'Saber Acomodar' art exhibition is a study in collaboration

The exhibit at the ASU Art Museum combines traditional practices with contemporary design

An art exhibition that showcases works produced through collaborations between studios and artisanal workshops in Jalisco, Mexico will be open at the ASU Art Museum from March 17 to June 30.

The exhibit, called "Saber Acomodar" is co-presented by the Celebracion Artistica de las Americas, a non-profit arts advocacy organization based in Phoenix that works with the ASU Art Museum by connecting artists and organizations in Arizona, Mexico and Latin America.

Casandra Hernandez, the CALA Alliance's executive director, said the exhibition is a gesture towards creating a space in Arizona to learn more about what is happening in the contemporary art scenes of other major cultural centers in the Americas, such as Guadalajara. 

Artisans living and working in Jalisco, including potters, carpenters, blacksmiths, jewelers, sign painters and print makers, have historically produced conceptual objects and installations in collaborations with artists there. The artists draw a design, and then these artisans use traditional practices to bring the designs to life.

Born in Guadalajara, Patrick Charpenel is a guest curator of the exhibition and executive director of El Museo del Barrio in New York. Charpenel said that the state of Jalisco is an interesting place in which to connect experimental work and traditional practices.

“With conceptual art, we have forgotten about the idea of having traditional skills for artistic productions,” Charpenel said. 

Charpenel said that bringing the history of Mexican artistic production to the ASU Art Museum creates an interesting context because of the Arizona's Mexican roots.

Julio Morales, the curator of the ASU Art Museum, said even though the exhibit is a collection of different works by different artists, it centers around a main theme of collaboration and tradition.

“You don’t stop as an artist because you don’t know how to work with a material," Morales said. "You have the idea and the concept, and you collaborate.” 

Morales said that in today's political climate, with conversations around immigration and border walls, this project is especially important.

“Having this project, and then a way (for) the artists being creative and collaborating with artisanal and folk artists, is the same way that we should be creating bridges between Mexico and the United States instead of building a fence.”

A video from The Museum of Contemporary Art in Dever, which recently featured the exhibit, about some of the concepts and practices presented.

Jorge Pardo, an artist and sculptor living in Mexico who collaborated with the workshop Ceramica Suro for the exhibition, said the show is meant to highlight traditional artistic practices and techniques from Jalisco. 

“It’s more about the shops and all of these collaborations that they have done historically with artists,” Pardo said. “Personally, it’s nice to look back at the history of everything they’ve done.”

Hernandez said the exhibition may provide an opportunity to think about the complexity of multigenerational, transborder relationships. But she said an interest in contemporary art is not necessary to appreciate the exhibition.

“How awe-inspiring it is that you can look at a small object that you can hold with your hands, and it can have so much potency or it can symbolize so many things,” Hernandez said. 

Reach the reporter at chofmann@asu.edu and follow @chofmann528 on Twitter.  

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