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Black Velvet paintings, an almost forgotten medium

 

DETROIT: The Mexicantown Community Development Corporation hosts Black Velvet: A Rasquache Aesthetic exhibit, which will run from March17 - April15 2018, with an opening reception on Saturday, March 17, 2018, from 12:00 - 4:00 p.m. at the Mexicantown CDC Latino Cultural Center. 

 

Curators Diana Rivera, Elena Herrada, and Minerva T. Martínez have assembled the traveling exhibit of the once ubiquitous paintings. The collection was first exhibited at Casa de Rosado gallery in Lansing, MI and now at the Mexicantown CDC Latino Cultural Center in Detroit with the support of the Ford Fund.

 

This exhibit of black velvet paintings argues the opposite sides of aesthetic. Rasquache or rasquachismo, according to Chicano art historian Dr. Tomás Ybarra Frausto is the “politics of making do.” In Spanish, it is a slang term meaning tacky or shoddy in a lower-class manner, or from an underdog perspective. As a painting type, it has simultaneously been ridiculed and loved, considered low art and reviled or as affordable art.

 

Some consider Black Velvet painting as folk art, others kitsch and is loved for its irreverence. It has been collected and kept for decades. It is admired mostly because of the pop subjects painted – Popocatépetl, an Elvis, a John Wayne, a Marilyn, a Jesús, a Virgin of Guadalupe, Bull Fighters, Children, Beasts and Landscapes of the southwestern US, the Pacific, and Europe.

 

From private collections and through loans and donations, eighty-six paintings of varied themes have been assembled to provide a glimpse into the popular subjects of the era that were created in the Mexico-US border towns of Juárez and Tijuana.

 

Many of the works are unsigned, as is typical of the mass-production for the style. Many others are signed by Mexican velvet painters Ortiz, Meléndez, and Cásarez as well as US-American and Canadian amateur painters. Unique to the collection is an “authentic authorized copy” of the Edgar Leeteg “Tahitian Chief.”

 

At each exhibition, local artists are encouraged to pick up the brush and give the almost forgotten medium of black velvet painting another breath of life! This community art effort will be kicked-off with a painting by Nora Chapa Mendoza [Ms. Chapa Mendoza has worked for more than 40 years as a visual artist and has exhibited nationally and internationally.  She has garnered many awards including “Michigan Artist of the Year.”  Her work is currently on display at the Lawrence Street Gallery in Ferndale.]

 

Previous showings of the exhibit have gained new works by artists: Celia Ramírez from Adrian, Michigan; Diego De León from Okemos, Michigan; and Judy Trujillo. The artists will be present at the opening reception. The traveling exhibit will next visit Saginaw, Grand Rapids, and Adrian and local artists will be encouraged to submit original velvet paintings. 

 

For inquiries regarding the history of Black Velvet paintings, cultural context, contributing or loaning original artwork to the touring exhibit, and sponsorship opportunities, contact the curators of the exhibit: Elena Herrada: elenamherrada2@gmail.com or 313-974-0501 and  Diana Rivera, MSU Libraries: dianar@msu.edu . The exhibition is free and open to the public.

 

The MexicantownCDC Latino Cultural Center in Detroit is operated by Ray Lozano, Executive Director of Mexicantown Community Development Corporation. On the Internet:  http://www.mexicantowncdc.org/

 

 
Copyright © 1989 to 2018 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 03/16/18 08:55:15 -0800.

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