The US-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility

Ana Serrano


January 27 - April 14, 2018


The border has come to occupy an intellectual and an emotionally charged space as well as a territorial one. It exists within the geography of memory as much as being a place of transit and transformation. Much of the creative production around the border unearths ways in which artists, architects, designers and makers who live in border states negotiate two divided but interconnected realities. Although this exhibition was conceived before the topic of “building a wall” along the US-Mexico border re-emerged in media headlines, its relevance is more potent and instructive than ever before.

The contemporary artists in this exhibition explore the border as a physical reality (place), as a subject (imagination), and as a site for production and forward thinking solutions (possibility). While the selection largely focuses on work executed in the last two decades, it also includes objects by Chicano artists in California who came together in the 1970s and 1980s to address border issues in their work. The inclusion of artists from various disciplines, including design, architecture, sculpture, painting and photography, reflects the ways in which contemporary artists and designers themselves cross disciplinary borders.

Featured artists include: Tanya Aguiñiga, Pilar Agüero-Esparza & Hector Dio Mendoza, Lalo Alcarez, Haydee Alonso, Judith F. Baca, Guillermo Bert, Elvira Bessudo, Raquel Bessudo, Margarita Cabrera, Cristina Celis, Van Derren Coke, Teddy Cruz, Alejandro D’Acosta & Claudia Turrent, Einar & Jamex de la Torre, Adrian Esparza, Carlota Espinoza, Jorge Diego Etienne, Andres Fonseca, Guillermo Galindo, Armando Muñoz Garcia, Rupert García, Bob Haozous, Luis Jiménez, Douglas Kent Hall, Alejandra Antón Honorato, Jami Porter Lara, La Metropolitana, Tom Miller, Lorena Lazard, Andrés Lhima, Los Dos de Los (Yreina Cervantez & Leo Limón), Pablo López Luz, Teresa Margolles, Delilah Montoya, Julio César Morales, Elizabeth Rustrian Ortega, Viviana Paredes, G.T. Pellizzi, Post Commodity, Daisy Quezada Ureña, Marcos Ramírez ERRE, Betsabeé Romero, Zinna Rudman, Mauricio Sáenz, Eduardo Sarabia, Agnes Seebass, Ana Serrano, Elizabeth Sisco, Louis Hock & David Avalos, Ray Smith, Studio Rael San Fratello, and Consuelo Jimenez Underwood.

Since the 1990s, the US-Mexico border has become an important site for creative exploration of issues related to emigration, immigration, labor conditions, intersections of identity and transformation. The US-Mexico border is often thought to include territory within 100 miles of the national boundaries of the two countries; however, this exhibition’s parameters include the whole of the ten US and Mexican states situated directly along the national boundaries. This allows the exhibition to acknowledge the persistence and survival of heritage and culture in the passing down of traditional skills and techniques within various communities and families on either side of the border.

“The border has been a contentious site for much longer than the current news cycle’s focus on ‘the wall’,” says curator Lowery Stokes Sims. “And though the exhibition has taken on a particular urgency in the current political environment, this project recognizes the border as a long-standing site of interdependence and connectivity, despite the painful divisions it causes. We celebrate the creativity and commitment of this selection of designers, artists and makers for whom the border is a lived experience.” The US-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility demonstrates the humanity and distinct creative cultures along this contested territory and underscores the interconnectedness of the two countries that are in danger of being violently and destructively impacted by aggressive nationalism, policies of exclusion and racism.

The original exhibition is developed by and traveled to Albuquerque from the Craft and Folk Art Museum where it is on view September 9, 2017 – January 7, 2018 in Los Angeles after it closes there for Pacific Standard Time Los Angeles/Latin America (PST LA/LA) 2017. A fully illustrated exhibition catalog includes essay contributions by Michael Dear, Gustavo Leclerc, Kerry Doyle, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Jose Manuel Valenzuela Arce, Teddy Cruz & Fonna Forman and Jorge Gracia.

The main exhibition in Albuquerque is hosted by 516 ARTS, and is being expanded into a collaboration with an additional exhibition site at the Albuquerque Museum, and accompanying interdisciplinary public programs around the city, including activities in partnership with: UNM Art Museum, the National Hispanic Cultural Center, the Outpost Performance Space, the Guild Cinema, the Sanitary Tortilla Factory, the Santa Fe Dreamers Project, UNM Dream Team and New Mexico Immigration Law Center. 

516 ARTS Fulcrum Fund Juror Lowery Stokes Simms 1Curator Lowery Stokes Sims, recently named one of the Most Influential Curators by Artsy, is the retired Curator Emerita at the Museum of Arts and Design. She served as the executive director then president of The Studio Museum in Harlem and was on the education and curatorial staff of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. A specialist in modern and contemporary art, she is known for her particular expertise in the work of African, Latino, Native and Asian American artists. She has published extensively and has lectured nationally and internationally and guest curated numerous exhibitions around the world. Sims holds a Ph.D. in art history from the Graduate School of the City University of New York and has received six honorary degrees.




Image: Ana Serrano, Cartonlandia, (detail) 2007, cardboard, wood, AltaMed Art Collection, courtesy of Cástulo de la Rocha and Zoila D. Escobar