The Craft of Resistance

Margarita Cabrera

Exhibition: Mar 13 – May 11, 2008

Cabrera’s Artpace project, The Craft of Resistance, is the second in a series of works that explore the impact of border politics on Mexican craft-making traditions. The installation portrays the metamorphosis of Mexican tradition, history, and culture as a result of the current maquiladora-based economy.

Before establishing the first element of her Artpace installation—a makeshift factory in her Artpace studio—the artist traveled to Santa Clara del Cobre, Michoacán, Mexico, to research traditional copper craft-making techniques. While in Santa Clara, Cabrera worked with artisans and teachers at the craft school El SECATI to learn how to manipulate the metal.

Upon her arrival at Artpace, Cabrera put together a mock maquiladora, gathering a team of local volunteers to begin working on the assembly-line production of thousands of copper monarch butterflies. Her factory setup parallels the interior of maquiladoras found in Mexico with its fluorescent lighting and long makeshift tables. The workplace is divided into twelve schematic cubicles that guide volunteers through each step of the fabrication process.

After the team fashioned 2,500 butterflies, the small sculptures were packaged and exported to a private home in San Antonio, the second element of Cabrera’s Artpace project. Pictures of this installation are presented in the gallery, showing the beautiful, yet plague-like flock massed on chairs, tables, and appliances. The presentation of the insects in an area separate from the gallery symbolizes the disparity between the production of goods in maquiladoras and the consumption of Mexican-made products in the United States. Similarly, the swarm represents the manic transformation of the Mexican economy, expressing the threats posed by an oversaturated market (complicated by competitive Chinese labor) and the flight of the younger generation from rural to urban centers on both sides of the border.

The monarch butterfly is known for its lengthy annual migration, which spans North America, from Canada to sanctuaries in Michoacán. For Cabrera, the perseverance of these insects draws a direct parallel to the perilous journey of thousands of Mexican immigrants to the United States. The copper sculptures are imprinted with the wing pattern of the monarch butterfly on one side and with an impression of the American penny on the other. This design emphasizes the influence of American currency on the cultural and economic climate of Mexico.


Margarita Cabrera

El Paso, Texas, USA

Margarita Cabrera’s work examines the social implications of Mexico’s export-oriented economy—expressing the political impotence that informs US-Mexico border relations through sculptural representations of the physical and mental struggles of countless immigrants. Recent work confronts issues surrounding the rise of Mexican manufacturing facilities called maquiladoras and the corresponding decline in traditional craft making in Mexico.
Margarita Cabrera was born in Monterrey, Mexico. She has had solo exhibitions at Finesilver Gallery Houston, TX (2007); Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2007); Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York, NY (2006, 03); and Women and Their Work, Austin, TX (2004). Upcoming and recent group exhibitions include Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA (2008); Car Culture, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, AZ (2008); Arthouse Texas Prize 2007, Arthouse, Austin, TX; Nexus Texas, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, TX (2007); and Sonatube, Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum, CA.

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Franklin Sirmans

Houston, Texas, USA

In June 2006, Franklin Sirmans was appointed Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Menil Collection and begins the post in mid August. Previous to the appointment Sirmans had been an independent curator, writer, editor and lecturer based in New York City, NY. A former U.S. Editor of Flash Art he has written for numerous publications. Among other exhibitions he was co-curator of Basquiat (2005-2006: Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston); Make It Now: New Sculpture in New York at Sculpture Center, NY; and One Planet Under A Groove: Contemporary Art and Hip Hop (2001-2003: Bronx Museum of Art, Spelman College Art Gallery, Atlanta, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and Villa Stuck, Munich, Germany). He contributed to catalogues for exhibitions such as Freestyle and Black Belt at The Studio Museum in Harlem, and contributed to Gary Simmons at the MCA, Chicago and Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (Contemporary Art Museum, Houston). He has written monographs on artists such as Edgar Arceneaux, Monika Bravo, Iona Brown, Mia Enell, Manuel Esnoz, Charles Gaines, Kojo Griffin, Dario Robleto, and Kehinde Wiley.
Photo by George Hixson

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