ALBUQUERQUE — Many Worlds Are Born, the present exhibition on view at 516 Arts in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the primary of two exhibitions slotted this 12 months to look at disparate histories of the state (the second, Applied sciences of the Spirit, opens on June 11). Each grew out of Artwork Meets Historical past, a nationwide initiative led by Ric Kasini Kadour (who co-curated this exhibition alongside Alicia Inez Guzmán, PhD) that “seems at how the divergent histories of race, battle, and colonialism in New Mexico inform how we think about our futures.”
Kasini — an artist, author, and cultural employee splitting his time amongst Montreal, Quebec, and New Orleans — has beforehand co-curated at 516 Arts by way of 2020’s Radical Reimaginings, one other present that invited artists to make use of collage to rethink the world we all know and the tales that underpin it. Guzmán, hailing from the Northern New Mexico village of Truchas, has lengthy been telling New Mexico’s tales in her practices of writing, modifying, and curation. With explicit experience in land use and its intersections with tradition, her work has allowed others to entry the realm’s a number of histories, resisting the urge to scale back the previous to a singular narrative.
Along with its partnership with Artwork Meets Historical past, Many Worlds Are Born is organized as a part of Desierto Mountain Time, a collaboration between up to date artwork establishments within the southwestern US and Chihuahua, Mexico, geared toward deepening conversations and trade within the area.
The present — spanning all the two-story stretch of the constructing with work from greater than 10 artists each native and from farther afield — attracts its title from the “godfather of Chicano literature” Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Última, a piece that wrote New Mexico into literary historical past. The passage goes: “Thousands and thousands of worlds are born, evolve, and go away into nebulous, unmeasured skies; and there may be nonetheless eternity. Time all the time.” The paragraph goes on from there: “Nonetheless there may be eternity. Silent, unopposed, brooding, ceaselessly.” It’s the soul, Anaya concludes, that’s as enduring as time.
Many Worlds Are Born does nevertheless problem — in moments even oppose — that span of eternity squarely behind us that we name historical past by calling it up from the depths and beginning new conversations with it. That is the intent of the Artwork Meets Historical past initiative, “to choose up the unfinished work of historical past,” because the venture’s web site places it.
Dominating the entrance window is a sculptural set up by Nikesha Breeze, “little one of wind, Blackdom Land Effigy” (2022), a protecting determine rising from a skirt of darkish earth and radiating pampas grass from its crown. Whereas solely fabricated from earthy supplies — a cow skeleton, clay, wild sunflowers — there’s something ethereal, too. An identical sensation to the one evoked right here — of being requested to stay grounded whereas concurrently transcending the outdated, prescriptive handcuffs — is one which returns with various ranges of success all through the exhibition.
On the wall adjoining to Breeze’s sculpture is Diego Medina’s (Paro-Manso-Tiwa) “lengthy has the sunshine wandered to put itself upon you” (2022), a mural grappling with what looks like geologic-scale time. Starting 5 toes above the cement flooring, it expands to close ceiling peak, requiring such a skewed angle of wanting that initially I noticed a flock of birds in its sundown coloured strata. But after I stepped again, I noticed people casting shadows as they moved by way of land rising and falling like prehistoric oceans. Medina’s blended media mural feels to be not simply on the path of El Camino Actual (a route of 15,000 miles used for a lot of centuries to ferry items and concepts, stretching from Mexico Metropolis to Ohkay Owingeh in Northern New Mexico), however one thing extra historic, too. Medina’s precision whereas compressing a number of fragments of time right into a single — albeit expansive — mural made this piece stand out not only for its scale.
Shifting past the primary room, the altering violin tune of “Levels of Tectonic Blackness: Blackdom” (2021), a efficiency (and right here offered as a two-channel set up) by Nikesha Breeze in collaboration with Miles Tukunow, Lazarus Nance Letcher, and MK, drifts from the again room and underlays the opposite work: EveNSteve’s “The Blue Swallow” (2022), a big in-camera collage with hand scrawled textual content; Leo Vicenti’s (Jicarilla Apache) collodion prints “Tsi gha taa ye (you’ll be able to nearly see by way of it)” (2022); and Joanna Keane Lopez’s sweeping set up “Lópezville, Socorro, New Mexico” (2022). These works grapple with themes such because the entropy and contamination of place, the endurance of small issues just like the yellow flowers of a creosote bush, and the practices that assist symbiosis between human beings and the land.
It’s right here that we’re additionally offered with the primary of many picks of historic pictures pulled from the Albuquerque Museum picture archives, grouped by their relevance to explicit artworks. To create the works on show, artists poured by way of the archive and lots of participated in a lab designed to spur reflection on private and shared histories in New Mexico.
Whereas partaking with these archives is a degree of emphasis of the Artwork Meets Historical past initiative, I discovered myself questioning if the by way of traces have been made specific sufficient as to really feel significant. The pairings and presentation as an alternative created a viewing expertise the place too typically I used to be attempting to comply with the logic or seek for the connection between these distinct gadgets as an alternative of being swept up within the poetic momentum of the brand new “extra resonant visions,” as Alicia Inez Guzmán eloquently places it in her curatorial reflection.
I see the soul that exists exterior of time, the one Anaya wrote about, in these works — within the picture transferred palms gripping ladders in Margarita Paz-Pedro’s (Laguna and Santa Clara Pueblos) fragmented ceramics, in Leo Vicenti’s darkly textural prints, in Jeanna Penn’s vibrant collage — and I ponder about the usage of the distinction. In Paz-Pedro’s “Mano a Mano” (2021), she overlays pictures of Indigenous girls’s palms at work onto porcelain fragments, brilliantly posing questions round Indigenous labor, arts practices, and the shaping of the land by way of the presentation of 4 plates positioned directionally on the wall, constellated with embellished shards.
Upstairs, the gathering of Penn’s collage illuminates websites that supported Albuquerque’s “small however notable” Black inhabitants from the Forties to the Nineteen Sixties, every layering watercolor, images, and sketched structural maps of the locations they signify: a fuel station, a resort, a nursery, a house. Paz-Pedro’s and Penn’s works signify probably the most clear and resonant use of archival images to make clear, to query, and to think about absolutely every thing the previous and future holds.
Maybe a narrative wants a place to begin. And these tales start with the archive, the required level from which to diverge. Whereas I consider these images might have been made higher use of within the gallery area, perhaps they signify precisely the multiplicity we’re after — the various outdated tales, the various, many worlds that come up due to and regardless of them.
Many Worlds Are Born continues at 516 Arts (516 Central Avenue SW, Albuquerque, New Mexico) by way of Could 14, 2022. The exhibition was curated by Alicia Inez Guzmán, PhD, and Ric Kasini Kadour.