Art as the Vehicle of Choice

7 stacks of tires painted with fluorescent colours. A giant lowrider piñata suspended from the ceiling. A trio of saddles embellished with flamboyant car equipment. They’re all part of the Desert Rider exhibition at Phoenix Artwork Museum, conceived as an exploration of “the associations concerning landscape, transportation, and identity” in the American Southwest. 

The exhibition functions function by a dozen Latinx and Indigenous artists functioning in sculpture, portray, pictures, online video, and a lot more. A number of get inspiration from lowrider tradition, and some make work applying genuine car elements.

Margarita Cabrera, “Agua que no has de beber déjala correr (Water That You Should Not Drink, Allow It Operate)” (2006-2022), vinyl and thread with design sections (selection of the artist, courtesy Tally Dunn Gallery, Dallas, Texas)

Moving into the gallery, viewers 1st see a sweeping diagonal cascade of little-scale Hummer-style automobiles suspended from the ceiling. Made by Margarita Cabrera using vinyl, thread, and model pieces, the installation titled “Agua que no has de beber déjala correr” (“Water That You Should really Not Drink, Enable It Run”) (2006–2022) speaks to exploitative labor practices undergirding the luxury vehicle sector.  

Nearby, an set up titled “You’re Skating on Indigenous Land” (2022) considers the techniques non-Native tradition producers exploit Native land for their have attain though centering the broader context of colonization and the viewpoint that anything is Indigenous land. Established by Douglas Miles (San Carlos Apache-Akimel O’odham), the set up involves 30 Apache skateboards, alongside with hand-painted portraits of men and women in his San Carlos Apache Indian community.

Douglas Miles, “You’re Skating on Indigenous Land” (2022), Apache skateboards, vinyl (photo by Airi Katsuta, courtesy the artist and Phoenix Art Museum)

For some artists, satire is the vehicle of alternative. 

With his 1971 fiberglass resin and epoxy sculpture “End of the Path (with Electric Sunset),” Luis Jiménez counters Previous West narratives embodied by James Earle Fraser’s iconic bronze statue depicting a Native American hunched around his horse as if resigned to defeat. Jiménez’s heroic Indigenous figure rides confidently atop a horse with glowing red eyes and a red handprint on its flank.

Elsewhere, Justin Favela satirizes “Seven Magic Mountains” (2016), a general public artwork installation by New York-based artist Ugo Rondinone that features 7 totems of brightly-painted boulders mounted in the desert in close proximity to Las Vegas. Favela created his “Seven Magic Tires” (2022) utilizing tires donated by Price reduction Tire, which provides a total other layer of this means.

Justin Favela, “Seven Magic Tires (Phoenix)” (2022), tires, paint, glue (photo by Airi Katsuta, courtesy of the artist and Phoenix Artwork Museum)

The tire enterprise was started by Bruce Halle, a collector of Latin American art and patron of the museum who died in 2018. In 2016, Latino advocates boycotted the organization following outlets posted symptoms supporting the re-election of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, citing the sheriff’s support for controversial anti-immigrant laws. (That tidbit didn’t make the textual content panel on the museum wall.)

A further do the job built with rubber tires and gold leaf prompts reflection on the ecological and cultural implications of extraction. It’s Betsabeé Romero’s “Columna Interminable (Countless Column)” (2015), a monumental sculpture understood by stacking 17 tires of distinct measurements inscribed with symbols culled from historic cultures including the Aztecs of historic Mexico and the Hohokam of ancient Arizona.  

Set up check out of Desert Rider (2022) at Phoenix Artwork Museum (picture by Airi Katsuta, courtesy of Phoenix Artwork Museum)

Cuban-born documentary photographer and visual anthropologist Carlotta Boettcher trains her eye on cultural, social, and historic criteria. A row of prints from her Automobiles series (1996-1997) exhibits vehicles abandoned in the New Mexico landscapes wherever they’re melding with natural features from barren trees to muddy waterways. In the meantime, her matte black car or truck hood, “13 Moons Doubled” (1992), mounted to a gallery wall indicates a story of 13 moons shared by several Indigenous cultures. 

A lot more storytelling transpires in a trio of electronic chromatic prints (2017–2021) by Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), a photographer whose lens amplifies cultural memory and lived experience from a feminine Native American standpoint. 

Cars have extensive been signifiers of position and achievement in American lifestyle, reinforcing the values of the dominant lifestyle whilst promulgating economic inequality. But in this article, Latinx and Indigenous artists use cars to amplify their cultural id and heritage even though questioning the methods that allow their erasure. 

Carlotta Boettcher, “Cars in the New Mexico Landscape – 50s Chevy with Tree (from the Autos in the New Mexico Landscape assortment)” (1996-1998), color images, electronic print on Dibond (assortment of the artist, © Carlotta Boettcher)

For Laurie Steelink (Akimel-O’otham, Gila River Indian Community), it requires the kind of “Pony” (2022), a combined-media set up developed with found objects tied to automobile society that nonetheless conveys the sacred character of the horse in Indigenous cultures. 

Several collaborating artists seek out to counter the poisonous masculinity of vehicle culture. 

Jose Villalobos embellished a few saddles with aspects of lowrider culture these types of as chain connection steering wheels, tuck-and-roll upholstery, and outsized fuzzy dice, making his “QueeRiders” (2022) installation that speaks to his gay id. 

Jose Villalobos, “QueeRiders” (2022), blended media (photo by Airi Katsuta, courtesy the artist and Phoenix Art Museum)

Sam Fresquez established synchronized driving routines filmed by way of drone in a parking lot to balletic songs for her “Synchronized Driving No. 1” (2022). Like the exhibited hearth fit and automotive gloves she’s included with seed beads, the video counters the machismo Fresquez associates with NASCAR tradition.  

At the back again of the exhibition area, viewers see Liz Cohen’s legendary “Trabantimino” (2002–2010), a hybridized car she created applying a modified Chilly War-era auto termed a Trabant, GM areas, and hydraulics. It is surrounded by numerous lithographs and coloration inkjet prints from Cohen’s “Stories Superior Told by Others” sequence paying homage to females who modeled for the include of Lowrider Magazine

The museum is also demonstrating her “Lowrider Builder and Child” C-print (2012), a self-portrait taken with her nursing child, and a movie titled “Hydro Force” (2012), showcasing Cohen running the hydraulics on her custom made-crafted lowrider while donning a bikini and higher-heel knee-length gladiator sandals for the duration of the ninth month of her initial pregnancy.

Liz Cohen, “Lowrider Builder and Child” (2012), chromogenic print (selection of Phoenix Art Museum, Museum buy with money provided by the Zuber Award and the Opatrny Loved ones Basis courtesy the artist)

Viewing Fresquez show function alongside Cohen is especially powerful due to the fact it underscores the distinctive techniques rising and founded artists in the Southwest are manifesting hybridized identities and shifting conversations all over social and cultural anticipations for Latinx and Indigenous peoples. 

A closing pairing of exhibited works, together with a small oil portray by Chicano Arts Movement pioneer Frank Romero (“Study in Pink,” 1980) and a lowrider piñata developed to scale by Favela and suspended from the ceiling (“Gypsy Rose Piñata,” 2022), indicates the techniques new generations of artists are bringing their voices to conversations about id, land, motion, and migration. 

Desert Rider carries on at Phoenix Artwork Museum (1625 North Central Avenue, Phoenix, Arizona) by means of September 18. The exhibition was curated by Gilbert Vicario, Phoenix Art Museum curator of contemporary art.