LOS ANGELES — If you grew up in and around a Mexican or Mexican-American community, you know that breaking piñatas is a ubiquitous tradition at most celebrations. The scene goes a little something like this: a tio stands on the roof of the house pulling the rope attached to the piñata as dizzy children, with covered eyes, try to hit it with a wooden stick in hopes of being the one to bust it open and collect the most candy. These paper mache structures could be anything from a Disney character to beloved (or hated) figures like Selena and Selena’s murderer Yolanda Saldivar. They’re usually purchased at mercados and, in LA’s case, the piñata district in downtown. As a child, it’s cathartic being allowed to destroy something, and of course, the sweet treats at the end don’t hurt. But beyond a fun activity at parties, piñatas are both a craft and an art form that reflect pop culture and politics. The shape-shifting nature of these items is currently on display at the Craft in America Center in Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration.
Traditional piñata makers and artists recontextualize the art form and present a wide array of figures from COVID-19 vaccine piñatas to cheeky interpretations of abstract art like Roberto Benavidez’s Piñathko series, an ode to Rothko. Benavidez’s talent is most poignantly displayed through his series of fantastical animals reminiscent of Mexican alebrijes which have a colorful luminescent quality by way of an intricately cut and applied mix of metallic and tissue paper.
While piñatas have long been used as a form of practical social commentary (think the proliferation of Donald Trump piñatas during his presidency), Giovanni Valderas takes it a step further through site-specific placements of piñatas in the shape of sad-faced houses — a comment on gentrification and the displacement of Latinx communities. Diana Benavidez engages the US–Mexico border through the series Vehiculos Transfronterizos; motorized piñata cars carry messages like “Border Crosser” and “La Pinche Migra.”
I was reminded of cherished childhood memories when walking through the exhibit, and in my head I couldn’t help but hear the tune we used to sing in unison as each person got their turn hitting the piñata: “dale dale, dale, dale, no pierdas el tino, porque si lo pierdes, pierdes el camino. Ya le diste una, Ya le diste dos, Ya le diste tres, Y tu tiempo se acabó.”
Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration continues at Craft in America Center (8415 West 3rd Street, Beverly Grove, Los Angeles) through December 4. The exhibition is curated by Emily Zaiden.
Artist Minouk Lim wants to offer a very different perspective on how one might deal with a grim history whose effects continue to be felt in the present.
This week: Should Washington have a national memorial for gun violence? Have cats used us to take over the world? What is Cluttercore? And more.
Organizers, artists, and land practitioners are holding public events at Iglesias Garden in a hub space supported by the Climate Justice Initiative, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia.
The artist’s style blends aesthetic and cultural elements from Ghana, London, and New York’s graffiti scenes.
Workers told Hyperallergic that they were tired of meager pay and a lack of job security.
Jo Sandman / TRACES opens with a reception for the artist on June 3 at Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center in Asheville, North Carolina.
Authorities say Jean-Luc Martinez helped facilitate the Louvre’s purchase of objects illegally pillaged during the Arab Spring.
The suspects attempted to take a Basquiat artwork valued at $45,000 from Taglialatella Galleries but instead made off with a half-empty bottle of whiskey.
Funding MFAs and all full-time graduate degrees, the Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans supports immigrants and the children of immigrants in the US.
From music and architecture to comedy and horror, these films showcase Ukrainian culture and its long-held ethos of resistance.
The artists showcased in Archival Intimacies examine the colonial trauma’s impact on Asian Americans and search for ways to overcome it.
Eiffel inadvertently paints its protagonist not as a great man worthy of scrutiny or praise, but as the Elon Musk of his day.