Pow! Wham! What? It’s superheroes, avatars, and mixed-media channeling sci-fi social consciousness in an engaging, colorful, thought-provoking mix in the super-fun Fronteras del Futuro: Art in New Mexico and Beyond exhibition at Albuquerque’s National Hispanic Cultural Center through March 12.
These artists love mixing pop culture images, found objects, and historic iconography to question where we’ve been and where we’re going. Take a look at our favorites in our Flickr album.
Some artists use pop culture to get our attention on deeper issues. The back-to-the-future B-movie poster series by Angel Cabrales prompts reflection on societal attitudes about immigrants and border issues.
Gilbert “Magú” Luján’s silkscreen merges the epic scope of Mesoamerican history into a contemporary context. A stylish Aztec couple takes a cross-border journey from Aztlán to Texas in a pre-Columbian-styled low rider.
One of the most epic achievements is a wall-length, accordian-folded letterpress codex – a collaboration by Enrique Chagoya, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Felicia Rice. Codex Espangliensis features pop-culture superheroes, pre-Columbian imagery, comics, and social declarations to explore New World history from 1492 to the present.
Marion Martinez grew up near Los Alamos National Laboratory, and started visiting its selvage area to find components from which to assemble her artworks – transforming discarded tech into beautiful icons of Northern New Mexican heritage.
Roswell political cartoonist Eric J. Garcia takes another angle on mixing New Mexico’s cultural, culinary, and nuclear history. His Tamale Man series features the transformation of a guy munching a tamale at the first blast at the Trinity Site into a radioactive superhero.
Ryan Singer’s painting series blends his childhood fascination with Star Wars and other futuristic sagas with his Navajo heritage and upbringing.
Meet Ehren Kee Natay, a Diné artist, whose work opens the exhibition with a loving tribute to his grandfather, the first Native American to release a commercial record:
It’s a showcase for art created at the beginning of the 20th century – a time when European experimentation in abstraction, urban skyscrapers and other engineering marvels, Einstein’s breakthroughs, and the success of the women’s suffrage movement made artists optimistic about the future.
But the news story here is the Whitney’s interest in pulling work by their contemporaries out of storage to provide a more expansive look at early American modernism. Nearly half of the works on display have not been out of the stacks for more than 30 years!
Look at Albert Bloch’s 1916 Mountain, which hasn’t been shown at The Whitney in 50 years. It’s somewhat shocking when you consider that Bloch was the only American invited to join the ground-breaking Der Blaue Reiter in 1911. It’s fitting that Bloch’s nearly forgotten, expressionist landscape was resurrected and featured as the show’s icon – a traveler on an upward journey toward a town on the hill amidst modernist peaks.
The Whitney’s also pulled Carl Newman’s 1917 Bathers out of storage for this show and hung it side-by-side with Bloch.
Newman was an Academy-trained artist from Philly, but after getting swept up in the Parisian avant-garde one summer, he tried throwing art conventions out the window.
Color, rainbows, naughty nudes, pleasure craft – a scandalous and joyous mix!
And what about another “forgotten” convention-breaker? The vibrant 1926 Street Scene is by Yun Gee, a Chinese immigrant modernist who started his art career in San Francisco, but found more acceptance and exhibition opportunities in Paris. Gee was the only Chinese artist running in European modernist circles, and it’s nice to see his cubist expression of San Francisco’s Chinatown right where it belongs in the Whitney’s pantheon.
The stories and careers go on. The exhibition features artists from the West Coast, artists that fled to Paris and found success there, and some modernists that just couldn’t make a go of it and stopped making art entirely.
Henrietta Shore, the Los Angeles innovator who Edward Weston credits as a great influence on his style, was one who eventually opted out.
Forget about the picturesque fjords and pastoral views reindeer herders that we imagine when we envision Scandinavia. Completely different stories of history, revolution, oppression, and cultural revival are told by the array of colorful, decorative, embellished and loved clothing in Dressing with Purpose: Belonging and Resistance in Scandinavia, on view at the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe through February 19.
You’re introduced to the iconic folk clothing of three cultures when you enter the exhibition – Sweden, Norway, and Sápmi, the homeland of the indigenous Sami people that stretches across the northern boundaries of Russia and the three other Scandinavian countries.
But then it’s a deep dive into what each of these colorful creations represent.
The story behind Sweden’s folk costumes (folksdräkt) extends back into the 19th century, when rural peasants lived in a fairly hierarchical society and relied on their church clothes to signify where they ranked on the status ladder. Each community developed its own details and styling. In some communities, women used almanacs to help them keep track of various clothing combinations.
The exhibition displays an array of men’s and women’s country ensembles.
There are also examples of striking, elaborately silk-embroidered shawls that were essential to women’s status dressing.
In the 1800s, a series of economic and agricultural misfortunes caused rural Swedes to leave their communities and either migrate to the United States or to middle-class jobs in the city.
Swedish intellectuals worried that the rural population drain meant that country traditions and craftsmanship would vanish. Around 1900, cultural leaders prompted a craft awareness and revival movement – retail shops, showcases for hand-crafted clothing, and national museums.
Today, many Swedes gladly purchase and buy kits to make folksdräkt for festivals, parades, and other events.
The curators have even included items from a new cottage industry – protective garment bags specifically designed to store your folk costume!
In a whimsical touch, the curators have included a contemporary take from artist Heidi Mattsson – the Swedish national costume made from Ikea shopping bags, a cotton nightshirt and napkin, and sodacan pop tops!
And the curators have included several other inventive modern takes on national wear.
The story told by Norweigan folk dress is more tightly linked to the long revolutionary fight for independence throughout the 19th century. Rural Norwegian peasants were land owners. To city dwellers laboring under Danish and Swedish domination in the 1800s, rural people epitomized the “independent everyman” who had more control over their personal destinies.
During Norweigans’ century-long fight for independence, political activists began adopting bunader, contemporary clothing inspired by preindustrial rural clothing as a sartorial statement about their desire for freedom. It popped up at youth rallies and dances.
In 1903, activist and regional dance expert, Hulda Garborg, outlined a philosophy for nationalized clothing and popularized it. Everyone’s enthusiasm for and pride in the national costume kept going, even after independence in 1905. Even in the 21st century, it’s a sure-fire tourism draw up in Norway’s fjord country.
In the Sápmi portion of the exhibition, the clothing and art is mostly contemporary, with a focus on making declarative statement about indigenous rights.
Long an oppressed minority, the Sámi people have been subject to racial injustice, forced relocation of children to boarding schools, and industrialization of their traditional lands north of the Arctic Circle. In many jurisdictions, they were forbidden to wear their traditional garb.
Around 1970, the Sámi were able to organize and raise public awareness about their status and why they opposed government dam building in Sápmi. Across their land, people began proudly wearing the traditional gákti and other symbols of their culture and engaging in direct political action on issues affecting them.
The exhibition has posters and artwork proudly proclaiming native rights and identity, including an appropriated Sámi-style Rosie the Riverter image. For the contemporary eye, some of the most exciting clothing in the exhibition are by young Sámi designers and activists – ranging from Sámi-inspired home goods, modern woven designs, and even ready-to-wear party dresses from Sámi clothing lines.
The examples from Sámi makers demonstrate how design and fashion can help to reconnect young people with their ancestors’ heritage that society blotted out.
This wonderful exhibition demonstrates exactly how old traditions can be reinvented to gain traction, even in the 21st century. Take a look through our Flickr album.
Resistance and revival continue in the far North. Meet Jenni Laiti, one of the Sámi artists, activists, and change-makers, who introduces you to art-making in the Arctic:
There’s a big conversation going on about epic landscapes, people’s impact upon the wilderness, and personal connections to nature. It involves four contemporary artists and American master Thomas Cole, mid-19th century landscape painter and visionary, through February 12 at the Albuquerque Museum.
Plus, visitors are able to step back in time to visit Cole’s studio, arranged much as it was at the moment of his untimely death at the age of 47 – an unfinished canvas, paint palettes, his paint box, plaster casts, and mementos of his wilderness walks and trips abroad.
Cole redefined American landscape painting in the 1830s and 1840s by merging the style of romantic European landscapes with the dramatic skies, vistas, and mountains of New York’s Adirondack wilderness. His work kick-started the Hudson River School of landscape painting, and by the time of his untimely death at age 47, he was America’s best known and best loved artist.
During his life (1801-1848), Cole witnessed how pristine American wilderness was changed by proliferating settlements, roads, bridges, mills, and commerce along the rivers. Sometimes he chose to paint sights, like Niagara Falls, minus human intrusion; other times he gently inserted “civilization” into magnificent landscapes, as in Schroon Lake.
Cole had been a mentor to innovative landscape painters like Durand, Church, Kensett, and Cropsey. When Cole passed away suddenly, they were devastated. His wife left his studio just as it was, and for the next ten years she welcomed painters to make the pilgrimage to visit it, spend time, and gain inspiration.
Visitors enter this exhibition and confront Cole’s large 1838 work, Dream of Arcadia, showing a mythical time when civilization existed in harmony with nature. Can this ideal state truly exist?
The Thomas Cole National Historic site, which organized three of the four shows, answers this question through the eyes of two well-known contemporary artists – Kiki Smith, who owned a house along a creek a short distance from where Cole lived, and Shi Guori, who created camera obscura images at Hudson Valley sites where Cole stood and painted.
Kiki’s work always brings an air of other-worldly mystery. Here, it’s easy to enjoy all of her varied creations, which display her deep connection to nature and ask us to contemplate the cycles of life that busy people sometimes forget to notice. Cole’s paintings had the same impact.
Shi Guori: Ab/Sense – Pre/Sense presents monumental camera obscura images of landscapes Cole painted in the Hudson Valley 180 years ago. When he was growing up in China, Guori experienced the shock of rapid environmental disruption as Mao’s Cultural Revolution transformed the countryside.
Guori studied Cole’s documentation of similar 19th-century transformation in the Northeast, and traveled back to sites that Cole documented to bear witness to natural settings – somewhat still undisturbed – that resonated with Cole.
Guori built large camera-obscura tents, sat inside for up to 72 hours, and exposed light-sensitive paper to create his images. Images of Cole’s oil paintings at the same site are mounted nearby with Guori’s meditations on the experience.
In one case, Guori turned Cole’s own sitting room into a camera, capturing not only furniture that he would have used, but showing the image of nature that Cole surely would have spent hours gazing upon. View more of Guori’s work here.
The fourth exhibition, Nicola López and Paula Wilson: Becoming Land, present large-scale environmental meditations on Southwestern desert landscapes. The Albuquerque curators selected these two popular New Mexico artists to get a bit of cross-cultural discussion going with Mr. Cole.
Wilson, who works in Carrizozo, creates gigantic, mixed-media installations that prompt viewers to consider the interconnection among different people, desert landscapes, agricultural technologies, and even the debris left by civilization.
López, who works and teaches in New York, presents a large-scale cyanotype. Unlike Guori, who traveled to the Catskills to create his ghostly images with light, López was unable to travel during the pandemic and made this monumental work at home with the materials around her – a driveway, nearby desert plants, and the blazing New Mexico sun.
Congratulations to the Albuquerque Museum for inviting Thomas Cole’s team to collaborate in mounting such a beautiful, thought-provoking show.
If you want to have a good laugh or contemplate a biting piece of social satire, head over to Wit, Humor & Satireat the Albuquerque Museum, on view through January 29.
Pulled from the museum’s permanent collection, themed sections of the show present artists’ side-glance takes on Western mythology, art jokes, image puns, and politics.
Right in the entry, you see the huge wall of Warhol Mao Tse-Tungs in blazing Pop Art colors, alongside Thomas J. Lane’s satirical ceramics – Bart Simpson impersonating Jesus and Homer as Buddha. Irreverant satire mixed with social commentary in impeccable execution.
There’s a dark 18th-century Goya etching in the first gallery and a funny Sloan print skewering 1920s tourists, but most of the offerings are more recent vintage, particularly whimsical sculptures and social commentary of the Seventies, Eighties, and Nineties.
It’s nice to encounter clever Sixties and Seventies Warhol, Rauchenberg, and Red Grooms prints in other humorous sections of the show, and to revisit Southwestern superstars like the T.C. Canon and Scholder, who like challenging stereotypes of what people think of Western people and cultures.
Most of the anti-War and social commentary are in the back half of the gallery, with strong pieces by Bob Haozous, John L. Doyle, and Sue Coe. Diego Romero lays it out with a lithograph that resembles his normal medium of politics-on-a-plate.
Another stand-out is the first poster ever designed by Keith Haring – a combination of images that came to define subterranean visual protest in the dark, scary times of 1980s New York. He debuted it for an anti-nuclear rally in Central Park, but his unforgettable images and icons soon became ubiquitous on City streets and subways, on T-shirts, and downtown art galleries.
How do Native American designers transform traditional beading, ancient symbols, social commentary, and tribal embroidery into contemporary fashion?
Answers are on display in the exhibition, Art of Indigenous Fashion at Santa Fe’s IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Art (MoCNA) through January 8. It’s a fitting exhibition that opened in conjunction with the tenth anniversary of the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWIA) Indigenous Fashion show.
The show puts the work of 2022 Native American Treasure honoree Virgil Ortiz front and center, with three imposing Recon Watchmen costumes. No, it’s not runway fashion. But these futuristic sci-fi ensembles from the year 2180 are made for a film where protectors travel back in time to help the New Mexico pueblos successfully fight their opressors in the Revolt of 1680.
Ortiz (Cochiti Pueblo) combines film, fabric, headresses, and history to tell the story of a real-life Native revolution that Pueblo kids never learned in their New Mexican history classes. Look close at the awesome printed silk cloaks, lamé “armor”, and dramatic sculpted masks of these dramatic Native superheroes.
Next, you see how Native artists combined art and fashion from the mid-20th century until now.
Several historic pieces are by the godfather of Native American contemporary fashion (and early leader of IAIA), Lloyd Kiva New (Cherokee), who had a successful contemporary line in Scottsdale in the 1940s and1950s.
The clothes in this exhibition feature buttons and clasps made by Charles Loloma, a Hopi innovator in contemporary Native jewelry, who also had a shop in Scottsdale and joined New at IAIA in the Sixties. Lucky that collectors saved these gems for us.
The 2000 embroidered, appliqued wool “Chilkat” cape by Pamela Baker (Tlingit/Haida) is regal enough to wear at any black-tie affair.
The same for Orlando Dugi’s (Dine’) 2018 feathered and beaded evening dress with a subtle golden eagle and touches of sparkling corn pollen. Dugi is a self-taught couturier, who meticulously applies each bead and feather himself.
Two dramatic red-carpet dresses by Lesley Hampton (Anishinaabe) that have appeared at recent Emmy and Golden Globe Award events are reminders of the inroads being made by Native Americans artists in the entertainment sector.
Among the most dramatic social-commentary work, Canadian design team Decontie & Brown (Penobscott Nation) has two attention-grabbers – a “wedding dress” offering the wearer protective spikes from unwanted advances and radiating power-feathers, and the “I Am A Reflection…” mirrored man’s coat. Absorbed in the kaleidoscope of the coat’s reflected light, viewers contemplate Decontie & Brown’s message as they marvel at the visual magic.
The elegant embroidered cashmere shift by Sho Sho Esquiro (Kaska Dena/Cree) has delicate somber black wings fluttering across the back. But these are paired with a front shouting the savage message of 20th-century Indian boarding school government policy. Beautiful but chilling.
Anita Fields (Osage) is represented by a suspended fashion installation in the center of main gallery – a wildly oversized embroidered top hat and wedding coat titled “It’s In Our DNA, It’s Who We Are.” Intertwined strands are emblazoned on the front; images of the unfortunate treaty her tribe signed in 1808 line the inside.
Outside the main gallery, MoCNA has invited Mohawk multimedia artist Skawennati to create a digital mural and installation of her “Activist Avatars,” cyber-protesters modeling a virtual clothing line. Multiple screens of social-justice protesters in power-to-the-people cammo and calico march toward viewers in the MoCNA screening room to an energetic Native hip-hop track.
Edward Weston and Ansel Adams set a high bar for classic, modernist photography, but the generation of image-makers who followed were driven to experiment, shake things up, and see where it all led.
Why not go back a hundred years and make new images with historic photo techniques (sun prints, anyone)? Has anyone tried embroidering photos? What about mashing up photo-silkscreen prints with readymade collages decorated with rubber stamps?
A stroll through the gallery shows a broad range of creative 20th-century minds at work, with at least one case showcasing some 19th century pioneers.
Meet Lady Mary Georgina Filmer, a London society gal who mastered the art of photocollage as early as the 1860s. A page from one of her albums shows how she merged topsy-turvey photo images, botanical watercolors, and text to tell stories her own way – a true stay-at-home pioneer!
Lady Filmer’s album looks out on dozens of other Americans who went back into the time machine to toy with making albumen prints, stereographs, hand-colored photos, drawing, and cyanotypes. Example: the arresting 1970s hand-colored gelatin silver print by Karen Truax where she ghosts-out her central figure.
For anyone curious about these old-timey methods, the curators have provided visitors with a place to relax, leaf through books about it, and watch YouTube videos on the gallery iPad.
Another gallery features artists who took photography mixed-media to the next level, like Rauchenburg’s litho that appropriates Bonnie and Clyde movie stills and an over-the-top abstraction by Thomas Barrow that combines gelatin silver print technique with a crazy-quilt of stencils, spray paint, and objects. So totally Eighties!
The third gallery displays lots of fool-the-eye and 3-D delights. What’s the most fun? Jerry McMillan’s photo-offset inside a “paper bag?” Betty Han’s Soft Daguerreotype of Xeroxed weeds on fabric? Probably Robert Heinecken’s T.V. Dinner/Shrimp. Hard to choose.
Other sections of the exhibition show how 1970s photographers made images in which photography itself was the subject and told highly personal stories.
And don’t forget the coda that features a dramatic images by more recent photographers that make provocative social statements and represent voices that were not fully represented within the university system during the 1960s and 1970s.
In the early 1980s, socially minded artists living downtown in New York couldn’t handle the news coming out of Central America and did something about it. The United States government was intervening in the affairs of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and everyone was worried that the situation was going to devolve into another Vietnam.
In 1982, a group of New York artists collaborated with Latin American artists to create a show with contemporary art and cultural artifacts to draw attention to the escalating crises in Latin America. By 1984, organizers launched a national call to artists to raise money and awareness of what was happening.
Artists responded with performances, music concerts, films, poetry readings, and exhibition. In New York alone, over 1,100 artists participated in over 30 exhibitions.
Nationally, artists in 27 cities organized chapters and events and tried to build alliances in Latin America.
Videos, photographs, sculptures, paintings, and ephermera pulled from archives (like posters, buttons, mail art, and pamphlets) bring the story of artist-activists to life – their concerns about US government intervention, their efforts to organize artists across the United States, and their attempts to help artists living in oppressed Central American countries.
The Tufts University-organized show resurrects a largely forgotten story of artist activism, illuminates the tribulations of indigenous communities in Central America at the time, introduces us to contemporary works from artists inspired by their indigenous heritage, and gives us an idea of what’s happening in those countries now.
The three-floor show is packed with arresting images, works, and histories. The art work and documentation push and pull visitors between the international political crises of the 1980s and social-justice issues being addressed by artists today.
The installation features work by heavy hitters of the 1980s New York art scene – wall-size Vietnam-era work by Leon Golub, images documenting Ana Mendieta’s performance pieces, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s sketches, maquettes, and exploding-banana image that branded the Artists Call Against US Intervention initiative.
The first-floor exhibition area includes Nancy Spero’s dramatic scroll-like drawing that calls attention to the oppression of Salvadorean women.
Downstairs, there’s another 1984 work that similarly unfurls the length of the gallery – an accordian-book project led by Sabra Moore that is a collaborative reconstruction of a rare 16th-century Mayan codex by 22 women. It’s the first time the codex has been displayed since 1984.
The third floor packs a punch, installing revolutionary images and publications around the infamous (and censored) Hans Haacke piece that questions the aftermath of the 1983 US invasion of Grenada. Across the room, visitors pour over Carlos Motta’s 2005 wall-sized chalkboard installationBrief History of US Interventions in Latin America since 1946.
Although the 1980 artist-activists did not achieve all of their utopian goals, the contemporary selections show that social consciousness, pride in indigenous heritage, and artistic futures are still alive – including a beautiful feathered immigrant history dome by Batriz Cortez, stitched by a team of immigrant collaborators.
Learn more about how the curator Erina Duganne and her collaborator Abigail Satinsky created this remarkable show:
Art for the Future will be on display at Chicago’s DePaul Art Museum from March to August 2023.
One of the most photographed artists of the 20th century, everyone is used to seeing Georgia O’Keeffe in her “formal” pose and gear – angular black hat, stark wrap dress, punctuated by her modernist Calder pin, standing against the New Mexico sky peering solemnly into the future.
The show features a smiling, at-ease 89-year-old surrounded by family, friends, companions, and pets – images quite apart from the GOK that we all admire and revere. How did this happen?
In the 1960s in New York, photographer Malcolm Varon established quite a reputation for documenting painters’ works in a way that captured a lot of their spirit. No wonder that in the mid-1970s, he was summoned out to Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu to document some of Georgia’s huge body of work.
While he was working with the artist during the summer of 1977, a journalist arrived to interview the icon for a feature in ARTnews.
No photographer had been attached to the story, so Georgia came up with hew own solution – ask her colleague Malcolm to shoot her in the setting of her Ghost Ranch home.
Since Malcolm was already familiar with the operations around Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu, he ended up taking about 300 photos of her homes, the landscapes that inspired her, and the people who kept things humming.
Despite Georgia’s reputation as a loner living out in the middle of nowhere, Malcolm appreciated that the day-to-day operations in the outback were quite fun, busy, natural, and happy at her two studio compounds.
ARTnews made a few selections from Varon’s photographs and ran them in the feature, but the majority of the 300 shots were never printed or seen…until now.
Visitors at the GOK museum pour over every detail of the portraits and landscapes, enjoying a new, different glimpse of the artist and her world – Varon’s portrait of Georgia’s sister, beautiful portraits of her property caretakers (whose families still take care of the GOK home for the museum), and her assistant Juan Hamilton.
The curators present several paintings from the 1940s showing the same cliffs, landscapes, and skies that Varon captured in the summer of 1977. Visitors have fun shifting back and forth between the oil paintngs and photos.
Listen in as the curators of this delightful show draw back the curtain on the legendary O’Keeffe, her relationship with photography, and what happened when a trusted friend got her to smile for the camera:
As a young woman, Carla met and got to appreciate Mexico’s indigenous communities as she traveled with her father, a renowned anthropologist. She loved collecting hand-made indigenous garments reflecting the distinct local styles she saw.
As a student of art history and fashion design, the complex indigenous textile techniques in these out-of-the way communities seemed to stand in contrast to the ever-changing, always-disposable cycle of Western fashion.
As presented in her first-ever museum retrospective, the results are dramatic, detailed, intriguing, and one-of-a-kind – a completely different kind of fashion system that incorporates indigenous work, pays and credits community makers, and gives artisans the time to create pieces that collectors cherish.
Carla travels to mountain and desert communities to collaborate with textile artists.
With her fame growing, communities now invite her to drive over, see what they’re doing and brainstorm about potential collaborations. It’s an approach that involves time, dialogue, and mutual respect between the artisans and Carla-as-fashion-facilitator.
In her mobile studio (Taller Flora), they create hand-woven, dyed, and painted works of wearable art that Carla brings to the runway, but always with an eye toward collectors who value innovative, indigenous craft traditions.
The exhibition features runway looks, accessories, and videos of performance art that showcase different facets of her fashion manifesto – that artisan-made is the true “luxury” in a “fast fashion,” throw-away world.