A Journey through Axis Mundo, by Amber Ruelas

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Our new volunteer Amber Ruelas writes about Axis Mundo:

As I stumbled upon Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A., I felt an instant and very human connection with the work on display. My first visit to the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art, I found the museum nestled rather inconspicuously behind another campus building. The entrance was serene, and the lobby had that soothing, characteristic stillness of a gallery. The gallery itself is vast, with brilliant white walls that stretch way out into four corners. But, as I stepped in, the artwork stood its ground nevertheless, occupying the space with vibrancy and assertion. The room felt bustling and larger than life. Suddenly, I was being introduced to something new. And, rather than existing as an outside observer looking in, I was being given an insider’s perspective. It felt like a celebration of originality and self-expression. It was organic, and there was a real sense of authenticity that enclosed me. I was excited to learn that this was the first time much of this work has ever been brought before the public eye. In fact, a travelling exhibition on its second stop of the way, Axis Mundo marks an unprecedented display of LGBTQ Chicanx art as a recognized movement within both academic and public domains.

It was refreshing to see such an eclectic assortment of objects and artistic genres in one space at one time. There was an extraordinary mix of media platforms, from painting, collage, and photography, to postcards, scrapbooks, zines and homemade video. There was no hierarchy, every piece inhabited the space as an equal, arranged in visual harmony. It was a pleasant surprise to see a fashion mannequin, dressed in a flamboyant denim-centric outfit, staged amongst the paintings. There were candid photos of good friends posing elaborately together in homemade fashions, and colorful mixed media portraits of decoratively dressed performers. Snapshots of pride parade participants looping arms in solidarity and wearing matching t-shirts were displayed alongside their associated artefacts. It was a thrill to see one of the homemade yellow t-shirts on display right next to a photo of it being worn. For me, this was a perfect representation of the interrelationship between art and history. Having real life objects on display encouraged me to approach the artwork in a different way, allowing me to make a more tangible, human connection with the moments in time they represented.

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It felt like a journey into unchartered territory as I navigated my way through the exhibition. As well as being a reference to the exhibition’s central figure, artist Edmundo Meza, Mundo for short, the title ‘Axis Mundo’ is a play on the word ‘mundi’, which means ‘world’ in Latin. I began my journey with Meza’s eye-catching ‘Merman with Mandolin’ (1984), which was proudly inhabiting a large fraction of the far gallery wall. It depicts a mythical, idealized merman version of Meza painted boldly in black and white acrylic. Bare-chested and god-like, Meza dominates the canvas with confidence and self-assurance. He looks away as though to accentuate the classical beauty of his profile, and he shows off his scales with pride. In this image, he exudes the idea of being comfortable in one’s own skin.

In a perpendicular self-portrait from 1983, Meza emerges behind sketchy white brushstrokes as a more quiet character, although he confronts the viewer with his gaze. His blank, matter-of-fact, if not worn expression contrasts with his merman. He appears to be fading away behind the layers of paint. It is as though he is offering us a glimpse into the diverging facets of his existence.

Through their work, I think the artists have asked us to consider the wider range of their experiences. They introduce us to their personalities, and bring us into their social scene, but we are also invited to gain some insight into the harsher aspects of their reality. The piece that moved me the most was ‘Equipped’ by Ray Navarro. In his triptych of black and white photographs, taken during the final months of his life in hospital suffering from AIDS-related illness, Navarro communicates ideas about society’s judgment of those impacted by the AIDS crisis. Having lost his eyesight, Navarro collaborated with Zoe Leonard who fabricated the work. The photos depict three pieces of Navarro’s hospital equipment, looking tilted and abandoned, in their cold and clinical hospital settings. Underneath each one, he imitates the hospital signage with three embossed slabs, giving each photograph a tongue-in-cheek, suggestive title. I appreciated the juxtaposition of the humorous titles below the bleak and muted images of Navarro’s lonely looking wheelchair, Zimmer frame and walking stick. Humor is often used as a coping mechanism, but to me this spoke of resilience, and displayed a successful attempt to humanize a stigmatized group. For me, this epitomized the strength of the artists as a collective, and the power of art to challenge perspectives.

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. was an exciting introduction to Latinx artists from Los Angeles, and I left the exhibition feeling inspired. The unrestrained spirit and creativity of the artists struck me as a display of expression that is so raw and human, everybody can relate. I felt excited at the prospect of the art world expanding its recognition of artists and art genres, and at the possibilities that could arise in future for overlooked movements and communities. I thought about the educational value of the show as I left with an enriched appreciation for the ways in which art can tell a story and facilitate a deeper understanding of history, people and society.

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The photographs of Axis Mundo in this blog post were taken by Josh Hawkins / UNLV Creative Services. From top to bottom: 1. Merman with Mandolin, 1984, and Self-Portrait, 1983, by Mundo Meza; 2. Les Petites Bonbons outfit, c. 1971 – 72, by Robert Lambert; and 3. the Chicano Chic area of the show, with Las Locas, 1980 by Teddy Sandoval being the large, obvious drawing with a yellow border and three heads. Organized by David Evans Frantz, Curator at ONE Archives at the USC Libraries, and C. Ondine Chavoya, Professor of Art and Latina/o studies at Williams College, Axis Mundo will be on view at the Barrick until March 16th.

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A Look Back at the Barrick in 2018

 

MARJORIE BARRICK MUSEUM_ANDREW SCHOULTZ WINCHESTER SKATE PARK 2018

How do we summarize 2018?” we asked ourselves, watching, mesmerized, as another cricket tried to crawl in out of the cold garden. What if we listed the exhibitions?

We had known that the Plural group show was going to be an important milestone, especially since our Bus to the Barrick drive had — thanks to community generosity — enabled us to bring more schoolchildren to the museum. We wanted to show them Las Vegas artists, artists who had practiced in Las Vegas, and artists who had thought about the region. We wanted to remind the students — and everyone else, not only them — how fertile this place could be. How multifarious. Some of those artists came and spoke; some of them held workshops.

MARJORIE BARRICK MUSEUM_LANCE SMITH WORKSHOP IN PLURAL_KRYSTAL RAMIREZ

Arriving in June, Andrew Schoultz: In Process: Every Movement Counts represented a different kind of community synthesis, bringing street murals indoors, incorporating them in installations, and, also, bringing the walls of the museum outside, in a sense, when the artist took the motifs from his paintings and transformed the appearance of the Clark County Winchester Community Skate Park. Boundaries are porous. Tamar Ettun, whose Jubilation Inflation opened in October with a large,  celebratory Art Walk, created a different kind of many-sidedness, responding to her study of trauma by making work that asked participants to consider the potential depth of play, an exhibition that clued you in with pieces like Screwed Pink Helmet that were both welcoming and dangerous.

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That was in the East Gallery. In the Braunstein Room there was Vessel: Ceramics from Ancient West Mexico. Curated by Paige Bockman, Vessel will continue into 2019. Over in the West Gallery, Chelsea Adams opened out her study of literary anthropophony to include the visual arts with Soundscapes. Before her, in the same space, Mary Corey March’s Identity Tapestry installation invited you to think through a series of self-identifying proposals. Talking to an audience here in May, she said that one of her challenges as an artist had been designing an interactive process that everybody could understand immediately, without “jumping through hoops.”

Smaller exhibitions quietly appeared in our library windows, showcasing a mid-century Mexican mask or a monochrome pot by Jaime Quezada.

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A portion of the Las Vegas Zine Library settled in our lobby, read by visitors and discussed by UNLV classes and guided tours. Thousands of other zines were in a back room, being catalogued. The Zine Library custodians, Jeff Grindley and Stephanie Seiler, led workshops. The UK artist Gemma Marmalade arrived from the University of Derby and delivered a performance-speech-manifesto in the Barrick auditorium after a “Subversive Saturday” zine-making session in March.  The Visiting Artist Lecture series took place. When? On Thursdays. “When should you use titanium white,” one member of the audience asked Whitney Bedford, “and when should you use something else?” Visitors to the Community Art Day in June watched clay-making demonstrated by Clay Arts Vegas. They lined up for Virtual Reality. They listened to violins. They considered Schoultz’s murals. They looked up. 

Wendy Kveck from Settlers + Nomads worked with us to bring in representatives of Common Field, a national network of non-profit arts organizations. Join! they said to the audience of artists and art-oriented Las Vegans. If you want to!  Dr. Erika Abad studied Identity Tapestry in February and gave a lecture about it in the first week of October. “Who are we,” she asked, “and how do we heal?” Visitors, invited to write hopeful messages for the For Freedoms placard piece in November, filled two walls. “Freedom from anxiety, tuition, depression, current political climate,” wrote one.

The generosity of others was necessary, and gratefully received throughout the year. It is our supporters who encourage us to put on ambitious exhibitions; who bring the children here in their school buses, who donate artwork so that we can carry out our tours, building an articulate community, aware of the arts.

Catching the cricket in a cup, we put it out.

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Photographs, from top to bottom: Andrew Schoultz painting the Clark County Winchester Cultural Center Skate Park, by Mikayla Whitmore| Lance Smith leads a drawing workshop surrounded by artworks by (l-r) Gig Depio, Amy Yoes, Eri King, and Krystal Ramirez; the photo is also by Krystal Ramirez | A rehearsal for the Tamar Ettun choreography, Part Blue, performed at the UNLV Art Walk on October 12th, by Nick Endo/UNLV Creative Services | Mary Corey March’s Identity Tapestry, 2018, by Mikayla Whitmore | Vessels in Vessel: Ceramics from Ancient West Mexico, by Justin Locust | Stephanie Seiler and Jeff Grindley lead a zine-making workshop, by Josh Hawkins/UNLV Creative Services | Community Art Day visitors walking to a reading by Huston Green in front of artwork by Andrew Schoultz, by Amanda Keating/UNLV Creative Services

Short notes from the Common Field meeting at the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art on Saturday, Nov 10, 2018.

 

Several times during the Common Field meet-up last Saturday we heard people say that they wished Las Vegas’ art history was more publicly accessible, so we’re posting our notes from the event on this blog for the benefit of anyone who wants a record of the night.

(Essentially, we wrote down what people were saying and we’ve arranged it in categories.)

 

What makes Las Vegas unique?

“That pioneer aspect of being here.” There’s no “soul-crushing establishment.” We can shape the future “without a lot of legacy in the way.” This is a “gorgeous, tiny” community where people know one another and they treat one another with respect and kindness. Settlers + Nomads brings people together. The Barrick is “a rock.” Las Vegas is a “vibrant, crazy, diverse, easy-to-live-in city.” It’s possible to find your own space. (That’s more difficult in the Bay Area, hinted someone from the Bay Area.) A UNLV art student declared that the art students all “feed off” one another in a “really amazing” way.

 

K-12 students should be introduced to the arts.

Someone said we should “start early;” bring children to the arts before high school. A second person felt “frustrated” that there was “no arts education program any more at UNLV.” But, said a third person who was an art teacher, you could study arts and education separately and then put them together. It should be easier, this third person added, but at least it’s possible. Arts education is “still intact” in Las Vegas and that’s not the same everywhere. Did we know that Nevada’s arts education guidelines were updated recently? “Some of the newest standards in the nation.”

Someone brought up the PAYBAC program, recommending that we use it to visit schools and tell students what it means to work as a professional artist. Someone else suggested a more direct route, saying that artists should phone teachers and ask if a classroom visit was possible.

 

Many of us miss the Contemporary Arts Center.

Somebody called First Friday “a good incubator” for arts careers, but where do you go next? The Contemporary Arts Center used to fill that gap, said someone else. It was run on a shoestring budget. It had amazing shows. A third person told us he was only convinced he could live in Las Vegas when he discovered the CAC.

As the CAC was shutting down it felt “small and isolated.” If the CAC starts up again then “everybody needs to be involved.” People burned out on the CAC. It didn’t have enough support. If you want an organization like that to progress then everybody has to engage with it. There was not enough funding for the CAC. It needed money. We have government agencies who might help to fund something like the CAC but they don’t talk to one another.

Another voice warned us not to give away our agency to civic organizations. They don’t necessarily know what to fund, the way artists do. We need financial support from artists as well as civic support.

People agreed that the city needs an alternative art space. “Where’s our fifth column?”

 

Frustration with arts funding. Thoughts about arts advocacy.

MGM is partnering with Art Basel Miami and Elaine Wynn is giving money to LACMA. How do we get them to support people here? What can we do to educate Las Vegans about the history of Las Vegas art? Why are there only international artists at the Palms?

Paco Alvarez says he is preparing to donate his collection of Las Vegas art scene ephemera to Special Collections at the Lied Library. Someone else says funding opportunities are out there but artists have to go after them. “You have to be inventive here.” She mentions Nevada Arts Council grants. Artists can apply to hang work in the mayor’s office. Henderson and North Las Vegas are starting to pay attention to public art. Maybe artists should look for opportunities there? You need to network.

We see “money dripping everywhere in this city.”

Someone mentions Pacific Standard Time in Los Angeles. It has a theme, it is publicized, highly organized: she thinks we should have that here, a focal point, so that artists will be noticed. How about an art hub, a large building with lots of studio space and free rent for artists? What if we create an archive of every Las Vegas artist, even the ones who don’t have careers yet? Put the archive on a website. Maybe that will “spark something.” Someone remembers an Americans for the Arts convention where people were giving five-minute presentations about their projects. She thinks it would be great if Las Vegas’ artists could organize something like that. Someone else remembers a Texan slam poetry group that met every week for critique sessions.

Communication and advertising are the key to success for any non-profit. Las Vegas has great communities but there is no communication between the communities. We should create active networks.

Wendy Kveck asks a representative of Cultural Alliance Nevada to tell us about the organization.

The aim of Cultural Alliance Nevada is to bridge the gap between northern and southern Nevada, and rural and urban Nevada. They want to bring the arts to the attention of people who are making legislative policies. Before the election they sent surveys to the candidates, asking them how much they had already contributed to the arts in Nevada and how much they would contribute after they had been elected. They are looking into things like healthcare for artists.

What else?

If you call yourself an artist “you make a commitment to show up” to other artists’ shows.

We need practical classes, says someone, to tell artists how to do their taxes and other things like that.

Also we should have classes that teach us how to make neon art.

Let’s bend glass.

 

 

A Visitor’s View: Andrew Schoultz’s “In Process: Every Movement Counts”

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Catie Swift has been volunteering with us at the Barrick for almost two months. Did she want to write about Andrew Schoultz? She did. Here she is —

When I walked into the museum to witness the perplexing art of Andrew Schoultz’s In Process: Every Movement Counts, I was both enthralled and in a state of complex amazement. It was as though I was about to begin a journey. Where would it take me? The size, color, and content of the line murals overwhelmed me. There was an immense presence and irresistible draw to the space. With the sudden influx of movement and hue present on the walls, I was brought into a distant reality- a feeling not uncommon to others who visit this show. What was a farce and what was real? The museum came alive before me. The large, hypnotic, acrylic wall paintings titled Spinning Eyes and Moiré Experiment, tricked me into thinking there was fluidity in the two-dimensional pieces. I was spellbound, possibly even brainwashed by the intricacy. The once white walls were brimming with life and vibrancy. I was drawn in by the art organism, perplexed by its ability to live and breathe. As I continued to slowly wander, I was excited to see the innermost thoughts of the being. I questioned, “What does it represent?” and “How does it function?“ as it pulled me deeper into the space.

More images and ideas were resonating throughout the East Gallery. The artist brought forth an array of diverse thoughts and notions on a variety of subjects- some more hardening than others. I was presented with opinions on the state of the government, integrity of the justice system, life, death, and destruction. This revealed the outside forces facing the creative being before me. I then wandered into the heart of the museum. I was overwhelmed with images that were symbolic to me of personal struggles and sentiments. The smaller acrylic paintings such as Swimming Beast (Vessel) and Hand of Life, Bursting Beast reminded me of illustrations one would see in an ominous tarot card reading. It is like a foreshadowing or warning of future happenings or validations of past occurrences. The depictions are busy, and multiple meanings can be taken from both the content and the titles. This is a show that will cause you to reflect and reevaluate important issues and how they personally affect you. Some problems in society are larger than life, but recognizing their existence is the first step to creating a solution and a more desirable society.

The most impactful piece that pulled me into Schoultz’s enigma was within the Infinity Plaza installation. Limits do not exist when one takes a step within the space. Taking the appearance of an open window possibly created by some sort of explosion, the viewer can look out into a familiar scene- a starry night sky. I felt as though I could take step straight through the mural. Where would the empty, quiet space take us? The possibilities ran endlessly through my mind. Another world or a different time? Or maybe just a place to escape into an infinite void where I do not have to think about the world around me. Complete with a large infinity symbol-shaped sculpture painted in the same starry night design and three benches surrounding it, the mural is not strictly confined to the boundaries of the two-dimensional painting. I could be seated in the space and not feel as though I am being overpowered with information from the enigmatic organism. It similar to being in a daydream, a comfortable place you do not want to leave. As a viewer, this served as a place to escape- a corner where the troubles of the world, depicted throughout the rest of the show, are far behind you.

I felt as though the exhibition as a whole took me to a far away land, but this may simply be the personification of the world through the eyes of Schoultz. Maybe it was that it transferred me to another frame of mind regarding our country’s issues. Through my eyes, this reflects daily life- depicts of the struggle, destruction, life, and death of issues currently facing us. We are each fighting our personal battles in addition to what is being thrown at us on a larger scale. There is a struggle to balance it all, as depicted by the Scales of Justice. We are struggling to determine right from wrong and to justify our beliefs in an already corrupted society. The state of politics is in shambles as shown in Blown to Bits. Fragments of the American flag are shown on torn paper amidst a large vortex. This place was in vibrant color, contrasting to the somber, severe topics mentioned. It does not seem as though this world we live in is a reality.

I extensively enjoyed that Schoultz created a sense of mystery, as the pieces and murals could draw multiple meanings from different people. After further investigation of this show through an interview article on the Las Vegas Review-Journal site titled “Artist brings his creative world to UNLV at museum”, I found that Schoultz did not give specifics on what he wanted his pieces to mean aside from the more obvious sentiments available to the viewer. As onlookers, this gives us the opportunity to speculate, create our own beliefs, and start a dialogue about the entirety of the show and how these dynamic topics could be tackled. I felt that this show not only made me inquire – which is important in art- but it also challenged my mindset and has considerably altered my values regarding society and my personal effect on issues. Ultimately, it could be that this show changes yours.

Writings Mentioned:
Cling, Carol. “Artist brings his creative world to UNLV art museum.” Las Vegas Review-Journal. 1 June 2018. Article.

Image at top of post: Andrew Schoultz, Spinning Eyes and Moiré Experiment (detail), both 2018, Acrylic on wall.
Photo: UNLV Creative Services/ Lonnie Timmons III