Natalie Amador Solis: Interconnections Between Mexico City and Los Angeles

Natalie Amador Solis is a Master’s candidate at Harvard Divinity School concentrating in Latinx and Latin American Art and Religion. She received a DRCLAS Summer Research Travel Grant to conduct research on contemporary art in Mexico for her master’s thesis on the artistic interconnections between Mexico City and Los Angeles, focusing on the artwork created by Mexican and Chicanx artists. After Harvard, Natalie will continue her research on Chicanx and Mexican art in an interdisciplinary doctoral program.

 
Interconnections Between Mexico City and Los Angeles
By Natalie Amador Solis
 

1. Ana Serrano, Cartonlandia, 2008, Construyendo Puentes en época de muros: Arte Chicano/Mexicano de Los Ángeles a México, Centro de las Artes, Monterrey, MX

Artworks from left to right in the photograph: Ana Serrano, Cartonlandia, 2008 (center); Gil Garcetti, Los Angeles Skyline (from Dodger Stadium), 2011; Salomon Huerta, Untitled (House Painting), 2015; Shizu Saldamondo, Highland Park Luau, 2006; Salomón Huerta, Untitled (House Painting), 2003; Ramiro Gomez, Lupita, 2017

Photograph from the traveling exhibition, Construyendo Puentes en época de muros: Arte Chicano/Mexicano de Los Ángeles a Méxicoat the Centro de las Artes in Monterrey. Initiated by Altamed, a health service organization based in Southern California, highlights the work of Chicanx artists with Mexican heritage, from the arts group Los Four (active in the 1970s and early 1980s) to the contemporary performance and installation artist, Gabriela Ruiz. First exhibited at El Museo Carrilo Gil in September 2018, the exhibition has since traveled to Michoacan, Monterrey, Acapulco, and is currently in Oaxaca at El Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños (MUPO). In December, the exhibition will travel to the Museo de los Artes de la Universidad de Guadalajara and end in in June 2020 in El Centro Cultural de Tijuana. Cartonlandiaby Ana Serrano exemplifies the architectural connections between Los Angeles and Mexico. Inspired by her travels in Mexico, Serrano constructed this cardboard city to reflect the Mexican influence of her Los Angeles upbringing. The artworks exhibited around Cartonlandia reflect a longing for home and belonging. Despite the anonymity inflicted against Chicanxs in Los Angeles (Lupita by Ramiro Gomez), these Chicanx artists reimagine and fuse Chicanx and Mexican aesthetics in their artwork.

 

2. Gary Garay, Paleta Cart, 2004,Construyendo Puentes en época de muros: Arte Chicano/Mexicano de Los Ángeles a México, Centro de las Artes, Monterrey, MX

Artworks from left to right in the photograph: Gary Garay, Paleta Cart, 2004 (center); Judithe Hernández, L’épée de Saint Jeanne, 2013; Camille Rose Garcia, Escape to Darlingtonia, 2007; Frank Romero, MacArthur Park, the Arrest of the Taco Wagon, an Attack on Culture, 2010

Also part of the exhibition Construyendo Puentes en época de muros: Arte Chicano/Mexicano de Los Ángeles a México, Paleta Cart by Gary Garay demonstrates not only the importance of cuisine, with traditional Mexican foods commonly found in Chicanx communities in Los Angeles, but also the illegality, until 2018, of street vending in Los Angeles. Together, Paleta Cart and Frank Romero’s painting, MacArthur Park, the Arrest of the Taco Wagon, an Attack on Culture, invoke the importance of street vending as an act of cultural resistance in Los Angeles. The constant attacks on street vendors expose the ongoing, blatant racism against Latinxs in Los Angeles. Simply selling paletas or tacos on the L.A. streets could lead to harassment. Meanwhile in Mexico, street vending is a common occurrence in daily life. These two artworks call upon the consumption of Chicanx/Mexican culture, while simultaneously acknowledging the precarity of Latinx lives in Los Angeles.

 

3. Patrick Martinez, 2016-2017, America is for Dreamers, Construyendo Puentes en Época de Muros, Monterrey, MX

At the entrance of the exhibition Construyendo Puentes en época de muros: Arte Chicano/Mexicano de Los Ángeles a México, the neon artwork, America is for Dreamers by Patrick Martinez nods to the importance of neon signage for L.A. Chicanx communities. The trinity of neon signs center immigration: América es para los dreamers; Brown owned; We may have all come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now. From DACA to the growth of Latinx-owned business in Los Angeles, the rhetoric around immigration often evolves around economics. First showcased at the Vincent Price Art Museum in East Los Angeles, America is for Dreamers is a “statement that at once asserts the rights of DACA students, known as Dreamers, and references the country’s history as a nation of immigrants and opportunity, while simultaneously interrogating the attainability of the American Dream.”[1]The placement of this artwork at the exhibition entrance begs the question, what is the interpretation of the American dream in Mexico? Given the growth of “Little L.A.” in Mexico City, a site for Mexican-origin people recently deported from the United States, “Dreamers” are at the forefront of immigration debates in the United States. and Mexico.

 

4. Carlos Aguirre, Border Line, 2019, Territorios de la Memoria 1985-2019, Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City, MX

Territorios de la Memoria 1985-2019 centers “the social, culture, and political spheres” of Mexican society over a twenty-four-year period.[2]Carlos Aguirre’s Border Line relates to his solo exhibition at the gallery, PROYECTOSMONCLOVA. Combining archival and artistic practice, Aguirre cuts and spray paints stencils with quotations by Trump describing Mexico in addition to new reports describing Trump.

 

The artwork states:

THE SECOND DEADLIEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD

THEY’RE BRINGING CRIME

“TOTALLY CORRUPT”

“RAPIST AND DRUG DEALERS”

NOT OUR FRIENDS

BUILD THE WALL

HAS A MASSIVE CRIME PROBLEM

“A VERY POWERFUL FORCE”

THEY’RE KILLING US

“BAD HOMBRES”

“COMPLETE IDIOT”

NATIONAL DISGRACE

A MISOGYNIST

A SOCIOPATH

“A FRAUD. A BULLY.”

THE WORST AND THE DUMBEST

“MALIGNANT CLOWN”

TALKATIVE CLOWN

COMPLETE IDIOT

HAIL TRUMP

 

5. Carlos Aguirre, Installation, 2019, Carlos Aguirre: Archivos, apuntes y nuevas propuestas, PROYECTOSMONCLOVA, Mexico City, MX

The solo exhibition, Carlos Aguirre: Archivos, apuntes y nuevas propuestas draws together “theoretical work on the social construction of enemies, Aguirre takes Trump’s anti-Mexico discourse as an example, juxtaposing it with Díaz Ordaz’s discourse about the 1968 student movement in Mexico City.”[3]Aguirre’s use of stenciling and wheatpaste techniques invoke urban interventions within the white cube of the gallery space. Together, the rhetorical manipulation of Ordaz and Trump not only exposes their similarities, but also the role of media in U.S.-Mexico politics. Through the artwork, Aguirre asks, who is the bigger villain in Mexico?

 

6. Tlacolulokos (Darío Canul, Cosijoesa Cernas, Taide Muñoz Alvarado), Cali-cheu, zapoteco del Valle de Tlacolula que significa “¿A dónde vas?”, 2019, Los huecos del agua: Arte actual de pueblos originarios, Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, MX

From Tlacolula, Oaxaca, the art collective, Tlacolulokos, depicts the indigenous communities of Oaxaca in urban settings. The Tlacolulokos solo exhibition, “Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A.,” displayed through the Pacific Standard Time initiative expressed the mix of traditional and contemporary aesthetics of Los Angeles Oaxacan communities.[4]Emphasizing youth culture, Tlacolulokos portrays a young woman wearing a huipil and Adidas Superstar sneakers. Tlacolulokos maintains strong ties with Oaxaca, the origins of the mural “resulted from a workshop in which female inmates from a prison in Oaxaca took part.”[5]

 

7. Eduardo Sarabia, Installation, 2019, El toro y otros relatos, Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, MX

A Chicano artist of Mexican origin, Eduardo Sarabia was born in Los Angeles and currently resides in Mexico. An autobiographic installation, El toro y otros relatos explores the “memory work” of Sarabia’s Los Angeles upbringing. From references to the Dodgers to agriculture in Mexico, this artwork reflects the borderlands nature of Los Angeles. Via the cardboard shipping boxes, Sarabia reflects on the back-and-forth exchange between Mexico and California. The use of ceramics and cardboard create a landscape of domestic and international consumerism. How are Mexican products consumed outside of Mexico?

 

8. María Sosa, El enemigo de adentro I y El enemigo de adentro II, El enemigo de adentro/El enemigo de afuera, Parque Galería, Mexico City, MX

A contemporary Mexican artist, María Sosa’s solo exhibition, El enemigo de adentro/El enemigo de afuera “is an exploration of the psychic influences of coloniality in two dimensions, the one of outside corresponding to the context and the one of inside pertaining to the subjectivity.”[6]Reflected in the artwork is the dual exploration of coloniality. With various representations of the body, Sosa’s artwork “explores the internalized violence, the religious and heteronormal colonial education that generates everyday methodologies of relationship based on domination and fear.”[7]Analyzing colonial texts and mapping coloniality on the body, Sosa interprets the present-day influence of colonialism through her art practice.

 

9. Ai Weiwei, Installation, 2019, Resettling Memories, Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City, MX

For the exhibition Resettling Memories, Ai Weiwei created “a documentary film and a series of portraits made with Lego pieces, the artist explores the personal and social consequences of the disappearance of the 43 students from the Escuela Normal Rural de Ayotzinapa on the night of September 26-27, 2014.”[8]Under the portraits of the 43 missing students is a chronology of Mexican political history, dating back to 1821, and the Ayotzinapa case. This detailed history below the portraits allows for close interaction not only with the artwork, but also with fellow visitors. The mixture of history and artwork elicits memory production. How does the exhibition affect visitor’s memories of Ayotzinapa?

 

10. Betsabeé Romero, Su huella es una flor que nunca termina (2012), Llanta(2017), Ciudades que se van (2005), MAIA Contemporary, Mexico City, MX

A significant portion of Betsabeé Romero’s art practice revolves around the use of everyday materials, specifically tires. From Mexico City, Romero’s artwork negotiatives urbanism with folklore. Detailing pre-Hispanic motifs on the tires, Romero summons cultural and geographic transit. Associating cars with U.S. culture, the recycling of tires via arts practice is also a commentary on the intersections between industrialization and migration. The three tires together signify the growth of Romero’s arts practices through the associated artistic periods while signaling notions of mass production.

 

 

 

[1]Patrick Martinez: America is for Dreamers,” Vincent Price Art Museum,

http://vincentpriceartmuseum.org/exhibitions%EF%80%A2patrick-martinez.html.

[2]Territorios de la memoria 1985-2018,” Museo de Arte Moderno,

https://mam.inba.gob.mx/territorios-de-la-memoria-1985-2019.

[3]Carlos Aguirre: Archivos, apuntes y nuevas propuestas,” PROYECTOSMONCLOVA,

http://proyectosmonclova.com/en/exposicion/archivos-apuntes-nuevas-propu....

[4]“Visualizing Language: Oaxaca in L.A.,” Los Angeles Public Library,

https://www.lapl.org/whats-on/exhibits/oaxaca.

[5]Wall Text, Cali-cheu, zapoteco del Valle de Tlacolula que significa “¿A dónde vas?”, Los huecos del agua: Arte actual de pueblos originariosMuseo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, MX.

[6]María Sosa, “El enemigo de adentro/El enemigo de afuera,” Parque Galería,

https://www.parquegaleria.com/en/portfolio/el-enemigo-de-adentro-el-enem....

[7]Ibid.

[8]“Ai Weiwei,” Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo,

https://muac.unam.mx/exposicion/ai-weiwei?lang=en.