IAP Interview: Olivié Ponce
“I believe that now is the perfect time to put together Mexican artists from around the world in a show that will speak for our country.”
NYFA recently had the opportunity to speak with Olivié Ponce, (IAP ‘09) artist and creator of Mextasis, a symposium in Bushwick, Brooklyn this summer. Mextasis is a symposium consisting of art created solely by Mexican artists in an attempt to re-shape the ‘unsettling fame’ of Mexicans.
NYFA: When did you come to the idea of a symposium to transform the ‘worldwide fame’ of Mexicans?
OP: I have been living in New York City since 2007 and began exploring galleries and other venues to promote my work. As artists, we are open to all possibilities where you can showcase your art and the more I explored, the more I realized that there were very few venues for contemporary Mexican artists. At that time, I did not pay a lot of attention since I was looking to find a way to be out of my comfort zone. Some years later I moved to Bushwick and felt a stronger connection with my identity and started to think in a way to highlight the talent of myself and other Mexican artists. Also living in the United States as an immigrant from Mexico puts you in an interesting place because you hear a lot of negative comments about migrants and you feel you need to do something about it and art is one more tool to touch people’s feelings. I believe that now is the perfect time to put together Mexican artists from around the world in a show that will speak for our country.
NYFA: Is there a particular event that showed the unsettling fame of Mexico for its ‘narcotraffic, political dysfunctions and migration’?
OP: Yes! Just recently Mexico was in the international spot because el “Chapo Guzmán”, a drug leader who was captured and who was related to Hollywood actors. But this is not the first time that Mexico is known for this type of characters. Another recent event is Republican presidential contender Donald Trump constantly attacking Mexican immigrants providing a negative image of Mexican in the United States.
NYFA: For an artist that is interested in participating in Mextasis, what are the next steps they should take?
OP: I tried to make the application as simple as possible, the most important things are to have an updated resume, a brief statement, and the best images that represent their work (this applies to all media). They should follow the instructions on the application form.
NYFA: Do you feel that there is a connection between your art and your immigrant experience?
OP: The more that I explore my creativity in this city, the more I find connections between being a foreigner and the way I express myself. My new body of work shows this connection where I am using popular words from my language that have an ambiguous connotation and that reflect the social and cultural disparities, such as “puto”. By the way, I will be showing this series soon for the first time.
NYFA: What has the response been like from your peers in Mexico (praise, criticism, submissions, etc.)?
OP: The response has been mixed. In general, there has been excitement about the project and I have received submissions. However, I also have received emails criticizing the fact that we have a submission fee. This is a personal initiative and this kind of event generate costs such as promotion, graphic designer, location rental, among others and this is what I convey when I reply to them.
NYFA: You highlight the fact that you chose Bushwick, Brooklyn to host Mextasis. Can you elaborate more on this decision?
OP: To begin with, Bushwick is an attraction for artists and art lovers and it is the perfect community to introduce Mexican talent to a worldwide audience. Also, I live here, which gives me more opportunities to organize the show in the best way possible.
NYFA: Have there been events prior to Mextasis that have similar visions?
OP: Yes, I have seen a few curated shows that exhibit Mexican artists in private galleries but they have had specific topics, usually migration and Mexican politics.
NYFA: Have you ever hosted an event similar to this?
OP: No, this is my first event so I feel very excited and also committed to make it work. I also feel a bit of pressure because I have not seen an event similar to this.
NYFA: What exactly are you looking for in an applicant’s work? What are you envisioning?
OP: The topic is open so we want to show as many art expressions as possible to remind the audience that Mexican contemporary arts includes tragedy, conflict, innovation, beauty, technology and progressive ideas.
NYFA: Do you see this as an event that will go beyond the exhibition dates? If so, what do you hope will come from this event?
OP: Yes! I envision this to be an annual event. If it goes well, eventually, I would love to host it twice a year if we gather more sponsors. In the future, we want to offer grants for artists in order to cover the application fees, shipping fees and travel expenses for selected artists so they can come and visit the city.
I hope this event will make artists feel satisfied and proud to exhibit in this venue and would like the audience to spread the word about the art and artists that they met at Mextasis.
To find more information about Mextasis, click here.
This interview originally appeared in the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #80. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities and events here.
– Interview conducted by Allison Gaynes, NYFA Learning / IAP Intern.
Para leer esta entrevista en español, haga clic aquí.
Image: Olivié Ponce in his studio and his recent work. Photo credit: Olivié Ponce, Allison Ganes.