The afternoon had brought the new issue of New Yorker magazine. On the cover was a caricature of the president stacking bricks on his desk, surrounding himself with a wall.
It was an appropriate kickoff for the evening, which featured two artists from El Paso, both providing artistic commentary on the state of affairs at the border. Neither was initially on our destination list for the evening, which is a good reminder to keep itineraries flexible.
Before arriving at Dallas Contemporary for the first border-themed exhibit, we had stopped at Beaudry and Barry Whistler Galleries. The crowds at both were larger than usual. Fiberglass work by Karl Umlauf at Barry Whistler was show-stopping and a large photograph by Ann Stautberg saved from her recent group show took center stage. Ann’s husband Frank X. Tolbert had skipped his own opening in Houston to come up for the event.
It was here we met up with some friends who said Dallas Contemporary (DC) was the place we had to be. We didn’t commit but headed out for an opening at PDNB Gallery, which is across the street from DC. As it turned out, PDNB was dark. With music thumping from across the street, we decided to take a look. Just then our friends arrived to lead us in.
When Dallas Contemporary puts on an event, it’s an event. Most were here for the Jeremy Scott retrospective fashion exhibit and dressed for it. It was the border patrol uniforms assembled into potted cactus that caught our attention.
It’s Impossible to Cover the Sun with a Finger by Margarita Cabrera featured dozens of the desert plants composing a powerful statement. According to the label, the saying is popular in Latin American communities and expresses the notion that reality can only be partially disguised. Found in El Paso flea markets, the uniforms have been adorned with Mexican embroidery revealing border-crossing narratives.
Our final stop for the evening was a pop-up by RO2 Gallery at an empty storefront on Commerce Street in Downtown Dallas and an alternate take on the concocted border crisis. At the entrance, we were confronted by two pinata border-patrol agents. A large illuminated red button activated a fog machine above the vestibule.
Golf-cart sized emergency vehicles sat in the shop windows. Inside a wire-framed, LED-lit cactus presented the situation as something foreign that landed on border communities like aliens in a midcentury Hollywood movie.
Angel Cabrales told me this was the third iteration of the exhibit. Each was represented by sci-fi-style posters hanging on the far wall. “It Came From Beyond the Border Three: Tender Care Detention” was is an exploration of the dehumanization and xenophobia in our current political climate.
As I commented to Angel, I can’t imagine what it is like to have your community interrupted with something like this. The hardships of migration are compounded by an ill-mannered response to them.
Though it is in Texas, compared to El Paso, the situation at the border must be foreign to Dallas. Both of these exhibits bring it home a little. I appreciate the concept presented by Cabrales. The political initiatives at the border are as foreign to American ideals as they can be. And the over-the-top approach represents that well.
Yet I can’t imagine the effectiveness of an old sci-fi movie tackling such a serious subject. While Cabrera captures the human, the humaness here is lost in the show.
Both exhibits are worth a look, however. It doesn’t seem the need for this type of artistic commentary is going away anytime soon.