Cuevas focuses on politics and environment in new exhibit

Special to the Ticker | USG

Special to the Ticker | USG

Sven Larsen

The Mishkin Gallery, located in Baruch College’s Administrative Building on 22nd Street, held a gallery talk on Sept. 25 to continue the discussions Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas started in her exhbit Minerva Cuevas: DISIDENCIA.

Clayton Press, an art advisor and Forbes contributing writer, guided visitors through DISEDENCIA‘s complexities with a short tour through Cuevas’ works. 

Press began with a reading from Greta Thunberg’s speech at the U.N.’s climate session. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” quoted Press, who continued that, “I feel in a sense kind of a nice coincidence, a bit of a gift, to have this in mind for Minerva and how she looks to view the children and the people who are thoroughly engaged in expressing themselves.”

Pieces tackle environmental issues, workers’ rights, racism, political turmoil, worries for the children’s future and much more. Despite varying topics and media, DISIDENCIA does grapple with each opportunity for expression with a heightened and nuanced focus on ideas. 

Communication trumps purely subjective commentary, trusting audiences to assemble meanings from the context and perspective Cuevas provides.

“Minerva is not that one type of artists that the art market likes,” explained Press. “She’s not one thing. She doesn’t just do x, she doesn’t just do y.”

Cuevas presents much more than just x and y in DISIDENCIA. As many artists have, she accepts video and audio work as effective media, especially for a growing social media-focused and online world.

The Mishkin Gallery’s intimate space creates a looping atmosphere of Cuevas’ work. Soundscapes from one-piece bleed over their adjacent walls, providing a constant unity when laced together with other audio in the exhibit. There is a lack of walls themselves; when entering, DISIDENCIA introduces itself with open candor, displaying five of the eight works as a greeting.

The exhibit says Not Impressed by Civilization in its titular video at the center of the gallery. The video performance piece captures Cuevas sleeping outdoors in western Canada. She says “we value human life more than life,” priming the dissent into what has defined us that the gallery continues to analyze.

Despite being her first-ever solo show in New York City, DISIDENCIA remains void of Cuevas. Even when she appears in Not Impressed by Civilization, she remains non-focal and camouflaged. 

This sense of detachment from her work runs only on the surface. Beyond the video projected on walls, Cuevas projects herself forth as her own curator choosing how to capture her ideas and present them in the most alluring ways.

Cuevas speaks through Donald McRonald, an effigy of McDonald’s mascot that asks actual customers of the restaurant, “Do you want diabetes?” As one of the more overt pieces, she comments directly on the vast issues modern capitalism, only to be represented by her video and a red wig on display.

Cuevas often layers on allegories like painting over what has previously been thought or said. She matures the child-like vehicle of storytelling with a magic lantern in La venganza del elefante to fully realize the racist and power corruptive themes lurking behind the story.

DISIDENCIA‘s ocular breadth spans across and through continents and themes, posing as both parochial and global. In the culmination piece, Disidencia, Cuevas returns to Mexico to film over decade’s worth of various resistance in its capital. The disturbance of protest and ideological baggage it carries flood Cueva’s intricate filming, settling on shorter shots of protests jabbed together over two classical music scores. No narration is needed from Cuevas; representing the zeitgeist of a generation is enough to express the issues suffocating modern people.

The gallery pays passionate attention to not just Cuevas’ work, but also in catering to one the most allusive audiences in art; busy college students. Talks like these often are given from Baruch College professors and various community-based events take place in the gallery’s space just for students, such as open art time.

Balancing the space as a New York City art gallery and a student space has been an ongoing initiative for the gallery’s newest director, Alaina Claire Feldman who also seeks out amplifying artists’ voices that haven’t been heard due to race, gender, sexuality or age.

By mirroring Baruch College’s own diversity and strides in expanding what institutions can be, the Mishkin Gallery continues the growth of the arts in such a business-minded environment.

Minerva Cuevas: DISIDENCIA runs until Nov. 1.