The title of San Diego-Tijuana artist Griselda Rosas' first solo museum show, "Yo te cuido," translates to "I take care of you." It's a nod to her entire artistic practice, structured primarily around the restrictions and inspirations of raising a son.
Along with Rosa's exhibit, the museum will also open the first career retrospective for El Paso artist Celia Álvarez Muñoz. The exhibits are separate and distinct, but their simultaneity lends itself to connections: both artists are Latina, spanning two separate generations experiencing life along two places around the US-Mexico border. Thematically, the works both touch on childhood within a broader framework of history and the border.
For Rosas, her exhibit marks a significant moment in an artist's career, and reflects a rich body of work that's both diverse and astonishingly coherent — in content and materials.
The exhibit is on view in a large gallery in the lower floor of the Museum of Contemporary Art — San Diego's (MCASD) La Jolla campus, and also marks the first use of this gallery space for a special exhibition.
"Yo te cuido" was originally curated by Anthony Graham, who recently left MCASD. Senior curator Jill Dawsey helped with the exhibit.
"[Rosas] is truly one of the most gifted and compelling artists of our region, just so authentically deft at working with materials," Dawsey said. "She works with embroidery, with thread to make drawings, but she's also trained in sculpture. She handles wood, cement — in this case rubber bands — that extend into the space to become drawings in the space. We are honored to be presenting her first museum exhibition and proud to have this relationship with her."
Rosas' works range from massive earthy sculptures and wall installations to small embroidered textile paintings, where Rosas uses paint and drawings along with richly detailed embroidery. Rosas, a single mother, told me about the tangible influence that parenthood has on her work, and how those smaller works are wrapped up in those limits and her home life.
"I think working on my kitchen table is significant as well, because that's my resource. My studio is not next to me, and I work at night. I think working on my kitchen table, and then eating on my table, cleaning everything, all the materials and eating there. I think that's meaningful," Rosas said.
When her son was small, Rosas began borrowing characters from his drawings — and adding embroidery with her sewing machine at the kitchen table.
"All the pieces that you see here are embroidered on my kitchen table. That's where I work," Rosas said.
Rosas' embroidery works are like tiny sculptures, layering drawings, vivid splashes of watercolor, and bright thread. The embroidery fills in, borders or embellishes the painting beneath it.
In the images, she pairs the flat, dimensionless perspectives of a child's drawings with that of Mesoamerican styles. There's weaponry and war regalia on fantastical creatures, infused with Rosas' knowledge of pre- and post-colonial history.
Dawsey said this influence of the past on the present is a staple in Rosas' work.
"You have this layering of moments in time, and the work really comes to shed light on the entanglements of the past and the present," Dawsey said.
The gallery walls are adorned with more than a dozen oversized slingshot sculptures, grouped in two series. These slingshots encapsulate Rosas' fascination with the tools and regalia of war and childhood. They're constructed from large branches found on both sides of the border, and the elastic is stretched to the brink, casting shadows like drawings of their own and filling the room with literal tension.
It's no mistake that cement loops at the bottom make some of the slingshots look like giant needles.
"I was thinking about the needle eye, so the bottom part was thinking about, how can I connect my embroidery into the slingshots. And I was thinking about tension and how do you get to the other side through a slingshot, or war and all those things," Rosa said.
Griselda Rosas' "Yo te cuido" and Celia Álvarez Muñoz's "Breaking the Binding" open at MCASD La Jolla during the Free Third Thursday event, which runs from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 16. Both exhibitions will be on view through Aug. 13.