Loteria, Loteria! (Tres)
Bath House Cultural Center
April 30 – June 4, 2011
Curated by Enrique Fernandez Cervantes
First, to catch everyone up to speed, Loteria is an old game of chance played in Mexico at fairs and in homes. It’s like Bingo in that you mark on your game board(s) whichever card the dealer draws. When you have four in a row you holler “Loteria!” to win. Rather than using letters and numbers, Loteria uses pictures of common things – the crown (lit. “la corona”), the mermaid (“la siren”), the musician (“el musico”), the ladder (“la escalera”), and so on. There are 54 image cards total.
Traditional Loteria Cards
“Tres” in the title of the show refers to the fact that curator Enrique Fernandez Cervantes has apparently hung two previous Loteria shows – and I can see why he’s exhibiting a third: this is a really fun concept. According to artist Jose Vargas (who I met at the show and was nice enough to explain the “rules” to me), 54 artists chosen by Cervantes selected their first, second, and third card choices and rushed to get these choices in to Cervantes. He sorted out preferences by submission time and made assignments. The artist could choose any medium but the finished work could occupy no more than 16 X 20 inches of space.
As you can imagine, give an artist those constraints and it’s likely you’ll get near to 54 different ways to fill the space: sculpture, paintings, mixed media, photography, drawing, and more. There are shadowboxes with the art spilling out of them, a mounted shelf with a tableau on it, and a full 3D mandolin with a man’s face sculpted on it (MANdolin – get it?), lots of paintings, lots of photographs, lots of variety.
This delightful mix of 54 artists’ work actually starts the minute you walk in the door to the Bath House with one of my favorites, “The Shrimp” (“el camaron”). This mixed media piece is beautifully rendered and immediately brought to mind how my brother and I used to tease our little sister with nicknames when we were kids. I don’t know if that’s how the artist came to depict this young lady as a shrimp, but that’s how I saw it.
Shrimp by Giovanni Valderas
Some of the artists chose to depict the object of their card straight on, others (like Valderas) interpreted his assignment into an image that isn’t so clearly related to the card. But never mind, the Loteria card that the artist is working from is located in miniature at each stop location. This is a good move – it adds so much to the show. Some of the pieces will make you laugh out loud, others cause you to think, hmmmm? Some are slightly frightening, some are autobiographical – this is the unifying piece of a very very diverse show. And it works really well.
To get 54 works on exhibit all at once in the Bath House, Cervantes uses the lobby area, the gallery, and every inch of the hallway. The Bath House is always a very dynamic space with people doing various things – viewing theater, coming in from enjoying the outdoors and the lake, viewing art, hanging out – and the day I was there, voting! I have always enjoyed the “front porch” atmosphere that the Office of Cultural Affairs staff has created here. It’s a very comfortable and casual place to view art.
I had way too many favorites to show them all to you here – you must go see this show yourself. Here are a couple I particularly liked.
One Day Their Bones Will Rest by Michael L. Benson
Based on the card, The Skull (“la calavera”), this painting is one of my favorites. I like Benson’s loose painterly style and the way he painted the text is just genius. Have you ever tried to paint text with a brush? I have –it’s impossible. Benson has found the perfect balance of trying for great technique and saying with a wink, “I’m painting this, after all.” This is a piece I’d like to own. (Oh, and by the way – every piece is for sale. There’s a price list available right before you turn into the main gallery space. The prices are very very (very!) reasonable – from $75 to $1250 with sixteen under $200.)
Estrella from the card The Star (“la estrella”) is a beautiful dainty assemblage with a fully 3 dimensional figure with a bow. There is a feeling of mythology and dream in this piece that drew me to it.
Estrella by Johanna Roffino-Hulsey
El Cirquero by Jacque Forsher
Regrettably (for I took 50 photos at this show – that’s how interesting the work is), the last piece I’ll show you is this whimsical illustration of a circus packed expertly into the prescribed size. It’s my first time to see Forsher’s work and she combines perfection in composition with a gorgeous painterly technique that stands up to very close scrutiny. Her sense of color is perfect for The Circus (“el cirquero”) card, and a peek on the web reveals a lot of great work of her. Another piece I’d like to hang on my wall at home.
Don’t miss this show! This one – like “Hecho en Dallas” from last month – will make you exclaim with wonder at the talented artists in Dallas. Cervantes has chosen a superstar group to illustrate his third Loteria, Loteria! show – let’s hope there’s a fourth in his – and our – future.