The University of New Mexico Art Museum is presenting “Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities,” an informative exhibition exploring the 1980s activist campaign Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America, through Dec. 3.
The Artists Call’s campaign was founded in New York City in 1984 to protest U.S. military interventions in Central America and educate the U.S. public.
The exhibition was curated by Erina Duganne, a professor of art history at Texas State University, and Abigail Satinsky, curator and head of public engagement, Tufts University Art Galleries The plans for this exhibition date back to last decade.
“I’ve been working on Artists Call since 2014 but Abby, my co-curator, around 2017 reached out to me about including artists in an exhibition she was working on,” Duganne said. “I told her about these boxes that I found, I asked her, ‘Would you want to co-curate an exhibition with me?’ ”
What initially sparked Duganne’s interest was the photography of Susan Meiselas.
“Her work was shown and is reproduced in magazines and newspapers, but her work also gets shown in art spaces,” Duganne said. “I thought that I was interested in this activist campaign, but there wasn’t a lot of material about it.”
After that, Duganne started researching Artists Call.
“An archivist said, ‘Oh, you are interested in Artists Call? There’s 12 boxes of archival material in the back that had never been entered into the database,’ ” Duganne said. “So when I found those 12 boxes I knew this was big, and I needed to do some big things with it.”
Then Satinsky and Duganne went to work.
“We had to try to locate these works. So it was a lot of emailing and some of the works were destroyed, some were lost,” Duganne. “For instance, this Gregory Sholette on the wall right behind you was recreated for this exhibition as the original work was destroyed.”
“I felt like I was actively trying to find things that were made in 1983 or 1984. And where are they now?”
While finding the information, the curators did face a few setbacks.
“There were 31 venues for Artists Call in New York, but there were no checkbooks. So I saw they had the names of which institutions but there is no list of artworks,” Duganne said. “So basically, what Abby and I did together was look at installation shots and we found works that were in Artists Call, because one of the things that we wanted to do was include work that was actually in Artists Call.
The exhibit was intended to premier earlier but was pushed back due to COVID-19.
“It was delayed a year by COVID-19 so it was opened this past January, but it was supposed to open a year previous to that,” Duganne said. “We also put together the catalog. We did a lot of grant writing to get additional funds to help support the exhibition.”
Artist and activist Sabra Moore, who created Reconstruction Codex (1984) was in attendance for the opening at the UNM Art Museum.
Moore’s work was found in “The Reconstruction Project,” a large-scale women’s collaborative exhibition that was featured at the Artists Space in New York City as part of Artists Call.
“I come from East Texas and my art relates to my grandmothers,” Moore said. “Both grandmothers made quilts, but we did not think of it as art at that time.”
After graduating high school, Moore moved south and attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s in the liberal arts honors program Plan II.
Moore knew a few people in New York and decided to leave Texas for the big city in 1966.
“I was wanting to be an artist by then, and I tried making a painting on canvas and it just did not work for me,” Moore said. “Then I realized I should make work with her forms and my materials so it was the use of repeated patterns and sewing and using materials.”
For Moore finding your style is important.
“So I still work that way and you wouldn’t necessarily know it when you see my pieces that it comes up with but it still does,” Moore said. “So I think everybody has to find their authentic language as an artist.”