Separated by both visible and invisible barriers, Mexico and the United States have been called “distant neighbors.” Perhaps greater than the border created to divide our two nations is the language, race, and history that can make us feel quite distinct from one another, despite our proximity.
New Orleans, however, has a more intertwined relationship with Mexico than many other American cities do. Both of us share a Spanish colonial past, though New Orleans did not suffer a conquest like Mexico did. Benito Juárez, the first indigenous Mexican president, spent two periods of politically-induced exile in New Orleans in the 1850s prior to his presidency. Additionally, the Mexican Consulate in New Orleans is one of the oldest Mexican consulates in the United States. It closed in 2002 due to budget cuts but reopened after Hurricane Katrina in 2008 to provide services to the influx of Mexican immigrants who relocated to New Orleans to assist with rebuilding. Despite these connections, familiarity with Mexico and its mosaic culture is often superficial at best.
In an effort to call attention to a less-recognized area of Mexican culture, curator Dan Cameron, the Mexican Consulate in New Orleans, and the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery have partnered to present Sin Título (“untitled”). An official satellite exhibition of Prospect.4 New Orleans, the art triennial that Cameron founded in 2007, Sin Título showcases the works of seven Contemporary Mexican artists. This is the first time a group exhibition on Contemporary Mexican art has ever been presented in New Orleans. The exhibition takes place across two galleries, the Art Gallery of the Mexican Consulate (901 Convention Center Blvd. Suite 118– entrance on Andrew Higgins Street) and the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery (400A Julia Street). It is one of many celebrations and exhibits marking New Orleans’ Tricentennial celebration.
The artists showcased in this first of its kind exhibit are Hugo Crosthwaite, Jose Dávila, Gabriel de la Mora, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Pablo Rasgado, Pedro Reyes, and Martín Soto Climent. These award-winning artists have exhibited their works in galleries and at events around the world.
Crosthwaite, a contemporary figurative artist from Tijuana, is best known for his black and white charcoal and graphite drawings. Dávila, a trained architect from Guadalajara, creates large sculptural installations among various other works. de la Mora’s work emphasizes the minimalist aesthetic, with materials sourced from objects considered waste. Lozano-Hemmer is an electronic artist whose works are a combination of architecture and performance art. Rasgado, the youngest artist of the group, creates art using industrial and other building materials, often presenting an interplay of natural and man-made materials. Reyes, also a trained architect, creates pieces that are a mixture of sculpture, video, performance, and activism. Soto Climent lives and works in Mexico City. His work, which frequently explores the themes of temporality, decay, and marginality, is made from recycled or otherwise re-purposed materials.
Sin Título offers a glimpse into the dynamic and growing world of contemporary Mexican art, a side of Mexico some may never see. Through cultural exchanges such as this one, the barriers will hopefully start to come down. The Sin Título exhibit runs through December 30.