Curating at the Edge: Artists Respond to the U.S./Mexico Border (William & Bettye Nowlin Series in Art, History, and Culture of the Western Hemishere)
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Located less than a mile from Juárez, the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for Visual Arts at the University of Texas at El Paso is a non-collecting institution that serves the Paso del Norte region. In Curating at the Edge, Kate Bonansinga brings to life her experiences as the Rubin’s founding director, giving voice to a curatorial approach that reaches far beyond the limited scope of “border art” or Chicano art. Instead, Bonansinga captures the creative climate of 2004–2011, when contemporary art addressed broad notions of destruction and transformation, irony and subversion, gender and identity, and the impact of location on politics.
The Rubin’s location in the Chihuahuan desert on the U.S./Mexican border is meaningful and intriguing to many artists, and, consequently, Curating at the Edge describes the multiple artistic perspectives conveyed in the place-based exhibitions Bonansinga oversaw. Exciting mid-career artists featured in this collection of case studies include Margarita Cabrera, Liz Cohen, Marcos Ramírez ERRE, and many others. Recalling her experiences in vivid, first-person scenes, Bonansinga reveals the processes a contemporary art curator undertakes and the challenges she faces by describing a few of the more than sixty exhibitions that she organized during her tenure at the Rubin. She also explores the artists’ working methods and the relationship between their work and their personal and professional histories (some are Mexican citizens, some are U.S. citizens of Mexican descent, and some have ancestral ties to Europe). Timely and illuminating, Curating at the Edge sheds light on the work of the interlocutors who connect artists and their audiences.
an oiled chain forming the outline of Mexico, upside down. A veil of crude oil flowed over it, providing an unveiled criticism of Mexico’s human, financial, and natural resources “drained by and into the United States” in a relentless cycle. In the less confrontational but equally significant Cross Coordinates, Ivan Abreu, who concentrates on creating “context rather than content” and emphasizes collective over individual experience, invited motley pairs of people to balance a four-foot
would move her toward maturity as an artist. A simplistic description of these early sculptures is “household appliances rendered soft.” But they address the economic and social environment of immigration and of the border, subjects that Cabrera continues to pursue more than a decade later in a practice that includes Marxist-style community art production and that consequently raises questions about artistic ownership and authorship. Cabrera earned a two-year-long display (2011–2013) of her
reconfiguration and construction, and Burden’s point was to defy expectations and to challenge what is possible. Ježik stands apart from these precedents because his action and message is destruction. Untitled (damage and repair) and What comes from outside is reinforced from within are only two of his many works that convey this message. In early November, I initiated the discussion about the exhibition title. Up to that point, we had been calling the exhibition Lost in Surveillance, a title
I took to ensure institutional success and impact. This is not an academic book about the U.S./Mexico border. I am neither a specialist about this political demarcation nor a native of this region. I am instead an outsider from the Midwest via the Northwest who brought a new perspective and appreciation to El Paso. This is not a survey of curatorial practice, but I hope the experiences conveyed in the following pages contribute to that field of study. Curating at the Edge is a series of case
a German Trabant to be a Ford El Camino in an expression of optimistic transformation. Tania Candiani’s concern with women’s work is applied to political tensions on the U.S./Mexico border in her 2009 exhibition Battleground, described in Chapter 8. Chapter 9 revisits Snagged, 2009, by landscape architecture firm Tom Leader Studio, which addressed agriculture as industry in the border region. Chapter 10 focuses on two artists, Ivan Abreu and Marcela Armas, who were part of an eight-person