varnish, Frank Zamora’s “El Quinto Sol” (2020) conjures Jesus’s thorn-crowned visage flocked by devils in rooster or cobra disguise. Straddling “El Quinto Sol” were Albert Alvarez’s “The Expulsion” (2022) and “The Condemnation of Pig Man” (2020–21), acrylic-painted panels that depict apocalyptic scenes repping community and justice — both divine and man-made.
Highlights of the Tortuga exhibition included works that showcase creative construction, from Elena Baca’s works in cyanotype, cochineal, and mica, “Germination” (2022) and “Golden Hour” (2022) to Jerry Montoya’s traditional tin repujado (metal embossing) with oxidized patinas, “San Juan Diego” (2022) and “La Dolorosa” (2022). At Exhibit/208, an untitled work from 2020 in unfired clay, steel, fabric, and concrete by Daisy Quezada Ureña shared space with Jocelyn Salaz’s stylized nostalgic oil portraits, “Mi Madre” (2011) and “Mi Padre” (2011), as well as Alejandro Macias’s vibrant mixed-media works “Out of Sight (Conceal)” (2022) and “El Guerito” (2022).
Thanks to its curators’ forward-thinking vision, the closing of three exhibition sites nearly overlapped with satellite show Son de Aqui, Son de Aca’s opening in Santa Fe. Some art on display at Hecho Gallery through October 2 was also shown at El Chante, like Eric J. Garcia’s prickly pear ink paintings of alternate conquistador and natural histories — “Alien Species (the one with the cow)” (2022) and Alien Invasion (the robot)” (2022) — and Audrey Montoya’s watercolor-and-acrylic grotesquerie platter “Cough Cough” (2022). Pieces circulating from Tortuga to Hecho include “La Baile de Las Flores” (2022), a work in colcha wool and wood by Yvonne Vanessa Zamora Vazquez as well as Rachel Tapia’s warm, spectral oil painting “At San Felipe de Neri” (2022).
At Hecho Gallery, Son de Aqui, Son de Aca centers a cross-section of stellar work by creators of color — including its curators, artists mentioned previously, and 2Hermano, Gabriela Campos, Alexandria Canchola, Laurie Garcia Jones, Desireé Beltrán González, Sal Gonzalez, Ernie Lucero, Brandon Maldonado, Jazmine Puentes, Sonia Romero, and Sabrina Zarco — in Santa Fe, an international arts destination wherein art works, traditional and contemporary alike, are largely framed as a consumable.
As this report was being compiled, video of tarp-shielded workers dismantling Gilberto Guzman’s circa-1980 Santa Fe mural Multicultural — clearing the way for Vladem Contemporary, a new branch of the New Mexico Museum of Art — circulated on social media. Telles explains, “Why not put this badass show on in the heart of a city that’s trying to whitewash the walls of us? We go in there and showcase the capabilities and the talent that this fantasy land is erasing.”