Raleigh, N.C. — The new exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art will really open your eyes to more than the art on the walls, if you give it the chance. You could learn a little about what it means to be a Mexican-American.
"Estampas de la Raza/Prints for the People: The Romo Collection" consists of 61 prints by 45 artists which showcase what it means to embrace Mexican heritage in American society. All the works on display were created within the last 30 years, so their cultural references are contemporary and recognizable.
Associate Curator Jennifer Dasal worked with the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, to bring the exhibit together. Designers here at NCMA did a brilliant job showcasing the pieces in order to draw attention to the bold colors and strong messages within the works. They are grouped into five themes, with each one spelled out in both English and Spanish on the exhibit walls.
The exhibit starts with "Identity." Prints in this section examine how Mexican-Americans see themselves and define a concept of self and how they are perceived by others.
Then you move into "Struggle," where you'll see pieces that deal with the fight for equality and labor rights. In one particularly striking piece, artist Ester Hernandez reimagines a regular, everyday box of Sun-Maid raisins to demonstrate the fight of migrant laborers. The finished piece, called "Sun Raid," replaces the maid with a skeleton who is wearing an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement bracelet, and replaces the words on the box with wording promising deportation.
The third section lightens up a bit, focusing on "Tradition, Culture and Memory." Works in this part of the exhibit show you a slice of home life, or entertainment, or a young lady participating in the traditional Quinceanera celebration that marks a teenage girl's transition into adulthood on her 15th birthday.
Art in the fourth section is perhaps the most recognizable to most Americans. It's called "Icons" and the imagery in these prints includes pictures of Frida Kahlo, Che Guevara, and the Virgin of Guadalupe. The first print you see in the exhibit (it's the same one on the sign on Blue Ridge Road) - Raul Caracoza's "Young Frida" - would fall into this gallery.
The last section is called "Other Voices" and didn't fall squarely into one of the other four themes.
A second exhibit in a nearby gallery complements this show. "Tall Tales and Huge Hearts: Raul Colon" displays an overview of the work of Puerto-Rican born children's book illustrator Raul Colon. The images are warm and inviting, and dazzle the eye as you examine them.
Estampas de la Raza/Prints for the People opens this Sunday, April 13, and runs until July 27, 2014. Tickets are $5. “Tall Tales and Huge Hearts: Raul Colon” also runs until July 27, 2014. That exhibit is free. Keep in mind, the museum is closed on Mondays.