My old art history professor would say that it was easier to study art history than the regular kind of history because there were pictures. A decent selling point for the art history program, perhaps, but what I took from that statement was the benefits of using the art of a specific culture created to better understand how they saw themselves. In Albuquerque, we have the benefit of a year’s worth of art created here to help us understand how we see ourselves in 2019. To that end, these nine works reflect some of what we did in 2019.
This was the year when we moved lowriders into the airport.
In the Albuquerque International Sunport Great Hall, the lowrider exhibit has run for the better part of the year to a great reception of millions. As the Sunport’s curator of the exhibit Max Baptiste said, “This is one of the most visited buildings in New Mexico, so it is a great place for people who have never been here to engage with who we are as a culture.” We may know that part of who we are is reflected in these vehicles, but having this exhibit in such a prominent, public place has helped broaden visitors’ definition of who we are. Plus, seeing them after a long flight home was a welcome sight to many.
This was the year when we considered the species of the Rio Grande Valley we put in peril.
516 ARTS took on a massive project with their regional Species in Peril Along the Rio Grande project. Throughout autumn and into the winter, exhibits at 516 ARTS were augmented with public programs, workshops and performances, all focused on ways to look at our place in the Anthropocene as we contend with the escalating impact of a changing climate. It was a needed time of reflection. As one of the exhibiting artists Cannupa Hanska Luger said, “We keep looking for these instant solutions and I think what we really need to do is take a moment that may last a lifetime to really contemplate where we are and how we exist.”
This is the year we displayed a dumpster as art.
This year, Albuquerque’s Open Space displayed some of the most thoughtful and consistently high-quality contemporary artwork in Albuquerque. As part of ArtPark 21, Lance Ryan McGoldrick’s dumpster with a mirrored top More Clouds to Come sits at the Pueblo Montaño Trailhead disappointing people that want to throw out their trash. As McGoldrick said, “Why isn’t the way we dispose of things more thoughtful?” Let it be a marker to future generations that we are now a people that pack it in and pack it out.
This is the year we ran the ART bus.
Albuquerque Rapid Transit is here. Like it or not, it is part of this city and will be forever a part of our culture in 2019. Critics of these Central Avenue buses abound, from the changes to our urban Mother Road landscape, to the operational conflicts cars and buses can have. When it comes to the art of ART, things are looking up. As we approach 2020, let’s consider it the moving, evolving canvas of an emerging artist. It is all potential.
This is the year we put Jesus in a cage.
Raymond Sandoval’s Send Her Back is one of the most important works shown in Albuquerque this year. Not only does it reflect the greater context of the times we live in here in this country, but it does so it a perfect New Mexican style. Iconographic, this bas-relief helped spur conversations about how we treat migrants months before the caged nativity scenes in California disturbed the consciousness of Christmas. Here’s to the South Broadway Cultural Center continuing to show work of this caliber in 2020.
This is the year we got a home team.
Noé Barnett’s mural on the corner of Second Street and Coal Avenue sums up the first year of our very own soccer team, New Mexico United. Yellow, black and white, it also contains some of the best sports photography around. As a time marker, the mural stands as a testament to a noteworthy accomplishment by this city and this state.
This is the year that we heard our own sounds as art.
Robert Stokowy’s Structures (Albuquerque) remains a departure for Albuquerque. The eight performative, radically site-specific sound installations scattered throughout the city and up into the Sandia Foothills are still a bit abstract for many. You bring with you what you have and absorb what is already there based on the prompts. As Stokowy says, “I want people to really find out something about their own perception, about their own creativity.” It was an exceptional addition to the outstanding artwork of 2019 here in Albuquerque and once again, thanks go out to Albuquerque Open Space for making this unique, contemporary work part of our landscape and available to everyone.
The is the year we turned a castle into a museum.
The building on Second Street between Lead and Coal Avenues remained closed off to the public, and was frankly a little strange until it became the Turquoise Museum. The Zachary family was a bit obsessive about the turquoise businesses and the museum that opened at this new location is a testament to all that is good about that obsession.
This is the year we fixed Paul Bunyan.
It was painfully sad to see the great mythical lumberjack with his arms cut off. Twenty-five feet above May Café, he looks out on Route 66 from a previous age. The May Café, was recently given the Route 66 Heritage Award for restoring this Muffler Man Paul Bunyan to his original condition, axe and all. His restoration in 2019 is a good omen for Albuquerque in 2020. May it be full of art that continues feed and reflect the spirt of this city.