What is the future of art? It’s a broad question. But the National Hispanic Cultural Center is making an educated guess with its current exhibit Fronteras del Futuro: Art in New Mexico and Beyond. The exhibit itself went up in March of this year at the NHCC’s Visual Art Museum and will stay up until March of next year. On Saturday, Oct.15 from 1 to 3pm the Cultural Center is hosting a special Catalogue Release Party for the exhibit. The party offers museum-goers the opportunity to mix with several of the artists featured in the exhibition, view the artworks and get your catalog signed while enjoying the museum and some light refreshments.
The NHCC’s Visual Art Museum is not a gallery and does not sell its artwork. So this is the best way to take home a record of this groundbreaking exhibit for yourself. Fronteras del Futuro spotlights artworks that “explore the intersections of art, science, technologies (both ancient and modern), cosmic-musings, future-oriented visions and more.” Local, national and international artists including Angel Cabreras, Cynthia Cook, Enrique Chagoya, Ryan Singer, Santiago Pérez, Tigre Mashaal-Lively and Tony Ortega are among those who were asked to adorn the walls and display pillars of the museum.
Local Navajo legend Ryan Singer’s contribution, a 2021 painting titled “Rainbow Flavor,” encapsulates the collection’s collision of Desert Southwest and speculative futurism quite deftly. In the foreground of the vivid image, a Native granny digs into a rainbow-colored snowcone. In the background, a duo of Jawas from Star Wars wait patiently in line at a snack stand, their giant Sandcrawler parked in the dusty distance. Singer’s work has long combined both a nostalgic look back at his childhood upbringing on the Navajo Nation and his love for George Lucas’ space-spanning saga. His pop/Dine mash-ups always look seamless thanks to the visual similarity between northwestern New Mexico and Lucas’ imaginary planet of Tatooine—not to mention the disarmingly casual way in which Singer has his disparate elements interact.
Patrick McGrath Muñiz’ piece, “Divinus Informer,” is another sneaky addition worthy of a double-take. At first glance his gold-washed triptych looks like a traditional New Mexico retablo, the Angel Gabriel in the center, horn at the ready, flanked by the usual saints and mystics. But closer inspection shows the characters are in a bit of a time warp. On the left panel, Moses (or is it Charlton Heston?) carries the Ten Commandments and a rifle. On the right panel, a modern-day prophet in a business suit pokes away at an iPad.
All 31 artists presented in the exhibition are doing what scientists, engineers and technicians have always done: Using their history, knowledge and background to imagine what our future might look like. Granted, few of the futuristic flights of fancy on display at Fronteras del Futuro are likely to come true. But gazing at Tony Ortega’s dynamic “Super Hombre,” a Mexican Superman complete with swarthy skin and manly mustache, is more than enough to make us rethink and recontextualize Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s 1938 origin story of an “alien” superhero landing in America. And it’s that change in perspective that allows all of us—even those who are neither artists nor scientists—to think of a different (hopefully better) world.
If you’d like to get your hands on a catalogue from Fronteras del Futuro: Art in New Mexico and Beyond, swing by the the NHCC Visual Arts Museum between 1 to 3pm on Oct. 15. The museum is located near the southern end of NHCC’s campus at 1701 Fourth St. SW. Parking is available on the northern end of the campus, off Avenida Cesar Chavez and Fourth Street. Admission to the event free, and catalogs cost $15. To guarantee admission please register in advance at my.nmculture.org/13764.