"The People of Mexico" (2017) by Wood Fancher Anthony. 

STEP INTO HOLOCAUST MUSEUM Houston’S Mincberg Gallery and Spira Central Gallery, and you’re transported to a world of social justice, human rights, and a celebration of Latinx culture from the eyes of 100 Houston-based Latinx artists.

Named Withstand: Latinx Art in Times of Conflict, the massive, multimedia exhibition—it also includes sculptures in the Lester and Sue Smith Human Rights Gallery—opened April 30 as the museum’s first juried exhibition. Each piece in the exhibition encapsulates issues like social and political turmoil, the immigrant experience, border relations, gender roles, and domestic violence, provoking deeper discussion. 

If you're wondering how a Latinx art exhibit gels with the rest of the space, which is the fourth-largest museum in the country that's dedicated to the Holocaust, co-curator Gabriela Magana says she believes it’s the ideal home for Withstand

"I think the HMH is a perfect platform to talk about the themes the exhibition touches on,'' Magana tells Houstonia. "To talk and learn about the Holocaust allows us to talk and learn about other human rights violations. The exhibition enhances the conversation the permanent exhibition raises."

That conversation includes oppression and resilience across the globe.

"We asked the Latinx Houston artists to respond to the concept of resistance," says Magana, who was born in Mexico and who, along with Venezuela-native Rosa Ana Orlando, curated the 100-piece exhibition. "The artists took that concept and approached it in very different ways. Some talked from personal experiences and others from a witness’s point of view. They dealt with themes of social issues, identity, women’s issues, while others approached it from a positive point of view, recognizing the capacity to overcome and being resilient."

Magana and Orlando spent several months combing through the 200-plus entries they received following the exhibit’s open call in August 2020—something Magana notes as a gratifying experience for her. 

One piece both Magana and Orlando note as exemplifying the exhibition’s themes is “La Gente de Mexico - The People of Mexico,” painted in 2017 by Mexico native Wood Fancher Anthony with oil paints on canvas. The painting is full of vibrant characters who directly reference Mexican culture, including a skeleton dressed in a charro outfit and playing the guitar.

It depicts "struggles and violence but also focuses on hope and the human ability to overcome adversities," says Orlando, calling it a metaphor for the imperfection of humankind. 

Magana agrees. Ultimately the piece—much like the exhibition—is a message of hope. 

"There is something special to the way the painting was made," Magana says, "the thick layers of paint reminiscing of the Mexican culture, people who work with their hands, building their craft and building their future."

The exhibit is on display at the Houston Holocaust Museum’s Mincberg and Spira Central galleries until Oct. 17, 2021. Get into the museum for free on June 12, July 10, and August 14. Learn more about Summer Free Days here and the exhibition itself here

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