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Mud + Corn + Stone + Blue

Rubin Gallery & L Gallery
August 29, 2024 - April 12, 2025
Opening Reception: August 29 | 5 - 7:30pm


Told through a constellation of places and temporal back-and-forths, Mud + Corn + Stone + Blue traces stories of the entangled lands of the United States and Central America. The exhibition hinges on major conflicts that have scarred the region since the 1960s and how their histories are entwined with that of U.S. agriculture through the corn industry. These conflicts include armed engagements in Guatemala (1960-1996), El Salvador (1980-1992), and Nicaragua (1979-1990); U.S. interventions in Honduras in the 1980s; and even the Tractorcade (1979) in the U.S. Corn Belt, when farmers drove more than 900 tractors to Washington, D.C. in protest of Cold War agricultural policy that had devastated small family farms across the Plains and Midwest. Across its long timeline, the exhibition centers on the years 1979-1981 to illustrate the overlap between the U.S. farming recession and the worst years of the armed conflicts in Central America, and how they are grounded in the same political and economic decisions around farming practices, ideas of land ownership and stewardship, migrant labor, and agricultural export. 

Benvenuto Chavajay, Hombres de maíz (Men of corn), 2019. Photo documentation of performance, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France. Image courtesy of the artist.
Moe Penders, Machete from the series Cultura, 2017. Digital print, 16 x 20 in.
 Excerpts from the James Dean Pruner archive. Photograph by Kevin Frank Pellecer.

Mud + Corn + Stone + Blue includes artwork from the U.S. Corn Belt and from Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras. For the artists (many of whom have witnessed these events firsthand), it is important to make visible the connections between the natural world, agricultural reform, economic recession, military intervention, civil war, genocide, and mass migrations. These entanglements resist national borders and leap across time to connect disparate experiences when, though much of the artwork made during these crises has disappeared, artists rely on their own familial experience to fill in the gaps. Where there are holes, absences, and intractable silences in these histories marked by intertwined traumas—by grief, by mistranslation, by forgetting—artists engage in speculation to imagine the acts of sharing that might have been.

Rather than chronological or national groupings, works on view are organized in organic relationships with an archival throughline that commingles their complex political and agricultural histories. As the exhibition travels, Augusta continues the practice of convivencia (shared living) inscribed within her curatorial methodologies by engaging in context-specific acts of collaboration and conversation—including archival research, meetings with artists and community groups, and learning from activists to better understand each place’s ties to this history. 

Excerpts from the James Dean Pruner archive. Photograph by Kevin Frank Pellecer.
Benvenuto Chavajay, Hombre de lodo (Man of mud), 2018. Photo documentation of performance. Image courtesy of the artist.
Moe Penders, Chancletas from the series Cultura, 2017. Digital print, 16 x 20 in.

Mud + Corn + Stone + Blue  is a traveling exhibition curated by Laura Augusta, PhD. It is produced by Independent Curators International (ICI), New York in collaboration with the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for Visual Arts at The University of Texas at El Paso. Mud + Corn + Stone + Blue is made possible with the generous support of ICI’s Board of Trustees and International Forum. Crozier Fine Arts is the Preferred Art Logistics Partner.