The Rising Arts Writers Program is an initiative created by The Arts Beacon to encourage, mentor, support and post writings by aspiring locals writers. With the intention of fostering critical responses to art and artists in the Valley, the RAW Program creates an opportunity for up and coming writers to comment on their own art scene using the platform of The Arts Beacon website while also being a valuable resource for local artists seeking insights into their practice.
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The Arizona State University Art Museum presents Contemporary Mexican Photography: Existe lo que tiene nombre, on view until January 9, 2016. Focusing on photography created within the last decade, Existe lo que tiene nombre presents twenty-three contemporary Mexican photographers who capture a wide range of subjects, including portraits and landscapes, which reveal a colorful montage of Mexico. Existe lo que tiene nombre is part of a larger series at the ASU Art Museum titled Contact Zones, organized by Curator Julio Cesar Morales, which addresses relevant issues of migration and identity.
In Carpoolers, Artist Alejandro Cartagena’s portrayal of Mexican workers targets the swelling populations in urban areas and the resulting higher living costs. From an aerial perspective, viewers look down onto the bed of a truck. Here, the artist parallels workers conditions to their invisibility within society; the viewer sees the true labor conditions only when looking from above, an uncommon and often unrealistic perspective. In reality, many workers cannot afford gas and tightly squeeze into trucks to cut costs. Cartagena further prompts the viewer to contemplate the cost of these advancements within building construction, often built by citizens who are unable to take advantage of the very technologies for which they labor.
The perception of familial roles is the focus of artist Bruno Ruiz, in his piece Family Yearbook, where he humorously analyzes the shift of relationship dynamics throughout time. Ruiz declares, “My family, for example has become a friendly monster with a thousand heads. Our relationships are shaped more by play than a certain family logic.” By compiling polaroids, Ruiz shows family members dressed in costumes and wearing masks of paper that hide their true identity and relationship to Ruiz. This leaves the viewer unable to tell which family member takes on the traditional role of mother, father, etc.
Regardless of its small size, Sweetbook by David Vera stands for its intense narrative, with a photograph of the artist and his father, and lyrics from a sentimental ballad by musician Alberto Vazquez. In Sweetbook, Vera works through his father's illness, a chronic degenerative disease, by taking an old photograph and punching holes out of the figures, simulating the slow decline of the body. Sweetbook parallels several of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s (1957-1996) Untitled pieces, representative of his partner, Ross, who died of AIDS; e.g. Untitled (Rossmore II) view at Phoenix Art Museum, where viewers are invited to take individual pieces of cellophane-wrapped candy from a pile until it diminishes (an abstract portrait of decay). Sweetbook is also a fictional documentary pondering the gradual blindness that accompanies diabetic retinopathy. With one's vision in decline, memory becomes harder to recall, and much like the punched out figures, are in danger of becoming unrecognizable.
Existe lo que tiene nombre blends seamlessly with Morales’s Contact Zones through the thoughtful curation of artist Sergio De La Torre. Existe lo que tiene nombre provides American audiences a humanizing view to difficult, and complex issues that are often portrayed in the media. The documentary aspect of the exhibition shows the intimate and emotional connection of the photographer and subject, uniting with social activism. In combining contemporary photographers who focus on issues throughout Mexico provides a bold voice that is engaging and evocative.