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Guadalajaran artist to debut his first U.S. art exhibition in ASU Art Museum

Gabriel Rico brings life to the dead, one art piece at a time as part of a cultural exchange program

Artist Gabriel Rico places a piece for his new exhibition on a platform covered in carpet foam at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, Arizona on Tuesday, May 20, 2017.

Artist Gabriel Rico places a piece for his new exhibition on a platform covered in carpet foam at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe, Arizona on Tuesday, May 20, 2017.

Breathing life back into the dead is typically left to science fiction and fantasy films. However, for Guadalajaran artist Gabriel Rico, it is an art form he will soon have on display.

Rico’s new exhibition, “Dead, Dead, Live, Dead,” will make its official ASU Art Museum debut June 10, but for one night only on Thursday, the artist and museum are putting on a special preview of the exhibition before it is open to the public.

The upcoming exhibition, addressing nature, architecture and the future ruins of civilization, showcases Rico’s new works utilizing neon lights, found natural objects and some of ASU’s Life Sciences department taxidermy animals.

“I’ve worked on this project with Julio (Morales) for two years,” Rico said. “So it’s a very long conversation about how can we take advantage of other university departments and how can we mix my art with that department’s.”

He said that in the end they decided to work together with the Life Science department and their collection of taxidermy animals in order to help create Rico’s pieces. Some of Rico’s other works were also pulled into the exhibition to help contextualize he new works, he said.

The opportunity for Rico to work with the Life Science department on these works came from being chosen as the first artist to participate in the Celebración Artistica de las Américas (CALA) Alliance’s GDL > PHX Residencias Artisticas program which brings chosen artists from Guadalajara to Phoenix and Phoenix artists to Guadalajara to create works for the cities.

“I’m so happy to be here,” Rico said. “The possibility to work with the science department can tell a lot to the next artist to not concentrate just on the museum. (They) can really expand their projects in other ways they could never imagine.”

The curator for CALA initiatives, Casandra Hernandez, said that CALA’s work allows them to work with artists from Phoenix, the rest of the U.S. and Latin America to create experiences that allow people to investigate who they are through art and culture. She added that the GDL>PHX Residencias Artisticas is just one of the programs that allows them to accomplish this mission.

“The purpose of this program is to create artistic and cultural exchanges between Guadalajara and Phoenix, based on the fact that both cities have been seen as places that aren’t as notorious as larger cities for their art,” Hernandez said.

She said that part of the impact of this program is that it creates new opportunities to connect with each other. Having the exchange program fully sponsor the artists also helps in this goal.

“I know from the artists who are a part of this program that it is very rare to have a program that fully sponsors artists to do residences,” Hernandez said. “Most programs have a cost attached to it. So I know the opportunity to go to a new place and focus solely on your work and not think of the financial implications is a huge opportunity for them.”

Julio Morales, curator at the ASU Art Museum, said that he has steadily been building a series of programs that are based on artists working in Latin America and that Guadalajara had captured his interest.

“They have a really interesting arts scene going on, and we kind of saw it as our sister arts city in that sense,” Morales said.

He said he’s been there a couple of times in the last few years watching the scene develop, which made him want to create an exchange program. With CALA Alliance’s help, he did just that and created their residency exchange.

“Twice a year we have two artists from Phoenix that are going to Guadalajara and two artists from Guadalajara are coming here to Phoenix,” Morales said.

Not only is Rico’s exhibition the first art to come out of the GDL>PHX program, but it also marks his first exhibition in the U.S., and he said he is happy with how it has turned out.

“This is my first approach to creating this type of installation and I am so happy with the result,” Rico said. “It’s crazy. Crazy.”

To check out Rico’s exhibition before June 10, people may attend the special preview on Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at the ASU Art Museum.

For more information on the new exhibit and its special preview, click here.

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