TESTIMONIOS: 100 Years of Popular Expression
Curated by Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs
Drawing on rarely-seen works from El Museo del Barrio's Permanent Collection and select loans from the New York area, Testimonios examines potent works by non-traditionally trained makers. This exhibition celebrates and witnesses mankind’s myriad artistic manifestations by highlighting works that have been born under difficult or collaborative circumstances, or for spiritual or communal celebrations.
Highly personal and intricate works by well-known and beloved self-taught artists such as Gregorio Marzán (1906-1997), the New York-based, Puerto Rican born sculptor, and Martín Ramírez (1895-1963), the Mexican born, California-based draftsman, will be included. Projects undertaken by professional artists working with broader creative communities will also be seen here. Examples include Margarita Cabrera (b.1973), who holds workshops with female immigrants from Mexico, in which they share their stories of crossing the border by embroidering narratives on the cactuses crafted from used border patrol uniforms. Photographer Ejlat Feuer (b. 1950) documents the beauty, diversity, and cultural significance of the casitas, small structures built in community gardens located in New York's Puerto Rican neighborhoods.
Audiences will experience popular expressions in a multitude of mediums. A large selection of Santos de palo (small, carved, polychromed wooden saints created for domestic altars) in the Spanish Caribbean evinces the moving variety within the humble devotional form, while a range of Vodun banners (ornately sequined textiles created for the African-based Haitian religion) is notable as a study in both syncretism and design. The rich visual language of paño (handkerchief) drawings, painstakingly elaborated by Chicano inmates in Texas, relay their histories and dreams to loved ones. Finally, the unique textile idiom of the Kuna (Panama and Colombia) is crafted in colorful, layered molas depicting their worlds.
Testimonios promises to uplift and inspire, reminding us that art flourishes all around us.