NMSU Art Museum spotlights historic retablos, contemporary Latinx artists

Isabel Darancou
New Mexico State University
Artist Xochi Solis, "Study for Untitled," 2022. Artist residency at New Mexico State University.

In a first for the New Mexico State University Art Museum, the exhibition titled “Contemporary Ex-Votos: Devotion Beyond Medium” will pair 19th and 20th century retablos from the NMSU Permanent Art Collection with new works by contemporary Latinx artists. 

The UAM will host an opening reception at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 at the art museum inside NMSU's Devasthali Hall at 1308 E. University Ave. The exhibition runs through Dec. 22 and is free and open to the public. Art museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Ex-votos are a type of retablo or small devotional painting depicting miracles painted on tin and wood. The UAM houses the largest collection of Mexican retablos in the United States.

"This exhibition demonstrates the important place retablos hold in the history of the Americas," said UAM Director Marisa Sage. "It recontextualizes studies of contemporary devotion in Latin America and the U.S. by commissioning artists to research the retablo collection." 

Guest-curated by Emmanuel Ortega — Marilynn Thoma Scholar and assistant professor in Art of the Spanish Americas at the University of Illinois at Chicago — the exhibition invites artists to respond to the NMSU ex-votos collection. These artists then created works in various mediums, methods and sizes that present contemporary practices of devotion.

“Artists undertake a dialogue between historic and new works,” Ortega said. “Allowing us to make sense of ex-votos beyond ethnographic and artistic hierarchies.” 

The show aims to demonstrate how retablos are more than byproducts of colonialism and can be used to highlight current issues such as class, race and gender through an artistic lens. The exhibition presents 15 artists including Guadalupe Maravilla, Yvette Mayorga and Francisco Guevara. 

Maravilla’s work — which will be displayed in the Bunny Conlon Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery — showcases a collaboration with Mexico City-based ex-voto artist Daniel Vilchis. The Vilchis family has been producing ex-votos for over half a century.

The UAM’s Contemporary Gallery will house an installation by Mayorga titled “Pink Chapel.” Showcasing the Chicago-based artist's signature sculptural ceramic piping method and “frosted” found objects resembling French Rococo votive offerings, her work was created during a week-long residency in Las Cruces and represents Mayorga’s completion of a personal pilgrimage that began 20 years ago in Zacatecas, Mexico.

Twenty-eight panels made by Mexico-based artist Guevara will showcase and address the politics and visual culture of “Catholic devotion” and how that developed into class ideologies. The panels are made with pre-Columbian pigments and colonial artistic techniques. 

All text included in the exhibition will be presented in both English and Spanish.

Community programming events will be presented along with the exhibition. Events include a virtual lecture with artist Francisco Guevara, a panel titled “Curatorial Practices in the Borderlands” and a screening of the film “Nazarín” with Emmanuel Ramos-Barajas of Borderless Cultures.

A detailed calendar with all art museum programs and dates is available on the UAM website

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Isabel Darancou writes for New Mexico State University Marketing and Communications and can be reached at 575-646-1614 or