Justin Favela’s attraction to the artwork of José María Velasco is embedded, similarly to his artistic technique, within a series of ideological layers that are deconstructed throughout this exhibition. Re/Presenting México is a culmination of his years of exploration into the oeuvre of Velasco’s nationalist paintings, which were originally created throughout the second half of the 19th century. As symbols of a nascent nation, the paintings of this prominent artist served as Mexico’s flag throughout the world in a series of international expos. With this in mind, Favela approaches each and every piñata painting of the exhibit with the end of dismantling nationalist myths that are rooted in a romantic notion of Mexico as a pastoral idyll. Favela selected the piñata as a medium, a playful symbol of Latinx culture, as a point of departure for an exploration into his Chicano roots and the Latinx diaspora of America. For Re/Presenting México, Favela continues this exploration of identity by questioning the symbols that established notions of civic pride that remain engrained in a romantic Mexican past.
The paintings exhibited negate the rigor of academic design by way of “popular” craft. In other words, Favela, with his signature piñata technique, creates a series of paper mosaics that transform the naturalism of Velasco’s works as abstractions of color, simultaneously denying the propagandistic qualities that the Mexican painter originally intended. From its colonial past to vast panoramas of the valley of Mexico, the selected paintings aim to re-contextualize Mexican identity from a state-defined paradigm to a delicate and layered abstract utopia.