The FRONT celebrates 15 years in San Ysidro with a new art exhibition
Francisco Morales says it’s easy to read into “El Devenir / Becoming,” the title of The FRONT Arte & Cultura’s 15th anniversary exhibition. In fact, the gallery director of the San Ysidro art space understands how people could see it as a broad statement on the five artists exhibiting (“El Devenir” translates to “The Future”) or that “Becoming” might imply that the gallery was changing its overall mission.
“It’s ‘becoming’ as a philosophical concept,” Morales says. “Becoming is not only about the future, but a reflection of the past. The process that happens between the past and the future, that is what it means to be ‘becoming.’ It’s a way of saying we’re not going to forget about the past and where we come from, but that we’re looking to the future.”
The FRONT’s past, as well as its future, does appear to be bright. Officially opened in 2007 by local nonprofit Casa Familiar, The FRONT has since become not only a gallery to see the work of contemporary artists working in the San Diego/Tijuana region, but one that has served as a cultural space for the community. The last San Diego community before reaching the Mexican border, San Ysidro has historically been underserved when it comes to arts funding and cultural programming. When Luz Camacho and Andrea Skorepa, who both worked for Casa Familiar at the time, first took over the building in 2006, they saw a pressing need for an arts-based space. .
“We most definitely knew that there was a need for arts and culture programming in San Ysidro,” says Camacho, who served as Casa Familiar’s COO at the time of the opening. “We both always understood that integrating arts and culture as part of the services was another step in working towards improving the quality of life for San Ysidro residents. Being able to have a formal space from which to organize, exhibit, teach seemed like a dream for many many years, but despite it all, we always included arts and culture as part of the program development as much as we could.”
And in those 15 years, one could argue that The FRONT has, in fact, worked to improve the quality of life for residents.
“The FRONT provides a space for bicultural and artistic engagement and opportunities for the community to view art,” says Councilmember Vivian Moreno in a statement to the Union-Tribune. Moreno serves District 8 in the San Diego City Council. “It is the creative heart of the San Ysidro community.”
Morales also points out the accessibility of The FRONT to local creatives. He argues that many people in San Ysidro, especially young people, don’t often — or never — have the opportunity to see art in one of San Diego’s major institutions.
“It’s serious but it’s accessible,” says Morales. “We have serious artists showing work in this exhibition, but we also have group exhibitions for new artists. So if they get to be better artists, they know that they can show their work here one day.”
One of those serious artists is Marcos Ramírez ERRE, who was the first local artist to have a solo exhibition at The Front back in 2007. Since then, ERRE has become one of the most revered local artists specializing in multimedia installations that incorporate sculpture, painting and carpentry to make broad statements about regional identity. Morales calls ERRE the “the quintessential transborder artist” and of the five artists participating in “El Devenir / Becoming,” ERRE’s is the only piece that will be made specifically for The FRONT exhibition.
Another local artist showing work at the exhibition is Rizzhel Javier, who last exhibited at the space in 2019 as part of “Overseas,” a group exhibition of Filipino-American artists. For The FRONT’s 15th anniversary, Javier plans on showcasing “Landsick,” a 35-foot long holographic collage-type installation she originally began at the New Americans Museum. Javier says she appreciates the “freedom” The FRONT affords her and other artists to really utilize the space and explore new ways to present their work.
“For me, the biggest thing is that in a lot of the exhibitions that I’ve been to, I haven’t actually had that feeling where I walked into a gallery and felt that everybody is my friend,” says Javier, who will be hosting an all-ages lenticular photo workshop at The FRONT on Nov. 12. “I can say that when I go to The FRONT, I always feel at home. I always feel that the community it attracts, they are all people that I’d want to see even if I wasn’t going to an exhibition.”
Other artists showing work at “El Devenir / Becoming” include Sama Alshaibi, an Arizona-based photographer, installation and video artist. She will have three different installations on display, including “Silsila,” a breathtaking multimedia project that uses photographs, archival prints and video to examine the cultural impact of endangered water sources in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
There’s also Tania Candiani, a Tijuana-raised, Mexico City-based artist who studies the “complex intersection between phonetic, graphic, linguistic, symbolic, and technological languages” in her work. At The Front exhibition, Candiani will have selections from her “Monumentos Efímeros” (“Ephemeral Monuments”), a photographic and video project consisting of people performing and posing as shapes in front of abandoned Olympic facilities in Cuba.
Finally, Rafael Lozano Hemmer will show “Level of Confidence,” a 2015 installation piece that uses a webcam and biometric surveillance algorithms to examine the viewer’s face and then attempts to match it with the 43 students who were kidnapped and disappeared from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico in 2014. Morales calls it “not so much an art piece, but a social work” that speaks volumes on the still unresolved case.
In addition to the opening reception on Oct. 11, The FRONT will also host a panel discussion (6 p.m., Oct. 28), a retrospective video screening exploring the history of the gallery (6 p.m., Dec. 18) and a concert from Tijuana DJ duo Bostich + Fussible (7 p.m., Oct. 16).
Given the range, size and scope of the exhibition, Morales sees the gallery’s 15th anniversary as a prime opportunity to present the space as a serious gallery, but to also reiterate its curatorial focus on community.
“We want to make this exhibition a statement that we’re a serious gallery,” Morales says. “To say, ‘why can’t we have a serious exhibition like this in San Ysidro’? That’s been my philosophy as a curator.”
‘El Devenir / Becoming’
When: 5 to 8 p.m. Oct. 11
Where: The FRONT Arte Cultura, 147 W San Ysidro Blvd., San Ysidro
Phone: (619) 428-1115
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