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Argentinian artist Maximo Gonzalez’ “Magnificent Warning” exhibition was displayed in the Rubin Center atrium during the winter of 2013. Photo by UTEP Communications
Argentinian artist Maximo Gonzalez’ “Magnificent Warning” exhibition was displayed in the Rubin Center atrium during the winter of 2013. Photo by UTEP Communications

UTEP’s Rubin Center Celebrates a Decade in Art

For more than 10 years, the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts at The University of Texas at El Paso has focused on bringing thought-provoking international contemporary art to the border region.

The Rubin’s latest showcase, the 2016 UTEP Department of Art Biennial Faculty Exhibition, is no exception. This exhibition will feature recent works from distinguished faculty members from the UTEP Department of Art focused on the “creative life” of working artists.

The show will begin Wednesday, March 16, 2016, and run through Saturday, April 23. The Rubin Center will host panel discussions with the participating artists throughout the showcase.

Internationally renowned artworks that respond to the geographic and political location of the border, along with exhibitions that explore hands-on practices in contemporary art, have attracted visitors from countries across the world to the Rubin Center.

“The Rubin Center is the only exhibition venue in El Paso that has a

Artist Tomas Saraceno launches a lighter-than-air sculpture in the "Becoming Aerosolar" exhibition at White Sands that was part of the Rubin Center's 10th anniversary events in 2015. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP Communications
Artist Tomas Saraceno launches a lighter-than-air sculpture in the “Becoming Aerosolar” exhibition at White Sands that was part of the Rubin Center’s 10th anniversary events in 2015. Photo by Laura Trejo / UTEP Communications

mission to bring contemporary art and current thinking and art practice to our community,” said Rachelle Thiewes, internationally renowned metal smith and jewelry artist and former UTEP professor. “As an artist working in El Paso, I find it’s programming invaluable to my own art practice.”

Supplementing UTEP’s mission to provide higher education to the residents of El Paso and the surrounding region, which includes Juárez and Chihuahua, Mexico, the Rubin Center is committed to understanding the international and multicultural character of the border region.

From 1980 to 2004, UTEP’s Main and Glass Galleries comprised the University’s major exhibit spaces. The Rubin Center, located in Seamon Hall, opened in 2004 after the 1928 building underwent a $2.2 million renovation.

The galleries increase appreciation and awareness of visual culture through art exhibitions from both Mexico and the United States.

Performance artist and then-UTEP student Xochitl Rodriguez is part of her piece "White Hole -- Maybe Someday" on display as part of the 2009 Annual Juried UTEP Student Art Exhibition. Photo by UTEP Communications
Performance artist and then-UTEP student Xochitl Rodriguez is part of her piece “White Hole — Maybe Someday” on display as part of the 2009 Annual Juried UTEP Student Art Exhibition. Photo by UTEP Communications

“I think the Rubin Center plays an important role in interdisciplinary art that pushes the boundaries,” said Paola Lopez, professor of voice movement and dancing at UTEP. “It’s a really important venue for contemporary art in the community.”

Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center, said the center is a laboratory for emerging artists and innovative practitioners.

“We serve as a learning site for students from The University of Texas at El Paso and the surrounding community by creating opportunities for student involvement in the planning and execution of exhibitions, and through formal and informal educational opportunities for audiences of all ages,” Doyle said.

Not only does the Rubin Center serve as a showcase for art and a learning site for students, it also can be used as a classroom or meeting center for certain events. In order to initiate thought-provoking innovative and cross-disciplinary conversations within the arts and between partners from colleges throughout UTEP, the Rubin uses the classroom setting to expand its circle of visitors and supporters.

“The Rubin Center has gained a considerable reputation in the U.S., and that reputation is beginning to branch out internationally,” Thiewes said. “This lifts the University profile as an institution that supports arts education. Importantly, all UTEP students, faculty and staff have access to current contemporary thinking in the arts through the exhibits and lectures presented by the Rubin.”

Visiting artists create site-specific installations, give public lectures and conduct workshops for area high school and university students. The Rubin has hosted artists from throughout the United States and Latin America, in addition to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Argentinian artist Maximo Gonzalez' "Magnificent Warning" exhibition was displayed in the Rubin Center atrium during the winter of 2013. Photo by UTEP Communications
Argentinian artist Maximo Gonzalez’ “Magnificent Warning” exhibition was displayed in the Rubin Center atrium during the winter of 2013. Photo by UTEP Communications

Since the center opened in 2004, it has displayed more than 75 exhibitions of contemporary art, several of which have traveled throughout Texas and around the country.

Every Rubin Center exhibition offers community members a direct experience with contemporary artists and curators of international recognition and importance.

Exhibitions and programming have been recognized and supported through generous grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Lannan Foundation, the Leonard Nemoy Foundation and others.

Among the gallery’s exhibitions featuring local and international artists is the annual Juried UTEP Student Art Exhibition, showcasing undergraduate student art from all mediums – painting, drawing, sculpture, ceramics, metals and graphic design.

The Rubin Center celebrated UTEP’s Centennial in 2014 with an exhibition of works from more than 100 different artists, which included art department alumni. Titled “10 Squared: 100 Artists Celebrate the Centennial,” local artists and past and current faculty members were invited to create 100 cm x 100 cm works of art celebrating the University’s 100th anniversary.

The Rubin Center delayed its 10th anniversary celebration until 2015 in order to commemorate UTEP’s Centennial year in 2014.

In celebration, the Rubin hosted a series of exhibitions focusing on space and art on the U.S.-Mexico border centered on the theme “Territory of the Imagination.” The title is a phrase borrowed from a former director of the National Science Foundation “to describe the special place that both artists and scientists inhabit,” Doyle said.

The project included a series of exhibitions, workshops and public events in El Paso and Juárez, Mexico and sought to put space-related technology into the hands of communities that have little to no access to the technological infrastructure behind commercial or governmental use of space.

Several artists spoke at “Aerosolar: Space without Rockets,” a program and conference about alternatives in space exploration as art.

Among the speakers was Tomás Saraceno, artist and initiator of numerous aerosolar, lighter-than-air projects, collectives and ideas. He also launched one of his lighter-than-air sculptures at White Sands Missile Range on Nov. 8, 2015. The Argentine-born, Berlin-based artist came to the border to demonstrate through a floating sculpture in the dramatic landscape of the White Sands desert how we can float into space.

“The Rubin Center has grown to become a shining star in our community since its founding,” said Rebecca Krasne, strong supporter of the Rubin Center. “The Rubin has helped put UTEP and its art department on the map and has given UTEP students an incredible opportunity to engage with art on a whole new level and expand their perspectives beyond the University and El Paso.”

The Rubin Center is open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. The Rubin Center is closed on UTEP home game Saturdays. For more information on the Rubin Center, including a calendar of upcoming events, how to become a member, and more visit their website at rubin.utep.edu

Author: Esmeralda Treviño – UTEP Communications

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