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Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art presents Border Cantos: Sight & Sound Explorations from the Mexican-American Border

Richard Misrach, Agua #1, near Calexico, California, 2004 / Agua nº 1, cerca de Calexico, California, 2004

Pigment print, 60 x 72 inches, Courtesy of the artist.

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art announces the temporary exhibition, Border Cantos: Sight & Sound Explorations from the Mexican-American Border, on view February 18 through April 24, 2017. Admission to Crystal Bridges and Border Cantos is free.

Border Cantos, a unique collaboration between American photographer Richard Misrach and Mexican American sculptor/composer Guillermo Galindo, uses the power of art to explore the complex issues surrounding the United States-Mexico border.

“Through exhibiting works by artists of different cultural backgrounds, we are able to broaden our understanding of the American experience. Border Cantos invites visitors to explore the migrant experience in a setting that’s inclusive and respectful,” said Rod Bigelow, Crystal Bridges Executive Director, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

The exhibition features approximately 80 works of photography, sculpture, found objects, and sound that document and transform artifacts from the border. Misrach, who has focused his photography on the border since 2004, documents landscapes and objects, including items left behind by migrants.  His large-scale photographs, along with grids of smaller photos, highlight issues surrounding migration and its effect on regions and people.

Responding to these photographs, Galindo fashioned sound-generating sculptures from objects Misrach collected along the border, such as water bottles, Border Patrol “drag tires,” spent shotgun shells, ladders, and sections of the border wall itself. The sounds they produce give voices to people through the personal belongings they have left behind. 

“We’re artists; we’re not politicians. We want to give people the experience of the border, and to get acquainted with the immigrants’ journey. To make it palpable. To make it human.” — Guillermo Galindo, referring to himself and Richard Misrach.

The exhibition, Border Cantos, was born of a chance encounter at an event in San Francisco in 2011 when Misrach attended a performance by Galindo featuring his original compositions played on instruments he constructed of objects found at the US-Mexico border. By the next year, the two artists started to develop their work in tandem. Misrach began thinking of his photographs as having a musical quality to them and Galindo’s compositions materialized into images, each interpreting a landscape laden with remnants of individual’s journeys. 

“While the topic of the US-Mexico border is challenging and even divisive at times, Misrach and Galindo seek to bridge divides instead of creating barriers. The artwork in the exhibition creates a space for visitors to develop a deeper understanding of the complicated issues surrounding the border,” said Ali Demorotski, exhibition curator at Crystal Bridges.

As part of Border Cantos, Crystal Bridges created an advisory committee with local Hispanic/Latino community leaders to receive feedback and guidance on the exhibition, programs, and interpretive elements in order to be more culturally inclusive. The museum has partnered with groups and individuals to provide supplemental programs and expand the conversation into schools, churches, libraries, and other community-based organizations. Members of the museum’s exhibition team have also been facilitating speaker’s bureau events around the community. These presentations provide an overview of the exhibition, offer insights, and spark conversations about the complex topics in Border Cantos.

Border Cantos helps us engage a broad audience by offering programs outside the walls of the museum and a completely bilingual exhibition with the addition of Spanish-language materials and tours,” said Bigelow.

In addition to the works of art in the gallery, Border Cantos provides resources and programs to deepen understanding of the exhibition and subject matter: 

  • Border Map: just inside the entrance, the map gives visitors an overview of the history and geography of the US-Mexico border.
  • Listening Stations: provide recordings of Galindo interacting with objects that are now on view in the gallery.
  • Community Response Labels: written by members of the Border Cantos advisory committee who each shared a personal reflection about a work that stood out to them.
  • Conversation Prompts: intended to facilitate conversation and thought, these open-ended questions invite visitors to draw on their own experiences to relate to the exhibition.
  • Interactive Activities: located at the exit of the exhibition, visitors are invited to write their personal migration or heritage story on a sticky note and place it on a large map of the world. In addition, there are four short videos from members of the Northwest Arkansas community providing stories about their experiences crossing the US-Mexico border and immigrating into the region.
  • Sculpture: Fuente de lágrimas (Fountain of tears) by Guillermo Galindo is located near the entrance to the gallery space.
  • Brochure: available at the exhibition exit. Instead of a guide through the exhibition, this is a takeaway which provides additional information about the artists and programming.
  • Exhibition Tours: Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays, 1 to 2 p.m. (English) and NEW Sundays, 2 to 3 p.m. (Spanish). Enjoy a tour through the temporary exhibition with one of Crystal Bridges’ knowledgeable Gallery Guides.
  • Restaurant: inspired by Border Cantos, the chefs of the museum’s restaurant, Eleven, have created a menu that celebrates the culinary heritage of our neighbors to the south with a new Border Cantos Tasting Menu.
  • Catalog: Border Cantos catalog features photographs by Richard Misrach, instruments and graphic scores by Guillermo Galindo, and introduction and text by Josh Kun. The catalog will be available for purchase in the museum store. Published by Aperture, April 2016
  • Public Programs: Crystal Bridges will offer a full roster of programs tied to the exhibition, including a free, Opening Spotlight Lecture with Richard Misrach on February 17 and a Performance Lab with the Quartet by Guillermo Galindo on February 24.

To learn more about Border Cantos, visit the Crystal Bridges website. Non-flash photography is welcome for personal, non-commercial use. Follow and share with the hashtag #CBBorderCantos on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

This exhibition was organized by artists and participating museums. Border Cantos premiered at San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, California, February 26–July 31, 2016; and traveled to Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, October 15–December 31, 2016; before it arrived at Crystal Bridges.

Sponsors include the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Bentonville Film Festival, Denise and Hershey Garner, Gilman and Gonzalez-Falla Arts Foundation, Frank and Pat Bailey, James and Emily Bost, Lynn and Joel Carver, David and Jane Gearhart, Ferguson Immigration Law, Consulate of Mexico in Little Rock. Supported in part by a grant from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.