Critics’ Picks

Tanie Candiani, “Acerca del amarillo,” 2015, embroidered hoops, dimensions variable.

Tanie Candiani, “Acerca del amarillo,” 2015, embroidered hoops, dimensions variable.


Tania Candiani

Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez
Av. Lincoln y Coyoacán s/n, Zona PRONAF
April 4–June 16, 2019

This rotunda-shaped museum was designed in 1963 by a Mexico City architect to anchor a new federally funded cultural district, Programa Nacional Fronterizo (ProNaF), three miles from the border city’s downtown area. Like NAFTA and the current border-security crisis, the desolate ProNaF and the aging structure are reminders of how national powers fail people: In the desert, the Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juárez’s resin roof bakes, and its moat has become a watery mess.

Within this context, Tania Candiani’s generous “Cromática,” first presented in Oaxaca, soars. Presiding over the rotunda is Colores Primarios, 2015, a sixteen-foot hanging textile. Twenty words woven around bands of yellow, blue, and red by a Oaxacan craftsman bespeak the works’ concerns: tradición, naturaleza, música, lenguaje, historia, memoria. Nearby, in Zanfona, 2015, a loom turned musical instrument echoes notes across the expanse. There are series: skeins of dyed yarns, framed color swatches, videos documenting process, cloths embroidered with hue “recipes” and instructions for using cochineal bugs to make crimson, and a room filled with yellow ceramic birds that chirp when activated via attached bellows. The repetition—of materials, of ideas—summons histories of craft and labor that are brought into the present in the participatory La Molienda, 2015, a corridor lined with over a dozen hollowed-out stones full of crimson pigment and grinders.

Across one wall, Candiani has splayed an untitled work from this year: three colorful skirts made by Rarámuris. Below each skirt is the indigenous word Candiani gave to inspire them: láname (yellow), siyoname (blue), sitákame (red). With its gentle weaving together of people, ideas, languages, and histories, “Cromática” offers relief from the Trump-exacerbated border emergency three miles away. There, refugees wait at the downtown international bridge, hoping to be seen by those on the other side as human.