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Home | Tag Archives: Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts

Tag Archives: Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts

Satiric Drawings Picked ‘Best’ at 2020 UTEP Student Art Show

Alfredo Ortega shared with great pride that the money his parents used to pay the hospital for his birth came from proceeds of his father’s art. The recent graduate of The University of Texas at El Paso said art has been part of his life ever since.

Ortega, born in Chihuahua City, Mexico, and raised in El Paso, has earned some recognition for his talent through the years. He earned his latest accolade, the Arlene Smith McKinnon Endowment Purse Award for Overall Best of Show, when the winners were announced at the 2020 Annual Juried UTEP Student Art Virtual Exhibition on the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts Facebook page.

The artist won with his vibrant “A Wall Full of Devils,” 20 individual ink-and-watercolor drawings that offer a satiric look at U.S. presidents and their foibles. He said he created the images from his longtime perspective as an undocumented immigrant, but his newfound legal status – and his art – gave him a voice.

His work on 30-inch by 22-inch paper showed imaginative, stream-of-consciousness concepts that touched on politics, pop culture, immigration, consumerism, environmentalism and more.

“I felt the freedom to express what I think about a particular subject,” said Ortega, who earned this spring a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from UTEP with concentrations in painting and drawing and an honors minor from the College of Liberal Arts.

He said that an artist friend sent him a phone message with the news as he worked at a U-Haul rental shop in Northeast El Paso on May 28 when the winners were announced.

“I was surprised and happy,” the artist said. “I was not expecting this. I was at work by myself so I couldn’t share the news with anyone. I called my wife and my family to tell them and everyone was excited. I ordered some pizza that night so we could celebrate.”

Marisa Sage, director and head curator at the New Mexico State University Art Museum, was this year’s fine arts judge. She said she chose Ortega’s work because of how he used composition and concept to address the very timely issues of failed bureaucracy, tyranny, oppression, environmentalism, immigration, and the abuse of power by political leaders past and present.

“Using collage, drawing and painting, he uses satire and creative freedom to approach very difficult yet urgent topics, spawning new questions surrounding the possibility of change in our social political climate,” Sage said.

Ortega was among the 91 undergraduates who submitted 356 entries in categories that encompassed graphic design and fine arts such as print, drawing, painting, sculpture, ceramics, graphic design, jewelry/small-scale metal and photograph/digital image.

What made this show unique was that many of the students finished their art pieces away from UTEP in makeshift art studios in and around their homes and with whatever materials they could find. Faculty members said that these entries showed the students’ ingenuity.

Ortega said that he finished his project in his home’s kitchen, which was cramped, underlit and full of human and technological distractions that slowed his creative process. He said he will use part of the $1,000 prize to create a small home workshop.

Among the evening’s other winners was Sara Isasi, a senior double major in graphic design and drawing with a minor in communication studies. Her “1960s Psychedelic Posters in El Paso” digital print earned Best Graphic Design.

She said that she and members of her family gathered around to watch the video and started to celebrate with hugs, good wishes and a few tears after her name was announced. Soon other friends, family members and co-workers began to call or send her congratulatory texts.

“I felt really happy and proud of myself,” Isasi said of her ’60s-era submission that was colorful, iconic, and yes, groovy. “Although I could not go out to celebrate this achievement with my family and friends, it still was very beautiful to hear from them and receive their love and support through different platforms.”

The graphic design jurors were Joel Martinez and Iris Morales, co-owners and co-creative directors of El Paso-based EME Design Studios. Martinez said the students did outstanding work, but that he and Morales were especially pleased with Isasi’s winning entry. They lauded its well-balanced composition of color, layout and typography and said it could have been presented to a professional client.

“We based our selection on three essential elements of graphic design: function, concept and aesthetics,” said Martinez, who earned his BFA at UTEP in 2004. “This piece was executed flawlessly judging from these three elements.”

David Griffin, professor and chair of the Department of Art, lauded Rubin Center officials for their decision to go through with the student art show. To have done otherwise would have marginalized the students’ academic and artistic achievements, he said.

Griffin congratulated every art show participant in recorded comments that were part of the virtual awards ceremony. He praised the students for their perseverance and dedication to their craft in the face of COVID-19 restrictions, and encouraged them to stay creative.

“Go out, do the best you can and make art,” Griffin said.

Author: Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

Video+Story: 3D Printer Gives UTEP Art Students More Options

About 20 students from The University of Texas at El Paso have put a 21st century spin on ceramics, one of civilization’s oldest art forms, and their creations will be part of an exhibit that opens January 24, 2019, at the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts.

“Sections: New Cities, Future Ruins at the Border” will include 170 pieces of different shapes and sizes that were designed by students using a special computer program and produced via a 3D ceramics printer that used locally harvested and processed clay.

The show will be in the center’s large Rubin Gallery through April 6, 2019. The National Endowment for the Arts funded the exhibition and related activities.

The software and the printer were gifts from the Rubin’s visiting artists Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello, educators, architects and co-founders of Emerging Objects, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in innovative 3D printing solutions for buildings, interiors and environments.

Kerry Doyle, the Rubin Center director, called this one of the most important collaborations between a visiting artist and UTEP students in terms of its long-term applications for the students. She said the 3D printer, installed in the Ceramics Lab during the fall 2018 semester, offers art students novel opportunities.

“We always try to connect our visiting artists with our students and we’ve had many successful collaborations in the past, but nothing as in-depth as this,” she said referring to their use of local clay and innovative 3D technology. “I think this will change the way our students make ceramics.”

Vincent Burke, associate professor of art who specializes in ceramics, helped Rael and San Fratello prepare for the exhibit. The pair rewarded Burke’s efforts and those of his students by donating the 3D printer, which Burke called “a disruptor” because of the polar views his students have about this new technology.

“No one was lukewarm,” he said. “I reminded them that (the printer) does not necessarily replace using our hands or a potter’s wheel. It’s a 21st century way to conceptualize our artistic practices and execute what is difficult if not impossible to do by hand.”

Burke said he was grateful that he and his students had the opportunity to work on this project. He called it a challenge for everyone involved including him, but a thrilling experience overall. The benefits ranged from interdisciplinary collaborations and working with professional artists to learning about native clays and how to use cutting-edge 3D technology.

“Our new 3D printer is an incredible tool that will provide our students with a great opportunity to learn a new skill that more and more artists are using around the world,” he said. “It’s a game changer for us. It’s really remarkable. The key is using it in the service of art and ideas that reflect our unique individual voices.”

Rael, who was at UTEP the week of January 7 to create a large display for the exhibit, said he donated the printer because he wanted to give the students an opportunity to combine their knowledge with local materials and new technology.

“The idea was, ‘How do we expand on cross-border cultures and allow the creativity of Vince and his students to produce a series of objects that come from this region materially and intellectually?’,” said Rael during an interview in one of the Rubin Center’s first-floor workshops next to a table full of the student art pieces.

He noted the diversity of the shapes, textures and complexions of the vessels, and said that each reflected the students’ personal narratives. He said the variety of pieces excited him and that they were beyond his expectations collectively.

“I’m overwhelmed by looking at each one of them,” said Rael, who complimented Burke and his students for the passion and the creative, intellectual and physical energy they brought to the project. He estimated that they all had put hundreds if not thousands of hours into the collaboration, which he called one of the best of his career.

Rael, a professor of architecture at the University of California, Berkeley, and San Fratello, an associate professor of interior design at San Jose State University, decided to use native clay, which has its roots in the area’s adobe and pottery, to promote their environmental art for the Rubin exhibit. The difference from the student work is the Californians used an industrial-sized 3D printer to create what would become a circular adobe vessel that would stand more than 6 feet tall.

It was the artists’ desire to familiarize themselves with the region’s clay that brought them into contact with Burke during the summer of 2017. The pair worked with the UTEP professor to find different clays, process them, and test them to see which deposits would work best for their project. Burke, with the help of Richard Langford, Ph.D., professor in UTEP’s Department of Geological Sciences, mapped out different clay deposits throughout El Paso County. About 20 students, including Dina Edens, Burke’s teaching assistant at the time, participated in the labor-intensive clay harvesting.

Edens, who earned her bachelor’s degree in ceramics and metalsmithing in December 2018, said she was excited about every aspect of this project from digging, processing and testing the clay to assembling the 3D printer, learning how to use it and then sharing that knowledge with others.

“I’m used to using my hands for ceramics, but this (printer) is an exciting new tool that can be used in so many different ways,” she said. “I used it as soon as I could. It really blew my mind.”

Burke called the new 3D printer a dynamic intersection of disciplines where fine art, science and the humanities interweave and inform each other.

“It’s a different type of language and a unique process that will allow UTEP fine art students to conceptually engage with our ancient medium in new and exciting ways,” Burke said.

Author:  Daniel Perez – UTEP Communications

UTEP, El Paso, Juárez Among Finalists for Cross-Border Art Project Funding

The Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts, along with the Cities of El Paso and Juárez, are in the running for an award that will provide funding for a joint cross-border art installation.

Bloomberg Philanthropies announced that El Paso is one of 14 cities that could receive up to $1 million as part of the Bloomberg Philanthropies Public Art Challenge.

“The Rubin Center has a dynamic history of presenting contemporary art that involves artists and audiences from both sides of the border,” said Kerry Doyle, director of the Rubin Center at The University of Texas at El Paso.

“This partnership with the City of El Paso, the El Paso Community Foundation and our partners in Juárez highlights the strong connections we have with our sister city, and the importance of building bridges for the future.”

The proposed art installation is titled “Border Tuner.” The project, led by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, includes a series of light and sound installations that will connect El Paso and Juárez with robotic searchlights that make a bridge of light. The light sources open bidirectional live sound channels that allow people from each side of the border to communicate with each other from three stations at Juárez’s Chamizal Park and three at Bowie High School in El Paso.

In February, Bloomberg Philanthropies invited mayors from U.S. cities with a population of 30,000 or more to submit proposals for temporary public art projects. More than 200 cities applied with proposals that fostered creative collaboration, addressed civic issues and supported local economies through public art.

Bloomberg Philanthropies will select at least three winners among the 14 finalists in the fall to execute their projects over the course of 24 months. The grants will cover project-related expenses but will not fund 100 percent of the total project costs.

Other participating foundations for the El Paso/Juárez art project include the El Paso Community Foundation, Fundación Comunitaria Paso del Norte and the state government of Chihuahua.

Best Student Artwork to Shine at Annual UTEP Show

When her work was included in the 2017 Annual Juried UTEP Student Art Exhibition, Sarah Aguilar said she was surprised. When she learned that two of her pieces were accepted for the 2018 show, her reaction was more of relief.

“It feels rewarding because I work hard on my pieces,” Aguilar said as she took a break from the installation of one of her pieces in the show. She is one of the center’s education interns. “I’m kind of relieved that it’s over. I’ve done the best that I can and I’ve submitted them. Now, I can exhale.”

Aguilar, a senior arts major with a concentration in drawing and minor in printmaking, used a collage of 108 drawings with brief text for “Found Objects and Questions,” and used an intaglio printing process to create “Are You Picking Up What I’m Putting Down,” which was based on a photo she shot of a discarded shoe on a downtown El Paso street.

The El Paso native’s artwork is among the 82 pieces created by 63 student artists from The University of Texas at El Paso for this year’s show that opened May 4, 2018, in the Gerald and Stanlee Rubin Center for the Visual Arts. The displays will be up through Aug. 10, 2018.

Jason Lucero earned the Arlene Smith McKinnon Endowment Purchase Award for Overall Best in Show for “A Miscommunication with Conversationalists.” Jasmine Flores won the Sarah and Tom Lea Purchase Award for Best Life Drawing or Life Painting for her “Stream of Consciousness.” Each earned $750.

Kerry Doyle, Rubin Center director and the show’s organizer, said this event always brings big crowds because of the number of new artists represented, and the interest in their style and level of craftsmanship.

“There are always a few surprises, but at the same time, some of the best work rises to the top,” she said.

For the students, this event is special because their work is judged by top professionals with international reputations. The faculty and staff play no role in the decisions of the judges, who have their own different, subjective aesthetic view.

This year’s jurists were San Francisco-area illustrator Craig Frazier for the graphic arts, and Mexico City visual artist Betsabeé Romero for the fine arts. They reviewed the approximately 400 submissions of drawings, paintings, prints, ceramics, sculptures, jewelry, metalsmithing and graphic designs, and selected about 100 finalists before choosing the winners. A blind juror process was used to ensure no favoritism.

The process is similar to what these students will need to follow to apply for grants and art shows, or to sell their work, Doyle said.

“There are opportunities for success and rejection, but students have to learn to put themselves out there,” she said. “The show is important, but the process is equally important.”

This competition is a high-impact experience that UTEP students can use on their resumes, CVs, and graduate school and job applications, said David Griffin, chair of UTEP’s Department of Art.

“The level of work shown is really phenomenal,” Griffin said. “Past jurors have commended us on our students’ work.”

Zachary Silva, a senior double major in art history and studio art, said he looks forward to seeing the work of his peers, but he is most excited to see the public’s reaction to his two pieces that were accepted into the show.

Silva said he stayed in the campus art studios well into the night for about two months to create the pieces that are anchored in printmaking, a time-consuming art form. “Animal Group Triptych” is a three-panel piece that includes bits of text, and “Strangers in the Night” has a sculptural component and is based on an abstract narrative about relationships.

“This is my first time in the show, so this is exciting,” said Silva, an El Paso native. “This shows that others appreciate my concepts enough that they want to show them to others.”

For Aguilar, the art show is like experiencing the end of a leg of an artistic journey. She understands how practice and failure have propelled her to where she is as an artist.

“I know I have a long way to go to get better, but (participating in this show) is a sign that I’m doing something right.”

Author:  Daniel Perez – 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

Author: Esmeralda Treviño – UTEP Communications

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