Art exhibit features folk, modern Hispanic works

By Michael Eilers

Arizona Daily Wildcat

A colorful, vibrant show, "Impacto Cultural IV" is a celebration of Arizona artists of Hispanic descent, timed to coincide with the Cinco de Mayo festival. Combining elements of traditional Hispanic folk art with an ironic, postmodern flair, the sculptures of this small exhibit address both historical and cultural issues.

Featuring the work of eight established artists, the collection ranges from the restained, minimalist look of Alex Garza's "Brother X" to the frenzied, vibrant piece "Dog" by Michael Cajero. Garza's piece is a meditative altar dedicated to Malcolm X, featuring eerie ceramic figures floating in bottles of water.

"Dog," a sculpture made of braided and wrapped masking tape stretched over a metal frame, is a dazzling beast exploding with detail

and fierce energy. Twin lights mounted in the head give the dog a baleful glare.

Many of the pieces use traditional elements of Hispanic folk art, such as hammered metal, tin cans, and bottle caps. Phillip Estrada combined folk elements, found objects, and natural elements in "Dolls on Crosses," a series of three crucified figures that are both gruesome and arresting. Wood chips, metal objects, and buttons combined with cultural artifacts such as Yaqui deer horns and antique brooches give the figures a dense, menacing look. Traditional Christianity is subverted and altered by the addition of indigenous elements and modern pop culture.

Another arresting piece is Carlos Encines' "Game," a hand-built video game console connected to a metal sculpture depicting an exploding television. Intended as a commentary on video game violence, the hard-edged shapes and planes of the piece are covered with digital artwork featuring guns, violent death, destruction and figures of evil such as Hitler and Satan himself. Video game stores are contrasted with churches and images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, illustrating a culture eroded by the mindless violence and repetitive images of the games.

Other sculptures dabble in diverse mediums, from papier mach‚ to found objects. Color and cultural elements are used to bring life and a touch of humor to many of the pieces, and free the artists from the confines of conventional sculpture.

Guest curator Alex Garza noted that many of the pieces deal with contemporary issues in Hispanic art and culture. "That's basically where people's heads are at right now."

Both light-hearted and deadly serious, this small but potent show would be an excellent study break activity, a way to see the dazzling talent of contemporary Arizona artists as they explore their emerging culture.

Impacto Cultural IV will be showing until May 31st in the main gallery of the UA Art Museum, located on Speedway and Park, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 12-4 p.m. Sunday.

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