The month of September is known among people in the Spanish-speaking world as “Mes de la Hispanidad” (Hispanic Heritage Month) or “Mes de las Fiestas Patrias” (Month of the National Holidays). It is a month in which several countries in Latin America celebrate (on different dates) their respective declarations of independence from European colonial rule—Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Chile, Nicaragua, Belize, and Brazil—after centuries of subjugation. Festivities in each country include parades, school festivals, honors to the flag, and other activities that generate national pride as well as the continuance of traditional values. For the nationals who live abroad, the Independence Day celebration connects them to their roots with pride and a sense of community.
Here in Denver, one way we can join in the celebration of "Mes de la Hispanidad" is by experiencing art created by Latin American artists currently on view at the Denver Art Museum.
Visit the exhibition Who tells a tale adds a tail: Latin America and contemporary art, curated by Raphael Fonseca, a native of Brazil and the DAM’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art. The show features the work of 19 young artists from Latin America and addresses salient topics that reflect the artists’ experiences and environments. The introductory work in the show is located near the elevators on the first floor of the Hamilton Building. This installation by Ecuadorian artist Adrián Balseca makes the connection between natural resources and modernity, as he uses bags of sugar placed on top of a CitiCar, the first electric car produced in the US. From the car’s radio, a station transmits from the Amazon region to Denver via the internet.
The exhibition continues on the level 4, with art installations created, in most cases, for its gallery’s specific location, as in the case of Club Discreto by artist Alan Sierra (Mexico) a multimedia installation that includes erotic poetry in Spanish. Other topics that are addressed include the reflection on the role of violence and migration in the contemporary world with works by artists such as Gabriela Pinilla (Colombia), Randolpho Lamonier (Brazil), Andrés Pereira Paz (Bolivia), and Juan Fuentes (Mexico). Other artists like Claudia Martínez Garay (Peru) consider the relationship between indigeneity and Western appropriation and artist Seba Calfuqueo (Chile) who considers the connection between gender identity and ecology. Artist Tessa Mars (Haiti) paints bodies in the landscape to investigate the diffusion of oral traditions, while Hulda Guzmán (Dominican Republic) offers an amazing intersection of people and nature. Artists Antonio Pichillá (Guatmala) and Eddie Rodolfo Aparicio (US), for instance, receive their inspiration from natural materials, combining a stone or tree trunk with glass and rubber. Juan Pablo Garza (Venezuela) and Yuli Yamagata (Brazil) utilize more conventional materials to play with color, texture, and scale to disrupt our expectations of familiar forms.
Artist Caleb Hahne Quintana (US), who was born and raised in Colorado, explores his ancestral roots through his recent paintings. The work by artist Ana Segovia (Mexico) challenges the prevalent ideas about masculinity ever present in the popular figures of classic Mexican films. The artist duo ASMA, formed by Matias Armendaris (Ecuador) and Hanya Beliá (Mexico) use allegorical figures and architectural spaces in their artistic explorations that combine the media of sculpture and panting. Vitória Cribb (Brazil) considers the behaviors and developments of new technologies to create her virtual bodies. Who tells a tale adds a tail extends to the Martin Building, with the work by artist Gabriel Chaile (Argentina). Gabriel built a functional oven, which he titled Self-portrait, on the Kemper Courtyard. His work honors his ancestral traditions and fosters the understanding among people as the communal act of getting together to share bread baked in his oven builds community.
Continue the celebration of artworks from Latin America —from the art of the ancient Americas to contemporary works in the Latin American art galleries—in the museum’s permanent collection on level 4 of the Martin Building. It is truly a joy to explore objects that give us a glimpse into the life and times that are the foundation for art being created nowadays.
Your celebration cannot be complete without experiencing the impressive and delightful exhibition on view in the textile galleries on level 6, Carla Fernández Casa de Moda: A Mexican Fashion Manifesto. The works on display, like the rest of Fernández’s designs, encompass millenary Mexican textile traditions, as she interprets ancient techniques, still used by artisans from indigenous communities with whom she works collaboratively.
My favorite section, "Tradition is Not Static: Charrería", showcases the elegance of the charro attire, the charros are horsemen that traditionally work herding livestock, and Charrería is a competition of their abilities that takes place at a rodeo and that originated in colonial times in Mexico. Carla Fernández pays homage to their distinctively Mexican attire. She collaborated with Fidel Martínez, a master of the calado technique (the application of leather decoration originated in Spain, with Arab antecedents), for her charro-inspired creations.
The Thread Studio, a space dedicated to further engage with materials and concepts on display, features short videos illustrating calado and several other techniques that Fernández uses in her works. In addition, visitors can see a real formal charro suit made by Claudia Ortega from Denver’s Trajes Charros La Noria, a true gem in handcraftsmanship!
There are many ways to celebrate the "Mes de la Hispanidad." Visiting the DAM and exploring the exceptional works by Latin America artists, from ancient to contemporary times, is one of the best!