About the Exhibition

Los Angeles–based artist and designer Tanya Aguiñiga has established herself as a crucial voice working at the intersection of fiber art, design, social practice, and activism. Her work, ranging from her “Performance Crafting” series—which uses craft to generate dialogues about identity, culture, and gender—to furniture whose material and form reimagine its functionality to provide “support,” shows a commitment to design thinking as political. At the heart of her practice is an inquiry into how community is created, and the role that craft, design, and materiality play in its formation.

Founded by Aguiñiga and launched in 2015, AMBOS (Art Made Between Opposite Sides) is a long-term initiative that activates sites along the US–Mexico border through collaborative art-making and storytelling projects. Started as a month-long activation at the San Ysidro border crossing in Tijuana, it has evolved its focus to record and paint a picture of life along the length of the border. To date, AMBOS, in collaboration with artists and community organizations working with border issues/themes, has produced programs along the border between the United States and Mexico, stopping at thirteen US/Mexico ports of entry, and crossing a total of forty times. In 2018 Aguiñiga will complete the project, activating the remainder of the border from where she left off at El Paso/Ciudad Juárez.

AMBOS was born out of Aguiñiga’s drive to use her skills in service to the ongoing issues that her family and community face in Tijuana, Mexico, where she was raised, and from which she crossed the border every day for fourteen years to get her education in the United States. Through the different phases of the project, AMBOS has fostered a greater sense of interconnectedness in the border regions it has visited. AMBOS as a project has become multifaceted: it is part documentation of the border, part collaboration with artists, part community activism, part exploration of identities influenced by the liminal zone of the borderlands. By connecting with local artists, activists, and makers in the border region, AMBOS works to capture an accurate representation of the sister cities and communities living and working on both sides.

Positioning photographic documentation, radio broadcasts, ephemera, data, and other materials generated by AMBOS within Aguiñiga’s ongoing design practice, Tanya Aguiñiga’s eponymously titled exhibition at MAD demonstrates the link that the artist is forging between design thinking and community work. “Design thinking,” which refers to the creative strategies for problem solving, is situated here as something inherent to craft—a vehicle utilized by Aguiñiga for self-care and community building.

Tanya Aguiñiga will be on view in the second-floor gallery, MAD’s gallery space dedicated to deepening visitors’ experiences of exhibitions through opportunities for interactive learning, research, and reflection. The exhibition also includes Performance Crafting, a new, site-specific installation inspired by the backstrap loom. The installation will connect MAD’s Suspension Staircase and Tiffany & Co. Foundation Jewelry Gallery, where the thematically linked exhibition La Frontera: Encounters Along the Border will be on display.

As a member of the Border Art Workshop/Taller de Arte Fronterizo (BAW/TAF), Tanya Aguiñiga played a central role in the creation of a community arts center in an autonomous land-squat run by indigenous women on the outskirts of Tijuana before launching the Creative Capital–funded project AMBOS. After leaving the Border Art Workshop, she worked with indigenous communities in Chiapas and Oaxaca, native peoples in Alaska, and underserved urban communities in Los Angeles. Aguiñiga holds an MFA in Furniture Design from Rhode Island School of Design and a BA from San Diego State University. She is a United States Artists Target Fellow in the field of Crafts and Traditional Arts, as well as a NALAC and Creative Capital 2016 grant awardee. The subject of a cover article for American Craft Magazine, Aguiñiga has also been featured in PBS’ Craft in America series.

Tanya Aguiñiga is curated by Shannon R. Stratton, MAD’s William and Mildred Lasdon Chief Curator, with the support of Assistant Manager of Curatorial Affairs Angelik Vizcarrondo-Laboy.

 

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