November 7, 2020 - December 19, 2020
David Klein Gallery, 1520 Washington Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan is pleased to announce the opening of Gatekeepers, an exhibition of new paintings by Marianna Olague. A reception for the artist will take place on Saturday, November 7, 1–8 PM, by reservation via Tock.
Olague’s work is about living in the borderland desert of El Paso, Texas, a predominately Hispanic city on the Mexican border. The Frontera is almost 2000 miles long, running from southern Texas all the way to southern California. It’s physical and psychological existence has a deep impact on the people who live in the cities and rural towns along the border. In El Paso, the border fence juts up against neighborhoods and playgrounds, it’s looming presence a two-story wire-mesh fence sitting atop a concrete slab. The brutalist structure of the fence blocks the former views of the Rio Grande and its surrounding greenery. Residents say they are used to it now.
Throughout art history artists have called upon family members, friends and neighbors to sit for them. Olague continues that tradition, inviting her family to be the subjects of her narrative paintings. She is adept at capturing their likenesses but also their personalities and inner presence. In the painting, Mom Delivers Grubhub, the expression on her mother’s face and her bearing as she climbs the steps tells a story at one glance. The young man’s posture and his t-shirt, spiked necklace and tattoos in Todo Se Vuelve Alma, suggests what might be on his mind and in his heart.
"I use portraiture to explore what it means to be Mexican American in the 21st century, providing a glimpse into the private lives of my own family. Like most people of color, my family members were born into poverty and still cling to the idea of the American dream in hopes of rising above their circumstances. This series of portraits captures those moments of minority struggle and labor but also moments of idleness, daydreaming and disillusionment that accompany the Mexican American experience." -Marianna Olague, October 2020
Olague’s use of pure brilliant color adds a dazzling vitality to the sun-bleached landscape of southern Texas. Shedding the expected palette, blue skies become orange, concrete walls look like sunsets and foliage turns cobalt blue. All becomes a celebration of the native culture and community of the borderland city of El Paso.
Marianna thinks of her beloved subjects as Gatekeepers: “As children of migrant parents and grandparents, Mexican Americans have little to call their own in a country that finds new ways to deny their existence, but what is most immediate, most undeniably ours is the culture we grew up in. Being Mexican American means family, culture and place become sources of immeasurable pride and security. Within each painting, my loved ones act as gatekeepers of their own private worlds, guarding domestic and public spaces perceived as threats to American white consciousness.”
Marianna Olague lives and works in El Paso, Texas. She holds an MFA in painting from Cranbrook Academy of Art, Bloomfield Hills, MI and a BFA from the University of El Paso, El Paso TX. In 2019 Olague was named an Artist in Residence at the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany and awarded an Artist in Residence at the Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas in 2020. Olague’s work is in multiple private and public collections including the Rubin center for Visual Arts in El Paso, TX and Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, MI. She will have her first solo exhibition at David Klein Gallery, Detroit, in November 2020.