2017. Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO
As a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, Justin Favela has been influenced by the cultural mash-ups so prevalent there. The pastiche of architectural styles and historical references serves as a launch pad for his studio practice. He notes that there are generations, or layers, of appropriation in his hometown: the Venetian casino complex and its furnishings are based on tourist images of Venice, while its structure encompasses shopping malls and slot machines, among other things, none of which exist in the Italian city.
With piñatas as stylistic inspiration, Favela critiques stereotypes by assessing their absurdities and then exaggerating them. In Denver’s installation, Favela looks to Mexican artists José María Velasco (1840–1912) and Frida Kahlo (1907–1954) to invite us into a dialogue about home and identity. For Fridalandia, Favela created a massive mural using piñata paper based on paintings by Velasco and other Mexican colonial artists. This landscape serves as a backdrop for a re-creation of Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul patio garden, as captured in Julie Taymor’s 2002 film Frida. Favela questions perceptions about Mexico and the Americas, translating so-called high art through his use of craft materials to critique imagined symbols of Mexicanidad.