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"Frontera Lake Street: Six Artists Living in Minnesota"
2001-10-11 until 2001-12-02
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Minneapolis, MN, USA

Frontera Lake Street is a new exhibition by six visual artists: Salvador Espejo Benitez, Luis Fitch, Alexa Horochowski, Douglas Padilla, Marcela Rodriguez A., and Xavier Tavera. These Frontera Six all navigate the personal, cultural, and aesthetic borders of Latino experience.

Frontera Lake Street is presented through the museums artist-run curatorial department, the Minnesota Artists Exhibition Program (MAEP), by Grupo Soap del Corazon (spanglish for soap of the heart), a group of artists and cultural activists devoted to the promotion of border culture in Minnesota. Grupo Soap produces and presents an ongoing series of exhibitions and projects that acknowledge, in particular, the Latinization of Lake Street in Minneapolis, with its mercados, taquerias, tortillerias, Latin record stores, nightclubs, boot shops, and salons.

Named for the frontera, or the border, the exhibition reveals the borders varied manifestations. The artists illuminate the divisions, meeting points, and clashes of culture; the mixed blessings of double identity; the physical struggle and spiritual ascendance contained within a cultural transformation; and the poetic possibilities of co-existing with ones opposite. The exhibition gets at serious matters of the heart such as the hardships of immigration; racism and poverty; and trying to feel at home when home is left behind. It speaks to those who have died trying to cross illegally and to children born and raised here, who are sorely challenged by their illegal status. The artists speak to the challenges of feeling safe in an Anglo culture that loves Latin music but holds onto policies that prevent many Latinos from becoming U.S. citizens.

Frontera Lake Street goes theoretically and pragmatically beyond the multiculturalism of the eighties and nineties, which emphasized and maintained difference. Grupo Soap acknowledges and illuminates the continual hybridization of cultures that occurs between shifting demographics.

Each of the Frontera Six has a unique history and perspective. From newcomer to second-generation immigrant, they have connections to Mexico, Argentina, and Chile; from tiny rural villages to frontera cities like Tijuana and Juarez, to the international urban center of Mexico City, now the largest city in the world. The Frontera Six borrow from Mexican popular culture, each assuming the persona of an imaginary professional wrestler. In creating their own pop-wrestler characters, each Frontera artist has invented a distinct personality and stage name, complete with masks and costumes. These theatrical characters work to advertise the exhibition as well as to reconcile and celebrate high and low art. The artwork featured in the gallery installation at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts includes tiny landscapes painted on corn, rice, and other seeds by Salvador Espejo Benitez, depicting scenes of Minnesota on one side and of Mexico, on the other. Luis Fitchs mixed-media work illustrates the opportunities that have drawn Mexicans to Minnesota, as well as the risks that they have taken to cross over. A Central American-style trinket cart by Alexa Horochowski is packed with saleable art miniatures including hand-painted surrogate wrestling figures of the Frontera artists themselves. Douglas Padillas intense symbolist paintings reference the North and the South, connecting the Mississippi with the desert. Chilean painter Marcela Rodriguez A. is inspired by her Latino students and the landscape of her homeland. Xavier Taveras large-scale color photographs reveal Latinos as both visible and invisible.

Whatever the pain comes from transcultural living, the Frontera artists have the gift of double identity, of double vision. It is a vision that teaches cultural relativity, a vision that questions and explores.

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