January 17 - February 29, 2020
Piñatasthetic, an installation of work by Artists Justin Favela, based in Las Vegas, Nevada; Josué Ramírez, based in Brownsville, Texas; and Giovanni Valderas, based in Dallas, Texas. Selected by ALH’s Artist Advisory Board during the Open Call process, Piñatasthetic is a three-person exhibition exploring the use of the piñata technique and process as a symbol and cultural staple of Latinx identity.
The purpose and meaning of the piñata has developed from an indigenous practice to a tool of religious conversion and now to its current role in celebrations and parties. The lasting popularity of piñatas throughout time and their inclusion into mainstream popular culture as a signifier of Latinidad shows the importance behind the working-class craft. The incorporation of the piñata into pop culture, however, has led to appropriation that manifests itself in stereotypical ways, usually making piñatas part of the punch line. This diminishes the practice, tradition and worth of a craft that carries deep meaning and history in the Latinx collective conscious.
In an effort to create counter narratives to popular culture and to continue expanding the notion of the piñata through the lens of fine art, Piñatasthetic is a group show focusing on the contemporary use of piñata-making techniques, material and methodology. Piñatasthetic presents the ways in which three Latinx artists allude to, explore, portray, and develop the definition and construct of the piñata. The overt aesthetic of the piñata is what connects the exhibition, but the works are representations of the individual artists’ personal conversation on the topic.
Artist Justin Favela of Las Vegas is stylistically inspired by the piñata, which he uses to critique absurd stereotypes through exaggeration. Favela’s large-scale installations allude to wide-ranging inspirations from Mexican artist José María Velasco, low riders, and Selena, to food from his favorite hometown diners. Whatever the context, Favela’s work seeks to create a dialogue about identify and home, as well as the perceptions of “high art” with the use of craft materials.
Rio Grande Valley artist Josué Ramírez uses piñata techniques to recreate everyday snapshots of personal moments in bright, fringed collages. The images draw nostalgia for the ephemeral and are an ode to border life and culture through portraiture and piñata making. Ramirez also uses piñata techniques in immersive large-scale installations of psychedelic piñata landscapes. In Piñatabstract, Ramirez seeks to disconnect piñatas from symbolism and iconography and focus on the repetition of techniques to create momentary worlds.
Dallas-based artist Giovanni Valderas uses piñata techniques through various aspects in his work. Valderas’ site specific installation Tradecraft, for example, combines bilingual Spanish sayings and piñata making to create multicolored dilapidated signs and structures that highlight the convoluted relationships between the Latinx and American cultures. Currently Valderas is working on a grassroots project based in the West Dallas Oak Cliff Neighborhood. Quien Manda explores piñata-making as a tool for Latinx political engagement and community empowerment against gentrification. Valderas uses piñatas to underscore the fragility of affordable housing in the city but also to interact with and highlight the minority communities that are most impacted by forced displacement.
Through featuring the varying use of the piñata as explored by these three Latinx artists, Piñatasthetic demonstrates the continuing development and growth of the construct of the piñata and provides counter narratives to the appropriation of a craft and symbol that portrays Latinidad.
Opening: January 17, 2020 | 6–9 pm
1953 Montrose Boulevard
Houston, 77006 TX
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