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Paper Mosaics Transform 19th Century Mexican Landscapes in Berman Exhibition

In Re/Presenting México: José María Velasco and the Politics of Paper, artist Justin Favela brings his signature piñata technique to Velasco’s landscape paintings originally created throughout the second half of the 19th century.

An opening reception for the exhibition will take place on Sept. 6 at the Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art. It will run Sept. 7 to Dec. 19 in the Upper Gallery at the Berman Museum and through July 28, 2019, in the museum’s Baldeck/Hollis Gallery.

Curated by Emmanuel Ortega, Re/Presenting México is a culmination of Favela’s years of exploration into the oeuvre of Velasco’s nationalist paintings, and it relates to his interest in the exploration of his Chicano roots and the legacy of Chicano art.

Velasco’s long career elevated Mexican landscape painting to international standing, and Favela—using his piñata technique—creates a series of paper mosaics that transform the naturalism of Velasco’s work into abstractions of color, re-contextualizing Mexican identity and denying the propagandistic qualities that the Mexican painter originally intended.

Emmanuel Ortega, a visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Art and Art History, will serve as guest curator of the exhibition. He is also a recurrent lecturer for Arquetopia Foundation for Development, the largest artist residency in Mexico. 

“Picasso is credited as saying, ‘good artists borrow; great artists steal.’ Favela steals the entire painting, but with a sense of humor that defies description until one witnesses the artworks themselves,” says Berman Museum Director Charlie Stainback.

Favela selected the piñata as a medium, a playful symbol of Latinx culture, as a point of departure for an exploration of identity by questioning the symbols that established notions of civic pride that remain ingrained in a romantic Mexican past. —By Ed Moorhouse