Herrera & Muñiz: Re-contextualizing the Retablo

This Friday is the opening of our Spanish Market Group Show featuring New Mexico Outsider / folk artist Nicholas Herrera and Puerto Rican painter Patrick McGrath Muñiz. Both artists offer a contemporary approach to traditional art forms that stem from Spanish colonial religious art.

The retablo altarpiece is one traditional platform that both artists re-interpret through their own artistic lens. The retablo, which literally translates to “behind the altar,” was traditionally used as a devotional painting in the Catholic Church and has deep roots in European and Spanish culture. This Old World genre of painting contains religious and reverent subject matter, which Muñiz uses as a springboard for his work. Religious notions are quickly re-contextualized, however, as Muñiz denounces the virtuosity of saints and other Catholic icons by painting them as symbols of American consumerism, pop culture and mass media. “Adopting painting techniques on retablos reminiscent of Spanish colonial art enables me to emulate earlier indoctrination strategies and devices from the time of the conquest of the Americas,” explains Muñiz. “With my work I question how these doctrines have modified our attitudes and appreciation towards nature, spirituality, culture, history and ourselves.”

Kronofernalia, Muñiz, oil on triptych panel, 24×18″. Click for detailed narrative.
La Copa Sagrada, Muñiz, oil and gold leaf on panel, 25.5 x 17.5″. Click for detailed narrative.

After the Spanish conquest of Mexico, New World mestizo natives adopted the retablo art form and transformed it into the Mexican folk retablo. Herrera continues the folk art tradition, blending Old World Catholic imagery with primitive outsider artistry. Herrera is a modern day santero (maker of religious images) whose wood and metal retablos reflect his traditional heritage while often addressing contemporary social and political views. Herrera also connects Catholic icons in his work to the hardships associated with minorities and rural life, which he has personally overcome through art making.

Nuestra de Senora de Guadalupe, Herrera, hand carved painted wood with natural pigments, 13.5×11.5″. Click for inquiry.
Cristo Como, Herrera, hand carved painted wood with natural pigments, 24×24″. Click for inquiry.

Herrera and Muñiz will show their latest work in the Spanish Market Group Show, opening this Friday, July 28th from 5-7pm. See the exhibition through August 17th and preview more work by Herrera and Muñiz on our website.

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