An exhibit at the UNM Art Museum features works inspired by activism

Installation view, Beatrice Cortez in Art for the Future: Artists’ Call and Central American Solidarity at Tufts University Art Galleries, 2022. (Photo by Peter Harris/University of New Mexico Museum of Art)

The University of New Mexico Museum of Art presents “Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarities,” an informative exhibit exploring the 1980s activist campaign Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America, through December 3.

The Artists Call campaign was founded in New York in 1984 to protest US military interventions in Central America and educate the American public.

The exhibition was curated by Erin Dugan, professor of art history at Texas State University, and Abigail Satinsky, curator and head of public engagement, Tufts University Art Galleries. Plans for this exhibition date back a decade.

“I’ve been working on Artists Call since 2014, but Abby, my co-curator, contacted me around 2017 about including artists in an exhibit she was working on,” Dugan said. “I told her about these boxes I found, I asked her, ‘Do you want to curate an exhibition with me?'”

What initially piqued Duggan’s interest was the photography of Susan Meiselas.

“Her work has been shown and reproduced in magazines and newspapers, but her work is also shown in art spaces,” Dugan said. “I thought I was interested in this activist campaign, but there wasn’t much material about it.”

Installation view, Carlos Motta in Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarity at Tufts University Art Galleries, 2022. Photography by Peter Harris. (Photo by Peter Harris/University of New Mexico Museum of Art)

Duggan then began researching Artists Call.

“An archivist said, ‘Oh, are you interested in Artists Call?’ There are 12 boxes of archival materials in the back that have never been entered into the database,” Dugan said. “So when I found those 12 boxes, I knew this was big and I had to do some big things with it.”

Satinsky and Dugan then went to work.

“We had to try to find these works. So there were a lot of emails and some of the works were destroyed, some were lost,” Dugan. “For example, that Gregory Cholette on the wall directly behind you was recreated for this exhibition, as the original work was destroyed.”

“I felt like I was actively trying to find things that were made in 1983 or 1984. And where are they now?”

While finding the information, the curators encountered several stumbling blocks.

“There were 31 spots for Artists Call in New York, but no checkbooks. So I saw they had the names of which institutions, but no list of artwork,” Dugan said. “So basically what Abby and I did together was look at installation photos and we found works that were in Artists Call because one of the things we wanted to do was include work that was actually in Artists Call.

The exhibition was supposed to premiere earlier but was postponed due to COVID-19.

“It was delayed a year because of COVID-19, so it opened last January, but it was supposed to open a year before that,” Dugan said. “We also compiled the catalog. We wrote a lot of grants to get additional funds to support the exhibition.”

Artist and activist Sabra Moore, who created Code for Reconstruction (1984), attended the opening at the UNM Museum of Art.

Moore’s work was featured in The Reconstruction Project, a large-scale collaborative exhibition of women that was presented at Artists Space in New York as part of Artists Call.

“I come from East Texas and my art is connected to my grandmothers,” Moore said. “Both grandmothers made quilts, but we didn’t think of it as art at the time.”

After graduating from high school, Moore moved south and attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated with honors with a bachelor’s degree in the Plan II liberal arts honors program.

“Doroteo Guamuche”, Benvenuto Chavahai, 2016, photograph. (University of New Mexico Museum of Art)

Moore knew a few people in New York and decided to leave Texas for the big city in 1966.

“By then I wanted to be an artist and I tried to do a painting on canvas and it just didn’t work out,” Moore said. “Then I realized I had to work with her shapes and my materials, so it was using repeating patterns and sewing and using materials.”

For Moore, finding your style is important.

“So I still work that way, and you don’t necessarily know it when you see my pieces coming in, but it still does,” Moore said. “So I think everyone has to find their own authentic language as an artist.”

_WebHeadline”>UNM Art Museum exhibit looks at works inspired by activism

_WebHeadline”>EXCERPT: The University of New Mexico Museum of Art presents “Art for the Future: Artists Call and Central American Solidarity,” an informative exhibition to date that explores the activist campaign of the 1980s Artists Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America, until December. 3.

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