Traditional versus cutting-edge, high-brow versus low-brow. A new generation of Mexican and Mexican-American artists is fascinated by these potentially contradictory concepts. The artists whose works are featured in this exhibition draw inspiration from Mexico’s deep well of visual culture. Their references include folk art, popular culture, and vernacular craft traditions as well as contemporary idioms: the art collective “La Malagua” has remade the classic Mexican card game lotería, while Gabriel Kuri re-created sales receipts from Superama (Walmart) as a fine Gobelins tapestry.
This exhibition includes works by artists who enlist traditional, refined artisan’s techniques (such as weaving and ceramics) to challenge today’s mass-market consumer culture, alongside the work of artists who transform the most expendable materials into art through their handiwork. For example, Mexico City-based artist Betsabeé Romero carves tires with pre-Columbian icons and symbols in order to satirize Mexico’s machismo car culture.
Although these artists refer to familiar imagery (sometimes even stereotypes), they bring it into the present without cynicism. They share an interest in hybrid art forms and in the intersection of the past and the present. Although inspired by today’s pop culture icons, they are also critical of mass production and its effect on Mexican communities.
SJMA has commissioned new works from Natalia Anciso (Oakland, CA) and Romero for this exhibition, which also includes works by Margarita Cabrera (El Paso, TX), Enrique Chagoya (San Francisco), Colectivo “La Malagua” (Puerto Vallarta, Mexico), Jamex and Einar de la Torre (San Diego, CA, and Ensenada, Mexico), Franco Mondini-Ruiz (San Antonio, TX), Gabriel Kuri (Mexico City), and Máximo González (Mexico City).