Art in Oaxaca: July

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There is no doubt that the Guelaguetza season in Oaxaca is a feast for the senses. First time visitors, long-time lovers of Oaxaca and locals alike will find excitement and inspiration around every corner this time of year. But, while the local color and culture is on full display in the streets, don’t forget to step out of the calenda and into a few of Oaxaca’s renowned arts spaces.

Oaxaca has always nurtured creatives – local, national and international – as can be seen in the numerous museums, galleries and artist run spaces that the city has to offer and the dynamic array of work that graces their walls. Below are three not-to-be-missed exhibitions that offer a little something for everyone this summer season.

INTROSPECTIVE  –  ROGER BALLEN
Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo

Introspective, curated by Rodrigo Campuzano Guilmant, is a retrospective of photographer Roger Ballen’s work, making its Latin America debut. The exhibition, consisting of 110 photographs as well as video, showcases four decades of work by the New York born photographer who has been living and working in Johannesburg, South Africa for over 30 years. This extensive exhibition fills the beautiful Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo to capacity, covering the gallery walls and fully immersing the viewer in Ballen’s self-described “documentary fiction”. The many works included in the exhibition range from the self-taught artist’s early documentary work – through the countryside of South Africa as well as many other countries, including Mexico – to his intricately produced, iconic series’ Boarding House (2009) and Asylum of the Birds (2014).

Ballen is a master of his art, finding a unique voice in such a traditional medium as black and white, square-format photography. The artist makes most of his work in the outskirts of Johannesburg, photographing those labeled societally unfit and the spaces they inhabit. Incorporating illustrative and sculptural elements into all of his compositions, he treats each frame as a blank canvas onto which he assembles 2D and 3D elements, drawings, animals both alive and taxidermy, and human models, all dynamically collaged together into site specific installations in front of his lens. The resulting photographs are beautifully composed, highly sensorial and truly evocative; they take the viewer into a hidden realm, a space not spoken of, a reality intentionally ignored. Roger Ballen’s Introspective takes you to the deepest, darkest corners of the mind and is absolutely not to be missed!

On view at the Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo through July.
M. Bravo #116, at the corner with García Vigil, Historic Center.
Mon, Wed-Sun 9:30am – 8pm.

AFELPADOS  –  FRANCISCO TOLEDO AND SABINO GUISU
Bodega Quetzalli

On July 8th Galería Quetzalli opened their current exhibition, Afelpados, to an absolutely full house of spectators eager to see the traditional textile technique of felting made modern by Oaxacan artists Francisco Toledo and Sabino Guisu. The two artists, both from the city of Juchitán in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Oaxaca, are of distinct generations (Toledo born 1940, Guisu born 1986) but the parallels in their work – both in the themes they explore and in their aesthetic choices — are clear.

Francisco Toledo began working with felting techniques in 2012 when he was asked to make a tapestry for the personal library of Carlos Monsiváis, at which point he opened the Taller de Afelpado (Felting Workshop) at the Centro de las Artes de San Agustín (CaSa). The artisans and craftspeople of the Taller de Afelpado, who dominate the technique, advise and assist contemporary artists in creating their own pieces. Guisu began his work in felt just a year ago when he was invited to collaborate with the Taller and create his pieces for the current two-man show.

As one of Mexico’s most renowned artists and a generous patron of the arts and culture in Oaxaca, Toledo also dedicates his energy to important social and environmental concerns such as the fight against GMO corn in Mexico, a theme that can be seen in much of his work, including many of his pieces currently on show. Toledo’s influence on Oaxaca’s younger generation of artists is more than notable and Guisu is not an exception. Guisu’s concerns regarding climate change, the plight of the honeybee and the human impact on the natural environment are evident throughout his felted work. Afelpados is a unique opportunity to see the work of both teacher and student in a common space, in dialogue with each other through both the interconnected themes they touch on and their individual explorations of the medium of felted wool.

Afelpados is on view at Bodega Quetzalli through August 2.
Murgía #400-B, Historic Center.
Mon-Sat, 10am – 2pm, 5pm – 8pm.

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LA ETERNA REPRESIÓN DEL MEXICANO  –  APOLO CACHO
Instituto de Artes Gráficas Oaxaca

Currently on view at the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca (IAGO), Apolo Cacho’s La Eterna Represión del Mexicano is simultaneously overwhelming and completely humbling. The young, Mexico City based illustrator created the multitude of meticulous drawings on view in his simple home studio, perched high above one of the monstrous city’s most busy central streets. From his unique vantage point Cacho’s disenchanted perspective – of this great, first world city in a troubled, third world country – takes form as he puts pen to paper, covering every inch of its surface with tangled lines and tormented tales.

As you enter the first room of the gallery you are completely enveloped by the drawings, mounted in sequences, each a different segment from the two distinct graphic novels that make up the exhibition. You can happily get lost in the endless details of each individual piece, only to look up and realize you have barely made it a few steps into the extensive exhibition. While the drawings are chaotic and even a bit uncomfortable in their imagery and overall aesthetic, they tend to place the viewer at a distance, close enough to observe the madness, but just out of reach. You are invited to take in the story that unfolds in front of you, from the safety and calm of your own private perch; just as Apolo Cacho witnesses the tides of CDMX from his own safe space, high above the crowded streets.

Just a few steps off of Oaxaca’s quaint Macedonia Alcalá the hustle and bustle of Mexico City’s center awaits you.

Apolo Cacho’s La Eterna Represión del Mexicano is on view at IAGO through August 16.
Macedonia Alcalá #507, at the corner of Jesús Carranza, Historic Center.
Mon, Wed-Sun, 10am – 8pm.

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