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University Art Gallery October exhibits to focus on race, retablos

The world's largest collection of Mexican devotional paintings will be on display at New Mexico State University as part of an upcoming series that investigates issues of race in America.


A painting depicting a man and woman
'Mexican Gothic,' repurposed work by Latina artist Linda Vallejo, from the collection of David Groch Tochman, Los Angeles. (Submitted photo)
Female bust figurine
'Mexcellent Video Freak,' a repurposed plaster figurine created by Latina artist Linda Vallejo. (Submitted photo)
Mice figurines
'Miguel and Maria,' repurposed wood figurines created by American artist Linda Vallejo. (Submitted photo)

"Conserving Tradition: The NMSU Retablo Collection," will run from Oct. 4-11 and again from Oct. 25 to Dec. 21, at the University Art Gallery. An opening reception is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4.

The retablo collection, along with works by Los-Angeles based Latina artist Linda Vallejo, and a national juried exhibition called "Post-Racial U.S.?," will continue the conversation from Oct. 25 through Dec. 21. The opening reception for all three shows is scheduled from 5-7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25.

"The retablos filter religion and culture into specific works that are expressive of the ethnic and racial, as well as the religious, traditions of Mexico in the 19th century," said Stephanie Taylor, College of Arts and Sciences interim art gallery director.

The NMSU retablo collection recently received restorative work by students in NMSU's Museum Conservation Program and will be on display for the first time in 10 years. The conserved pieces will be presented along with before photos, as well as brief explanations of the techniques used in the restoration.

"We have these two amazing resources--the retablos themselves and the undergraduate conservation program run by my colleague, Silvia Marinas, and we wanted to find a way to highlight both in an original exhibition," Taylor said. "Also, this will be a great showcase for people who might even have some of these historic objects at home, and might want to think about how they can stabilize them."

Vallejo's exhibit "Make 'Em All Mexican" is a witty collection of repurposed icons from American visual culture, from the Venus de Milo and early American presidents to Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Vallejo turns them into Latinos through the act of painting their skin brown, and in the process makes a sharp commentary on ethnic identity in America.

"Linda Vallejo's work came to my attention over the summer, and I just immediately fell in love with it," Taylor said. "I liked the way she came at the issue of race from kind of a humorous side, but it is still really relevant commentary."

The juried exhibition, titled, "Post-Racial U.S.?," was inspired by the election and reelection of President Barak Obama, according to Taylor. Over 100 artists submitted over 300 works of art for consideration. Andrew Connors, art historian and curator at the Albuquerque Museum of Art and History, will jury the show and attend the opening.

"Islam is coming up quite a bit, African American issues and issues of poverty are coming up as well," Taylor said. "I thought with us being on the border, that this seemed like a really interesting thing to do, but I didn't want to look at it as simply a Mexican-American issue, because Vallejo does that so well."

Additionally, a fundraising event to help support NMSU's Visiting Artist and Scholar Program will be on display at the UAG for a brief time this month. The biennial fundraiser, "Project: Postcard," will feature more than 300 pieces of postcard-sized art and run from Oct. 4-11.

The University Art Gallery is located in D.W. Williams Hall on University Avenue. They are open from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, as well as Wednesday evenings from 6-8 p.m. The gallery is closed Sundays, Mondays and university-observed holidays.

For more information contact the gallery at 575-646-6110.