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Exhibit peels back the layers of the complex relationship between U.S., Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The border is electric, an intellectual and emotionally kindled space of division and transit.

It’s also a cultural hybrid of design and craft, where creativity knows no borderlines.

Albuquerque’s 516 ARTS is hosting “The U.S.-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination and Possibility,” a group exhibition of more than 40 designers and artists originating at the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles.

Although the exhibition has taken on some urgency in a political climate focusing on “the wall,” it was intended to underscore the interconnectedness between the two countries, co-curator Lowery Stokes Sims said in a telephone interview from New York.

Stokes Sims co-curated the show with Mexican design expert Ana Elena Mallet.

“The ultimate way we came to describe it was that the border is place, that it exists in the imagination and that it is possibility,” Stokes Sims said. “We were really thinking about design across the border. The Mexican community is very fluid.”

Pablo Lopez Luz’s photograph “Tijuana-San Diego County III, Frontera USA-Mexico” captures a sweeping view of roads and fences ribboning across mountainous terrain. Luz is from Mexico City.

“It’s part of a series called ‘Frontera,’ ” Stokes Sims said. “That was what struck me in Tijuana; everywhere you looked there was some kind of fence. ”

Originally from Chile, the Los Angeles-based artist Bert Guillermo wove “La Bestia/The Beast” to create a barcode image atop a photograph of migrants riding an oversized cargo train. Guillermo worked with traditional Zapotec weavers to turn a tourist trinket into a means of expression.

“People hop on and off it and it’s very dangerous and it’s used by migrants in Mexico” to cross into the U.S., Stokes Sims said.

Another textile, Hector Dio Mendoza’s “Migra” pants pairs Mexican slang for immigration officers with acrylic letters and metal studs.

San Francisco resident Viviana Paredes’ “The House That Tequila Built” recycles Patron tequila bottles into a kind of igloo or hut reflecting both current economics and ancient origins.

“It’s one of the drinks most associated with Mexico,” Stokes Sims said. “But its roots go back to Amer-Indian uses as medicinal from the agave plant. It’s the craft of her cutting and shaping it into the house. It’s a kind of multi layered piece.”

An installation of floating stalactite and stalagmite tires by Mexico City’s Betsabee Romero reflects their multiple uses in both the automobile industry as well as community hillside buttresses. The artist carves into their rubber textures, sometimes painting them and even printing with them.

Eduardo Sarabia straddles both borders. Born in Los Angeles, he works in Guadalajara. Sarabia places the familiar blue and white Mexican earthenware atop cardboard fruit and vegetable boxes in “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate.”

“It’s referencing historical pottery called talavera,” Stokes Sims said. “It comes from the blue pottery we associate with Asia. It came to Mexico under Spanish colonization.

“He puts on this narrative that’s really about drugs, violence and sex on the border. It’s about how things come across the border and we don’t really know what they are.

“I think the politics of the subject matter is inherent,” Stokes Sims said of the exhibition. “We wanted to talk about a range of artists across the border. We know what all the negatives are. We are paying homage to a group of Chicano artists who built the border into the art world.”

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