Artists working along the U.S.-Mexico border bring both the danger and terrible beauty of these arbitrary political crossings to life through sculpture, printmaking, photography, installation and film.
These borders divide both cultures and families. Indigenous people who traditionally straddled both sides can no longer hunt game across these borderlines.
“The U.S.-Mexico Border” opens on Saturday, Jan. 13 at the Albuquerque Museum. The show is being presented in conjunction with the companion exhibition at 516 ARTS opening Jan. 27. The museum show features works by two Los Angeles artists augmented by works from the permanent collection and major loans.
The colorful works of New Mexico’s Luis Jiménez will hang alongside the stark border photographs by former Albuquerque photographer Delilah Montoya.
Jiménez’s “El Buen Pastor” (1999) is a lithograph of a haloed goatherd gathering his flock as yucca-disguised border patrol agents loom in the background. The piece depicts the 1997 killing of 18-year-old Esequiel Hernandez in Redford, Texas; Hernandez was mistaken for a drug smuggler. Jiménez shows him as a Christ-like good shepherd cuddling a kid. The piece balances both propaganda and fine art, curator Andrew Connors said.
Now at the University of Texas at Austin, Montoya shot desert landscapes scattered with the ghostly remnants of those who made the sometimes deadly border crossing. An empty water bottle, a dry arroyo, a child’s pink backpack all tell stories amid the donated water tanks above them.
The Native American Postcommodity art collective filmed an installation on the Arizona-Mexico border marked by giant balloons in “Repellent Fence” (2015). Postcommodity member/conceptual artist Raven Chacon lives in Albuquerque. A large eye and/or target splashes each oversized yellow orb to the hum of drone music.
The artists lifted the circular design from agricultural signs mounted on flexible steel to scare away owls, Connors said.
“We’re treating human beings as pests,” he added.
Located in both Douglas, Ariz., and Agua Prieta, Mexico, in the Sonoran Desert, the two adjoining areas once shared cultures, including a horse race along the border wall. The installation was featured at the 2015 Whitney Biennial.
Chiricahua Apache sculptor Bob Haozous’ painted steel “Border Crossing” (1991) features the bucolic image of a road through a cloud-flecked desert on one side, with a surveillance plane, a border guard and tangles of barbed wire on the back.
“His voice is so powerful and necessary for us to hear,” Connors said. “The reason is Bob often tells us things we don’t want to hear.”