In the Realm of the Senses

Both of the current shows at UTEP’s Ruben Center work directly with the body: Equibrium-Body as Site features pieces which explore sensory interaction while Battleground uses the body to focus attention on issues of violence

“Equilibrium”  brought together national and international metalworking artists  here creating works focusing on the interplay between the work and the body either wearing it or coming into contact with it.  These pieces were originally featured in the magazine Metalsmith,which devoted a whole issue to these pieces.

  Arielle de Pinto, from Toronto,  has constructed a veil of finely woven metal mesh placed over the face so that one cannot see the person’s eye, though conceivably the person can still see out.


Jess Mathes of Chicago shows a large hoop of metal with long thin tines sticking straight out. Designed to explore issues of spatial relationships between people it is matched with Courtney Starrett’s body bubble in which a person is shown completely encased in a transparent plastic bubble.



Ji Yeoun Hyun has has smoothly polished metal spheroid plates, which go over the hands in such a way as to prevent the individual of using her hands in any practical way. Also shown is an enormous beehive like metal ring which would make the hand hang and would also inhibit interrelations  Hyun also has a pair of eating utensils which are also combs and mirrors.   


In other areas there are prosthetic devices which inhibit the tongue or large rubber constructions which go over the eyes, and part of the head. Some pieces are whimsical, like the large felt pieces which fit over the ear; in another case there were large tubes and headpieces which people can use connect to each other. 


Far different is the show in the smaller downstairs space called  Battleground. Regina Jose Galindo from Guatemala and Tania Candiani from Mexico are concerned with the more immediate problems of violence. Galindo uses her body to bear witness to the horrors going on in her own country . She places herself in situations recalling torture and murder, and then makes videos of her performance.  A short powerful video called “Confession” shows a man continually forcing Galindo’s head into a large barrel of water. Over and over  the man violently forces her head into the water and yanks it out. Another records a performance in which she lies naked under a sheet, like a corpse to be identified at the morgue. The video shows the audience lifting up part or all of the sheet as they wish to “identify” the body. There is a tender delicate uncovering and recovering of the body. This interaction, replicating an event which occurs daily in too many places, brings an immediacy and a humanity to the event. By using her face and her body, Galindo makes more real every face and every body which has had to undergo a similar fate, whether torture or death. 

Candiani uses household items as “weapons” or perhaps showing the uselessness of items. At the opening there was a performance  which united students in El Paso and Juarez who were facing each other by computer video , armed with household “weapons”. This went on for an hour, after which they lowered their arms. The record of this video plays in the current exhibition space

The weapons are supposed to be deliberately useless, but there is a row of sharpened brooms, an insurance nightmare for a gallery, I would think, which makes one wonder how really useless they are.


Battleground  is  more immediate,  more powerful. Although Equilibrium certainly contains well-made items, it seems more of an intellectual exercise, more cerebral. It was actually supposed to be more immediate, but because the objects are on models, and, with the exception of the tubes, the viewer is not invited to  experience firsthand the effects of the items, the effects remain a bit removed. When someone like James Turrell makes his light and space  structures, or Olafur Eliasson his color and light explorations.,we  are forced into a  perceptional alteration, whether of light or art or color. A number of years ago in Paris, there was an exhibition sponsored by, I believe Dior foundation, which explored how animals saw the world. The huge room was filled with a circular wall surrounded by an eyepiece, each recreating the eyesight of a particular animal. One was in black and white, another showed extreme foreshortening. Each of the eyepieces was focused on a stuffed owl in the center of the room so the viewer could circle the room and sense exactly how any of a large variety of animals saw the same object. Again it physically altered our perception. In Equilibrium, we can only imagine what having a prosthetic over the tongue or a mask over one eye might feel like, we do not have the direct sensation, and the relation becomes more intellectual than physical.

Galindo’s videos feel somehow different. Even though we do not actually experience the drowning in a barrel, we nevertheless witness an individual going through the torture. It is this witnessing in which  her obvious discomfort creates an equal discomfort in us; the relation between the audience and her body in an imagined morgue brings a much stronger immediacy to the issue. Even though there is a long history of this form of subjecting the body to various forms of abuse, in this case, in the context of feminicides and tortures which continue to plague not only Guatemala but other countries as well  Galindo seems to be using her art in the service of something of fundamental importance.-David Sokolec

Maybe We Should avoid all Equestrian Sculptures

I saw this piece by Stephanie  Simon in the Wall Street Journal (by way of Arts Journal) about Luis Jimenez’ Mustang sculpture . Of course we have our own questions about a certain equestrian sculpture here-by the airport as it happens. Maybe there is some lesson here-maybe not. -david sokolec

Events el Paso Juarez 2/2-2/8

Wed Feb 3
Zip tour at EPMA focusing on William Blake. 12:15 free.
Thursday Feb 5
INBA. Presentation by the editor of the current show TEPITO Bravo el Barrio 7 pm. free
Ruben Center:

Talk by Cindi Strauss, curator of Helen Williams Drutt Collection of contemporary jewelry at Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. This is in conjunction with the current Equilibrium: Body as Site contemporary jewelry show current on exhibition.

Sunday Feb 8
Reopening and tour of new Roderick gallery of Spanish Viceroyal art at EPMA.
2 pm

IDEA gallery-Best new- not new gallery

I went to an opening last Friday night at an exciting gallery space that I thought was brand new. In fact , the director, Erica Barajas, told me that it has been open for awhile. No matter, IDEA gallery, open in a part of Guillermo Barajas architectural office is small, but both tasteful and exciting. Erica, who recently moved back from Boston to work in her father’s  busy firm, explained that when they had a much larger space at the Union Fashion Center, they always displayed the work of local artists they liked so as to both be able to derive pleasure from them as well as to provide them with a showcase. Their new offices in the Cortez building are smaller, and the gallery area is only 300 square feet, but she has chosen pieces by UTEP students which are innovative, experimental and which also  do not overwhelm their environment but fit like jewels in the space. 

Many of the pieces in this show Escape from the 2nd dimension,  have been seen elsewhere, but in this polished setting they take on a different quality. Arturo Molinari has what he described as a “passive-aggressive” piece called “I Lost You Because You Could Not See” in which he tried to explore the idea of art without a canvas. He has filled little cups with different colors standing on a backlit shelf. The idea revolves around the idea of paint without a canvas; color theory out on its own-a sort of free-standing liquid Rothko. He also provided a large braille wall explaining the piece-the idea being designed for those who can’t “see” his vision. He should probably stop being concerned people won’t understand  (many won’t) and just get on with his work.  It will be interesting to see where he goes in the future 

There are wire sculptures, and ceramic corals and faces. Kalytia Roberts has her honey drippers,  parts of a performance piece she put on awhile ago at The Forum, and Mario Ayala has a construction composed of  wood and rope called “Rustic” The knots on the rope are apparently supposed to represent members of his family. 

This show will be up for three months. Erica said she likes to give artists time for people to see their work. She also said because it is their work space, it is always open when they are there-normal 9-5 working hours. She also has no problem leaving her own work and helping anyone who comes in and wants to ask questions or to help interested parties contact the artist. The offices also have work by other artists, some specially commissioned by the firm, and people are free to wander through and look. 

A wonderful environment and a welcome part of our artistic environment. 

IDEA gallery is located on the 2nd floor of the Cortez building in Rm 211.

David Sokolec

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El Paso art events-Jan 18-25

There are some great events this week, but they all seem to be on Thursday. Fortunately, two of them are in the same place.
At the Ruben Center, as has been much written about is the opening of Equilibrium-Body as Site- art from 19 international artists who explore what might be called jewelry opens. (Didn’t we have a show on this theme several years ago at the same venue?) There are 58 pieces to be presented by carefully selected contemporary artists.
What I am equally looking forward to is a show at the downstairs gallery called Battleground-Regina José Galindo and Tania Candian. Both these artists, one from Mexico and the other from Guatemala explore the “wave of both domestic and public violence” taking place everywhere. There will be a performance by these artists at 6 pm and there is apparently also going to be a link to students at the University in Juarez if the technology works, so they will also be a part of the exhibition.
Both of these shows are from 5-8 at the Ruben Center.

Also Thursday night there is a meeting of community organizers, etc to explore housing for artists downtown. This is at the Plaza (Philanthropy) theater at 6:30 pm. It involves the Border Art Residency, and a variety of other national and local organizations.
David Sokolec

Andrew Wyeth Dead at 91

I have noticed none of the local papers here have seen fit to inform people  of the death of this important American artist   so I thought I would mention it, and put in this link  from the Philadelphia Inquirer .-dsokolec

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Public Meeting on artist housing affordability

I’m publishing this important notice I received of a meeting to discuss artist housing affordability. The organization is apparently based in Minneapolis, and has done some great things. I didn’t even know the city was really serious about this, but everyone should come to the meeting.



WHO: ARTSPACE, “America’s Leading Nonprofit Real Estate Developer For The Arts”, and ARTIST
COMMUNITIES/DOWNTOWN CORE (AC/DC), a local collaborative committee

“America’s Leading Nonprofit Real Estate Developer for the Arts”

01.09.2009- Artist Communities/Downtown Core (AC/DC), a committee of community volunteers, in collaboration with the City of El Paso and the Border Art Residency has worked for two years studying options for the arts in downtown El Paso. Artspace is consulting on a “prefeasibility” visit in order to determine the viability of creating affordable artist live/work developments in El Paso’s downtown core. A public presentation and meeting that will include artists, developers, building owners, civic leaders and others will take place Thursday to discuss the prospects of El Paso’s position to define and bolster new and existing cultural districts in the city core, January 22nd at 6:30pm in the Plaza Theatre’s Philanthropy Theatre located downtown at 125 Pioneer Plaza, El Paso, Texas 79901.
-AC/DC (Artist Communities/Downtown Core)
The Plaza Theatre Parking
General parking is available at the El Paso Convention Center in the underground parking garage for a $4.00 fee. Patrons can park in the underground parking, walk across Santa Fe Street, through the walkway between The Camino Real and the El Paso Museum of Art and be directly at the front doors of the Plaza Theatre.
General parking is also available at numerous street meters as well as the Union Plaza Transit Terminal garage located at 400 W. San Antonio. The fee for the Union Plaza Terminal garage is $3.00

New Gallery to open

I just got word yesterday that a new gallery is set to open in El Paso. IDEA Gallery( 310 N.Mesa in the Cortez building Rm 211). is having their opening this Friday, the 16th from 5:30-7. The show is entitled Departure from the 2nd dimension and features sculpture and ceramics.
They seem to be intent on having set hours, interesting artists and, hopefully, a great client base. More power to them.

Bravo el Barrio-Photos at INBA

I just found out yesterday that there is a great photo show at INBA-in the two side rooms which are currently opened. Called TEPITO-Bravo el Barrio these are straight forward shots of people who live in a barrio of Mexico City (I believe). Photographer Francisco Mata Rosas, who has exhibited all over the world, been involved with numerous publications, and an author to boot, has posed each person against a white background. There are generally no props, simply a large portrait of someone from the neighborhood. Of course, the barrio Tepito seems to be filled with artists and vendors, there is music blaring from every shop according to the handout accompanying the show. The faces are amazing, and what is particularly appealing here is the deceptive simplicity. There is not dramatic lighting, there is not an obviou imposition of the photographer’s judgement, each person seems to have been asked to stand in front of the white background, and if he or she wants to strike a pose-they can or not as they wish. The result-simple large scale portrait shows a fundamental common humanity of all different types who inhabit the neighborhood and give this barrio, loke so many others, its particular flavor. The technique reflects and shows a deep respect for the humanity of each individual, and the resulting photographs combine to make a portrait of an area-a neighborhood - a particular slice of life in which interactions and the contributin of each help create a whole even greater than the sum.

The show has been up since December 16th, and I’m told it should be up for another month. I, unfortunately don’t have photos partly because I didn’t get any for this show, and I’m afraid anything I take would simply show reflection off the glass. In any case, if you are over that way, you should stop by and take a look.-David Sokolec

El Paso Juarez events 12/15-21

Wednesday 12/17

Zip tour of Legend of the Chromes

12:15 EPMA

Thursday 12/18

Percolator Cafe-Stanton Street

Films and Photos

Vaboom Studios - perrformance art- fire dancers, films and music  7 pm

INBA (in the pronaf)-


Marionetas en El  museo (marionettes  in the museum )4 pm


INBA- Un Cuenta de Navidad (a Christmas  Story) 4 PM