Tracing the Unseen Border (2011)

April 21 - May 22, 2011 — La Mama La Galleria (New York, NY)

Co-curated with Omar López-Chahoud

Participating Artists: Alberto Borea, Monika Bravo, Tania Candiani, caraballo-farman, Sergio de la Torre, Blane De St. Croix, Ricardo Gonzalez, M & X, Teresa Margolles, Tom McGrath, Irvin Morazan, Richard Mosse, Alex Rivera, Javier Tellez, Patricia A. Valencia, Ishmael Randall Weeks, and Judi Werthein.

Tracing the Unseen Border opened at La Mama La Galleria on April 21, 2011 with a performance by Irvin Morazán (NKA Guadalupe Maravilla). A discussion was held in conjunction with The New Museum’s Festival of Ideas for the New City on May 8, 2011. Moderated by Ian Cofré and Omar López-Chahoud, the panel of participating artists discussed their work in the exhibition and addressed issues about the border experience that transcend its geographical location, influence the work they make as artists based in New York City, and go on to affect the City and its immigrant population. 

Tracing the Unseen Border is an exhibition curated by Ian Cofré and Omar López-Chahoud that takes a look at the dynamics surrounding the border between Mexico and the United States. Each of the participating artists critically engages questions about this imaginary line, some as a representation of the actual physical space that separates both countries, and yet is unseen by a large part of the nations' populations. Others turn their focus to the social, political, and economic implications affecting those who are determined to cross it. Collectively, the artists begin to expose the broader context in which there has been a move to obscure the border. This tendency coincides with a political discourse and policies that have shifted to border security, immigration reform, and protectionism. The artists' works will help reveal and unravel the interconnectedness of this contemporary landscape to those who may feel far removed.

Blane De St. Croix will present a new piece specific to the border between the US and Mexico from his series of landscape sections – miniaturized representations of the borders and crossings between countries in varying degrees of conflicts with their neighbors. These borders have unintentionally become world icons, placed into the public’s mind by the media, though are often barren lands devoid of people except for the occasional border outpost, border crossing stations, or border towns. These sculptures take a slice or section from nature as a still or subliminal image of an environment in the past, present, or still in transition of being destroyed or healed, and is symbolic of important global issues in the world today. Teresa Margolles presents a site-specific wall installation of the names of victims killed within one month of border violence. It forms a keenly aware memorial elucidating the daily practice of publishing the names of the dead in local newspapers. During the opening night of the exhibition, Irvin Morazán will debut a new headdress and performance entitled Coyotes. As the title suggests, the work draws upon the multiple associations and meanings of the word in both traditional and contemporary cultural contexts. Coyotes are channeled by shamans in Central America as a vehicle to transport themselves spiritually into different realms, as they represent humble arrogance, surprise, and risk-taking. Today, “El Coyote” is the name for a person paid to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border between Mexico and the United States. Morazan’s new persona is based on the common traits shared by El Coyote/coyote, which includes inventiveness, mischievousness, and evasiveness. The performance will be a playful yet provocative ritual intending to bestow safe passages for those crossing physical or metaphysical lines. Richard Mosse’s project NADA QUE DECLARAR was made by looking for traces of the people crossing the border illegally. Spending his time scouring the desert or the side of the road, hunting for the litter left by this invisible traffic, he searched for what they leave behind in their race across the border. He also found a lot of other trash scattered about, complicating the difference between clues that trace real journeys and what is simply evocative litter. Rapidly transgressing into fiction, the search became more about the fantasy than the thing itself – about expectation, desire, and projection. What was initially a frustrating search for documentary proof became an exuberant treasure hunt for narrative cues and allegory.

The curators extend continued thanks to Matthew Nasser (La MaMa), Maria Elena Cabezut (MCINY), Adriana Farmiga, Cecilia Jurado, Wayne Liu, Geoffrey Owen Miller, Aldo Sánchez Ramirez (MCINY), Amy Westpfahl, Augusto Arbizo at Van Doren Waxter (formerly Eleven Rivington), Bryce Wolkowitz Gallery, DCKT Contemporary, Jack Shainman Gallery, Peter Kilchmann Galerie, and Sue Scott Gallery. We are indebted to previous work done by inSite San Diego and its fantastic curators over the years.