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The Rubin Center, situated at the University of Texas at El Paso, is launching a new exhibition series dedicated to showcasing contemporary art from Central America, starting with a solo exhibition by Guatemalan artist Jessica Kairé titled Levantamiento: A Collective Unshaping.

Including five of Kairé’s ongoing series of fabric Folding Monuments, along with a corresponding series of works on paper, the exhibition considers the ways in which monuments mark public space and are collectively determined, maintained, or dismantled.

Installation view of Jessica Kairé’s “Levantamiento, A Collective Unshaping”, 2023. The Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso, Texas, USA. Photo: Julio Barrera

Each of Kairé’s Folding Monuments is a scaled-down replica of an actual monument, and they are deliberately displayed in a folded or collapsed state. It is only when the public collectively decides to raise and interact with them that they come to life. This interactive aspect encourages participants to contemplate how these structures not only shape our identity but also how we, as a community, influence their existence and the spaces they inhabit.

The monuments featured in A Collective Unshaping span from New York to Guatemala City to Ciudad Juárez. Additionally, Kairé has crafted a brand-new work for this exhibition: the Monument to the New Citizen, affectionately known as the «Monument to the Cigarette» in Ciudad Juárez.

This marks Kairé’s inaugural museum solo exhibition. In July, she led a student workshop focusing on social practice and collaboration in contemporary art, creating a series of videos documenting the activation of the monuments.

Installation view of Jessica Kairé’s “Levantamiento, A Collective Unshaping”, 2023. The Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso, Texas, USA. Photo: Julio Barrera

“Jessica Kairé is well-known across the Americas for her thoughtful reflections on collectivity,” says Rubin Center Curator Laura Augusta, PhD.

“From her video performance Such is Life in the Tropics, in which she humorously cites Martha Rosler to reframe violence and the neoliberal culture of security in Central America in a kind of radical domestic politics, to her newest body of soft sculptures, which suggest that our insistence on monumentalizing conquest could be transformed by softness and collective action, Kairé remains one of the leaders in a generation of Conceptual Artists emerging after the Peace Accords in Guatemala City. These artists reflect the ways that dark humor, play, and collaboration offer a re-framing of daily experiences of violence and fear often used to describe urban Guatemala.”

As part of the Rubin Center’s commitment to showcasing the artistic research process, Levantamiento includes archival materials from Kairé’s ongoing investigations into monuments in Guatemala City, New York City, and Ciudad Juárez. Additionally, it features video activations of the sculptures, created in collaboration with UTEP students and local artists.

Installation view of Jessica Kairé’s “Levantamiento, A Collective Unshaping”, 2023. The Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso, Texas, USA. Photo: Julio Barrera
Installation view of Jessica Kairé’s “Levantamiento, A Collective Unshaping”, 2023. The Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, El Paso, Texas, USA. Photo: Julio Barrera

This exhibition, hosted by a prominent Hispanic-serving research university, underscores how artist-centered research practices engage with the community, reframe national histories, and challenge our utilization of public spaces. It encourages dialogue among students, scholars, artists, and other creative practitioners in the borderlands.

Levantamiento: A Collective Unshaping launches a series of forthcoming exhibitions and researchon contemporary practice in Central America. In January 2024, the Rubin Center will host the first U.S.-museum retrospective of Honduran artist Adán Vallecillo. In the fall of 2024, the multi-gallery exhibition Mud & Corn will connect agricultural histories of resistance across the U.S. Great Plains to Central America, from the 1970s to the present. In 2025, a group exhibition of artists from El Salvador will delve into how Salvadoran artists, both in the region and in the diaspora, address themes related to landscapes. Additionally, a photography exhibition from Guatemala City is set to open in the spring of 2026.


Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, The University of Texas at El Paso

July 11 – October 7, 2023

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