Mourning and Scars: 20 Years After the War


February 1–28, 2013
SOMArts, 934 Brannan St.

SOMArts Cultural Center presents Mourning and Scars: 20 Years After the War, a group exhibition February 1 through 28, 2013, curated by 2012–2013 SOMArts’ Commons Curatorial Residency recipient Roxana Leiva. Works of art in a variety of media, including paintings, video, textile sculpture and large-scale multimedia installations, explore the individual experiences of reconstruction and healing in the context of El Salvador’s postwar period.

Twelve Salvadoran artists artists now living in California and New York draw upon their various experiences and family histories to create poignant works that grapple with the trauma of persecution and exile, and reveal complex personal and bi-national identities.

Carlos Rogel and Victor Cartagena contribute works which focus on bi-national responsibilities. Rogel exhibits five glass, metal and canvas panels that investigate the lived memory of nutrition and the effect of Salvadoran politics in determining the health of the populace; pollution, water potability and human rights abuses arising from the corporate extraction of minerals are interwoven in these new works, created specifically for Mourning and Scars. Cartagena contributes “Wanted/Unwanted”, a pair of digitally printed banners highlighting the harm inherent in the reliance on cheap, immigrant labor to sustain not only the immigrants and their families, but also the economies of El Salvador and the United States.

Carolina Fuentes, Juan Carlos Mendizabal and Josué Rojas use video to probe issues of cultural fusion and integration, and to examine the various manifestations of the diasporic Salvadoran identity in the United States today.

Through personal stories and songs from Salvadoran composers involved in the revolutionary struggle, Fuentes’ piece “Those names we cannot forget” pays tribute to the unsung heroes whose names are known by few—and whose names are never mentioned in the official history. “Las Tocayas (namesakes) share experiences of love, friendship, camaraderie, and persecution as they meditate on the impact of war and death on members of their generation who, as young activists, embraced social justice ideals.

Mendizabal creates an immersive physical space where the viewer is ushered through a multi-sensory experience, anchored by a video collage of stories that focuses on the artist’s childhood in El Salvador in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the perspective Mendizabal gained after immigrating to the United States and visiting El Salvador as an adult.

Josué Rojas examines the cultural costs of migration and showcases disparate identities, pairing paintings and video portraits to personify different aspects of culture through archetypal characters, including an exuberant leftist, radical Christian, veteran, deportee, mother and an assimilated American immigrant who chooses never to reflect on the past.

An installation by Beatriz Cortez features an interactive library exploring the role literature plays in the preservation and reconstruction of memory. Symbolic objects, such as books gift wrapped, preserved in resin or modified to become a flourishing garden, serve as metaphors for aspects of Salvadoran identity. The installation reference both the library as a secret hiding place of messages, documents, and money during wartime and the need to conceal important pieces of literature from government censorship.

Exhibiting artists include:

Tessie Barrera-Scharaga
Victor Cartagena
Beatriz Cortez
Carolina Fuentes
Plinio Hernández
Leticia Hernández-Linares
Juan Carlos Mendizabal
Roque Montez
Rosario Moore
Carolina Rivera
Carlos Rogel
Josué Rojas

Mourning and Scars is one of four exhibition proposals selected to receive a 2012–13 Commons Curatorial Residency exhibition at SOMArts. Selected artists and curators receive curatorial stipends and a support package valued at over $20,000, as well as access to one of the largest and most beautiful gallery spaces in the heart of the city to expand their practice, engage the Bay Area’s cultural communities and turn vision into reality.

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