Justin Favela selected the piñata, a playful symbol of Latinx culture, as a point of departure for his work, which includes sculpture, large-scale installation, and “piñata paintings” that explore his Chicano roots and Latinx diaspora in America. His work is equally informed by Las Vegas’s dual culture: the glitzy play-worlds of the Strip and the less visible but expansive Latin American community in and around the city.
Favela was born, raised, and still lives in Las Vegas. When still in his 20s he began responding to his personal expectations of being a Latino artist. His impulse to speak to cultural reference did not come from emulating a movement, but finding his own way in an area where there is no legacy of Chicano art. Favela states, “When I was in school at [University of Nevada, Las Vegas], I started thinking about my identity as a Latino — and about making my art about my identity,” Favela said in an earlier interview, “It’s a decision I just dove into headfirst.” Moreover, Favela not only investigates the craft aesthetic of piñatas and their attendant associations, but also the history of art in Latin America, including Frida Kahlo and Mexico’s early to mid-twentieth century muralists.
Favela’s work is at once exploratory and critical, encompassing, playful, and celebratory. His attention to surface, color, and scale echo the casino culture of his surroundings, while his chosen material, his emphasis on craft, and the his selected forms speak to a broader concern with the location and articulation of meaning. From 2018 to 2019, Favela will create a site-specific installation for the Pfeiffer Wing in which he will marshal all of his craft and conceptual concerns, as well as engage with the Berman’s architecture and history and Ursinus College’s diverse student body.