Fabulous Art

Pride in our heritage has helped many of us look to the past for strength. Our diversity and connection to a legacy help the Latino community forge a future rich in tradition.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center (NHCC) of New Mexico celebrates this diversity by preserving and promoting our cultural legacy. It opened its doors in October 2000 and has welcomed over 750,000 visitors, mounted more than 65 major art exhibitions, showcased over 500 local, regional and national artists, and has worked with a number of Hispanic and non-Hispanic institutions locally, nationally and internationally. With a picturesque location on over 50 acres adjacent to the Rio Grande, the striking complex has Meso-American, Pueblo and Spanish architectural influences and houses visual, performing, and literary arts spaces that strive to represent the varied Latino influences in our culture.

“The museum looks to represent the Latino diaspora,” says Museum & Visual Arts Program Director Tey Marianna Nunn. “The varying exhibits we curate and create serve as a regional vehicle for the preservation, promotion and expansion of the arts and culture in our Hispanic heritage.”

Currently, the NHCC is exhibiting ¡Fabuloso!: Figures in Clay from the Van Deren and Joan Coke Collection---the largest gift collection the center has received to date. It consists of more than 1000 Arte Popular works acquired between 1980 and 2000. However, the museum is featuring approximately 200 of the pieces. Arte Popular is more commonly known as folk art. Its roots date back to Mexico’s indigenous people melding both Mexican and Spanish colonial art to bring to light the rich traditions of its people. This collection features well-known artists like Julián Acero, the Aguilar sisters, Teodora Blanco, Aurelio Flores, Candelario Medrano, the Panduro family and many more whose works of art are filled with those same traditions, yet overflowing with distinctive style.

“¡Fabuloso! encompasses amazing works of clay that bring to light the artistry and creativity of the Mexican artists who made them. The skill and ingenuity of the pieces take your breath away and celebrate the timeless beauty made from nothing but earth, air, fire, and water,” Nunn adds.

Clay is the medium of choice in Mexican culture. For centuries, creating useful objects in clay has been an art form and a necessity of everyday life. Within the ¡Fabuloso! collection, the diversity of the clay figures represent the relationship of arte popular to tradition. The collection displays subjects like politics, popular culture, religion, family, and community, and their approaches are often humorous or irreverent. Primordial in feeling and sophisticated in style, it has a flair that is both elegant and energetic. The treatment of the material, the effortless color palette and the counterbalance of the realistic and fantastic characterize a people and where they’ve been.

“The works in ¡Fabuloso! are each a masterpiece,” says Nunn. “Each was made by hand and created in a community where artists led the way and reflected the world around them. This fills one of the most important roles in a civilization: Artists and their works have always been necessary, and they mirror society in complex ways.”

Yohana de la Torre