Mirror Mirror #7 features artists Salvador Castillo, Michael Anthony García, and Hector Hernandez also known as the collective Los Outsiders. They met in 2006 and since meeting have come together over the years to talk about art and engage with various communities. They’ve put out podcasts, made and shown their own artwork and co-curated ambitious exhibitions such as Hasta La Basura Se Separa [artcrush] which was shown first at The Antigua Aduana in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico and then at Box 13 in Houston, Texas. Because they are not based in one location they are open to explore alternative venues and work with different organizations and institutions for showing opportunities. Their most recent offering Heir Today Gone Tomorrow at The Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin, Texas includes the works of 14 artists, with members García and Hernandez in the mix as well as taking the lead on the organization and curation of this large group show.
The premise and perhaps a question to the Mexican American Cultural Center (MACC) is “What does it mean to be defined or make work based on heredity?” Not just Latino or Mexican American but any heritage that is steeped in tradition, still present in contemporary life or perhaps is becoming lost or diluted in our overly multi-culti friendly world. For Heir Today Gone Tomorrow Los Outsiders put together artists from Texas, Tennessee and Mexico who explore all of these complexities and the residue left on identity and politics. It’s a smart grouping of young(ish) artists who paint, sculpt and create videos all encased in the gorgeous architecture of the MACC’s gallery space.
Some notable standouts include Carlos Rosales-Silva’s latex enamel wall piece that builds off of Op Art and tabloid truisms. Tru Story is a graphic word play on Michael Jackson’s skin color. The large black and white mural plays with our eyes and auto focus in the same way it teases out the multiple meanings of language for effect. It’s Bridget Riley with a sense of humor.
I’ve always liked the photographs of Santiago Forero and the work in this exhibition is no exception. Upending scale and gender, his large-scale archival prints reverse expectations of how we see the ideas of “adult” and “child” with their minimal compositions, graphic use of color, and a subtle nod to Forero’s own stature. Looking at the backs of each subject’s head, also a reversal on traditional portraiture, we perhaps gain insight from their perspective. The photos feel like internalized moments from Gulliver’s Travels or an instance of eavesdropping on someone else’s daydream about whom they want to be.
Sergio Garcia’s It’s Not Always Easy To Tell What’s Real and What’s Fabricated is a custom built tricycle extended and repositioned into a playful but misleading sculptural form. Well crafted, it is as graceful as it is impractical, an object of beauty as well as content.
Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus No. 7 is a vibrating rainbow reminiscent of his Mexico City roots and its traditional embroidery and textile work. Colorful lengths of thread stretch out from baseboard to ceiling in bold prismatic color. A striking piece on it’s own, it commands space and makes the other examples of Dawe’s work in Heir… seem unnecessary to me.
This leads to my one critique of Heir Today Gone Tomorrow, it feels a little over hung. While the MACC is a large and expansive space, it feels cluttered and hard to navigate through the work at times. Maybe it is as simple as putting up a few moveable walls to separate the work and give it some breathing room. Or maybe some of the work could have been edited to truly narrow down and reflect upon the curatorial questions that Los Outsiders proposed. I’ll admit that I am a true believer in less is more when trying to look at and unpack the meaning of artworks. I wish the curators could have believed in the strength of some of the stronger pieces to stand alone. As mentioned above, Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus No. 7 is just one example. That said Heir Today Gone Tomorrow is a solid exhibition packed both visually and conceptually that should not be missed and is on view from June 24th through August 27th at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.