Contemporary (Latin) American Art in Austin

HEIR today, gone tomorrow is currently on view at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC), curated by Austin-based collective, Los Outsiders. Despite the curators’ interest in distancing HEIR today from the label of Latin American or Latino, the chosen works definitively speak of these heritages and cultures. It is a provocative exhibition that speaks of both colonial and post-colonial notions of Latinoamérica. Mostly made up of now Texas-based artists, the exhibition draws on Latino backgrounds, as many of the artists are originally from Mexico, Central or South America.  However, the theme of the show isn’t expressly about those heritages.

Comprised of fourteen artists, also featuring works by two of the curators– Michael Anthony García and Hector Hernandez, the show features everything from photography to site-specific installations.

I was able to explore the gallery solo mid-week, a rare but welcome occurrence. The small gallery space is ideal for the exhibition, providing an intimate feel while allowing the work to speak to each other’s pasts, presents and futures.

Santiago Forero, Self-portrait

Two portraits by Colombian artist Santiago Forero (based in Austin, TX and recently featured in Austin Museum of Arts Austin: 15 to Watch) open the show.  Two archival pigment prints, Self-Portrait, 2009 and Portrait of My Niece, 2009 are shown side by side.  His niece is bundled for winter weather, facing the trunk of a white vehicle, her back to the viewer.  She is probably around four or five years of age.  Juxtaposed to this is Forero himself facing a large red-orange drum in the middle of the country on a bright, presumably warm, day.  The portraits speak of human form, as they appear to be of similar height and both look still as statues.

The works of Gabriel Dawe, born in Mexico and based in Dallas, are reminiscent of works by Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez. Dawe uses hooks and embroidery thread to create bright, site-specific installation pieces such as Plexus No. 7, 2011.  The work is set at a ninety-degree angle and is dizzying to directly gaze.  It speaks of his Mexican heritage, through the use of thread and bright colors.  Textiles are often considered folk and women’s art, an idea challenged through this piece.  Three Plexiglas boxes next to the installation show the colored threads of previous works reminding the viewer of the time necessary to thread each piece as well as the evolution of installation to site-specific memory.

Aisen Caro Chacin’s Genetic Mapping Inference Project (GAMIP), 2011 plays on scientific technology through the use of DNA mapping.  We are left to wonder who is represented by the X-ray DNA strands on the wall.  The social investigation, as she calls it, is composed of sterile mouth swabs in equally cold metal basins alongside instructions on how to swab one’s cheek.  Numbered glass viles fill a separate sterile stray along with folded pieces of paper.  Who do these represent?  What are they trying to discern?  Chacin draws on the notion of the misconceived inferiority of indigenous peoples by Spanish explorers of the New World while using modern technology unavailable to them.

These are a few of the pieces represented in HEIR today, gone tomorrow, which exhibits through August 27th. The Gallery at MACC is open until 9pm Monday – Thursday.

Feature image: courtesy of Gabriel Dawe, plexus no. 5 + site specific installation at pump projects for the 2011 texas bienial + gütermann thread, wood and nails + 12′ x 12′ x 12′ + 2011

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