Museum Exhibits

Changing Pass: People, Land & Memory

December 1, 2022 - December 31, 2024

1st Floor, Permanent Exhibition Gallery

The museum’s permanent exhibition, “Changing Pass: People, Land & Memory” immediately greets visitors who walk through the door, inviting them to explore and reconsider what the borderlands are all about. Now covering more than 1,000 years of El Paso del Norte region history, Changing Pass begins with early Indigenous settlers and concludes with World War II and the Bracero Program in the 20th century.

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Hank Willis Thomas: Art Bridges loan

January 12, 2023 - May 31, 2024

In his wide-ranging conceptual practice, Hank Willis Thomas explores how American society commodifies Black male identity. His works—which span photography, sculpture, textile, installation, and more—often reflect on media representations and social justice Thomas studied at New York University before pursuing a dual MA and MFA in visual criticism and photography at California College of the Arts. He has exhibited in New York, Los Angeles, London, Milan, Brussels, São Paulo, Berlin, and Paris, among other cities. His work belongs in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Hong Kong Arts Centre, the Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Thomas is also a co-founder of For Freedoms, an organization that promotes civic engagement via large-scale public projects.

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vanessa german: Art Bridges loan

January 12, 2023 - December 31, 2024

Black Girl on Skateboard… provides a meditation on the color yellow through physical objects and the written word. vanessa german, a self-taught ‘citizen’ artist, often crafts these, which she refers to as power figures, out of discarded materials from her local community. german’s power figures serve as protectors for Black people against violence. Drawing from Congolese Nkisi sculptures and elements of folk art, the works defy figurative expectations and emphasize their vibrancy through emotion and energy.

The 2022 iterations of german’s power figures include poetry written by the artist as the object’s materials list. In this decision to disrupt typical object information, german’s Black Girl on Skateboard… bridges materiality and abstraction. The artist describes the resonance of her power figures as, “active technologies of the soul that touch the vast history that exists in the spiral of our DNA.”

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Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology

July 28, 2023 - November 12, 2023

Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology documents international Indigenous artists’ responses to the impacts of nuclear testing, nuclear accidents, and uranium mining on Native peoples and the environment. The traveling exhibition and catalog give artists a voice to address the long-term effects of these man-made disasters on Indigenous communities in the United States and around the world. Indigenous artists from Australia, Canada, Greenland, Japan, Pacific Islands, and the United States utilize tribal knowledge, as well as Indigenous and contemporary art forms as visual strategies for their thought-provoking artworks.

Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology is co-curated by iBiennale Director Dr. Kóan Jeff Baysa (Ibanag); Nuuk Art Museum Director Nivi Christensen (Inuit); Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art Chief Curator Satomi Igarashi; Art Gallery of New South Wales Assistant Curator of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art Erin Vink (Ngiyampaa), Independent Curator Tania Willard (Secwepemc Nation), and MoCNA Chief Curator Manuela Well-Off-Man.

Exposure: Native Art and Political Ecology is organized by IAIA Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe, NM.

Support for this exhibition is provided by Ford Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and by Air Tahiti Nui.

Additional support is provided by the Mellon Foundation, the Texas Commission on the Arts, El Paso Museum of Art Foundation, and the El Paso Museums and Cultural Affairs Department.

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Still We Rise: El Paso's Black Experience

February 25, 2023 - January 13, 2024

“Still We Rise: El Paso’s Black Experience” highlights the vibrant history of El Paso’s Black community in the decades leading up to and following desegregation. Tracing back to the first documented African American individuals in El Paso, this exhibition highlights generations of Afro descendants’ contributions to the region as they built businesses, homes, and neighborhoods during slavery, Jim Crow era, and beyond. Based in the testimonies and oral histories of community, “Still We Rise” aims to showcase the joy and accomplishments of those who call El Paso home.

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Bhutan: Modern and Traditional Intertwined

April 17, 2023 - December 9, 2023

Popular perceptions of Bhutan as a remote, “happiest place on earth,” are more complex than one might think. Contemporary Bhutanese people attempt to strike a balance between tradition and modernity through an interconnected effort guided by Gross National Happiness (GNH). Using artifacts and images, this exhibit explains how Bhutan utilizes GNH by weaving cultural, spiritual, national, and local traditions with modernization.

As part of UTEP’s Bhutan Days, the Centennial Museum and Chihuahuan Desert Gardens is proud to present Bhutan: Modern and Traditional Intertwined. This exhibition will be on display from April 17 to December 9, 2023.

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Neighborhoods & Shared Memories: South Central

May 4, 2023 - April 6, 2024

Nestled in what was once land that hosted pear orchards and cotton fields flourished a working-class neighborhood that would become synonymous with El Paso’s warm and welcoming nature. Many of its residents settled into this area after being displaced from a neighborhood called Stormsville, which was condemned in 1928 These neighborhoods and their residents helped launch an area that would host iconic establishments and institutions such as Chicos Tacos, Ascarate Park, The County Coliseum, Good Luck Café, Washington Park, Thomas Jefferson High School, and the El Paso Zoo to name a few. This exhibit is part of an ongoing series that features historic neighborhoods throughout El Paso. Previously highlighted neighborhoods included Chihuahuita, Segundo Barrio, Sunset Heights, and Manhattan Heights.

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Jessica Kairé : Levantamiento A Collective Unshaping

July 11, 2023 - October 7, 2023

Monument bases with missing busts or statues are a common sight in Jessica Kairé’s hometown, Guatemala City: this strange sight is usually due to improper maintenance or theft and, for the artist, these monument bases have become symbolic of both failed leadership and invisiblized histories. Levantamiento are a growing suite of interactive soft sculptures based on historic monuments that questions the currency and maintenance of monuments in public space, their influence on our social imaginary, and our role in upholding, or dismantling, the ideals and histories they represent. Each work is a scale replica of an existing monument, and remains either folded on a shelf, or collapsed on the floor until the public collectively decides to raise and animate it. The act of negotiating its various forms prompts participants to consider how these structures shape who we are, as well as our role in shaping them and their surrounding spaces. The monuments included here range from New York to Guatemala City to Ciudad Juárez: for this exhibition, Kairé created a new folding monument of the Monument to the Citizen or the Cigarette.

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Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective

October 19, 2023 - January 7, 2024

Collidoscope: de la Torre Brothers Retro-Perspective features 40 mixed-media works, including blown-glass sculptures and installation art, plus some of the artists’ latest lenticulars with imagery that changes as the viewer moves from side to side.

Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, México, and now living both in San Diego and Baja California, brothers and collaborating artists Einar and Jamex de la Torre have navigated life on both sides of the border since they were young and have inherited their own unique vision of the Latinx experience and American culture. Their work is visually complex and infused with humorous elements exploring art, history, and material culture. Working with glass, resin, lenticular prints and found objects, the brothers create work inspired by Mexican folk art, popular culture, religious imagery, consumer culture, and mythology. Many elements of the exhibition, including the title and curatorial framework, try to echo the creative process of the artists, serving as an allegory of their intellectual pursuits, their technical use of materials and media, and their use of wordplay and poetic riddles.

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Desert Couture: Fashioning Two Centuries in the Southwest

June 22, 2023 - March 16, 2024

“Desert Couture: Fashioning Two Centuries in the Southwest” highlights the El Paso Museum of History’s diverse collection of textiles, accessories, and garments, which span from the antebellum period up to the mid-late 20th century.

The arrival of the railroad at the end of the 19th century transformed the Paso del Norte region into a commercial crossroads, leading to a boom in population, industry, and labor needs in what had previously been a small, predominantly Mexican town. Individuals from Europe, Syria, and Lebanon migrated to El Paso in search of opportunities and brought with them new styles, customs, and tastes.

Department stores in Downtown El Paso like The Popular Dry Goods, The White House, and others formed a hub for imported fashions that advertised to a growing population of customers across the Southwest and northern Mexico. At these stores, people could shop the latest fashion trends from the United States and Europe, purchase ready-to-wear pieces for daily use, and commission custom-made clothing for special occasions. “Desert Couture” will highlight the merchants, designs, fabrication, and trends that defined fashion for generations of El Pasoans.

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A Minyan To A Million: The Stories Of The Returning Crypto-Jews Of Latino-America

August 9, 2023 - October 8, 2023

Over the past 30 years, there has been a resurgence of Jewish conversions of “Crypto-Jews” or Anusim, Latinos who believe they are descendants of Spanish Jews forced to convert to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition. “A Minyan to a Million” encompasses nearly 20 years of multimedia documentary exploration of returning Crypto-Jewish communities of the U.S. Southwest and Latin America by artist, Peter Svarzbein. This ongoing project utilizes different formats to document returning Latino families to normative Judaism. The first, a photographic and video essay and the second and more successful, an evolving food and art installation entitled “Conversos y Tacos Kosher Gourmet Trucks est. 1492.” From the artist’s perspective, Art is a universal language but food is the ultimate unifier. Food is love, care, connection and sustenance, holding a special meaning in both Jewish and Hispanic/Latino cultures. Svarzbein’s work aims to inspire and break down borders, whether cultural, aesthetic or geographic. His practice is focused on exploring notions of history and identity in La Frontera/ the border. Whether it has been shedding light on emerging Crypto-Jews to a larger Jewish or Latino community, or representing the unique relationship between Cd. Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas through the “El Paso Transnational Trolley Project”, his belief is that art can function as a vehicle for dialog and change.

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Mexicanidad: Folklorizing A Nation 1921 – 1971

September 14, 2023 - February 24, 2024

Mexicanidad: Folklorizing a Nation 1921-1971 showcases a visual history of artesanias (“crafts”) produced in the wake of the Mexican Revolution by Indigenous artisans and displayed alongside 2D works by Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera (Los Tres Grandes), and many more. Featuring a wide of range of pottery, textiles, woodworking, basketry, and other objects, this exhibit celebrates the craftsmanship and artistry of these pieces and their creators while also examining the social, political, and cultural climate that enabled their production.

Lasting more than a decade, the Mexican Revolution represented not only a major political upheaval but an economic, social, and cultural one as well. At the end of the conflict, during The Peaceful Years, seeking to unite a divided and factious country, the newly installed Mexican government turned its attention towards developing an essential idea of Mexicanidad (“Mexicanicity” or “Mexican-ness”) that could be used to solidify and bolster the burgeoning nation’s identity.

To do this, Mexican officials and intellectuals invested in and cultivated the production of artesanias across the country: crafts and other visual materials that would highlight Mexico’s Indigenous roots in a ‘modern’ context, carefully synthesizing Mexico’s Indigenous and European heritage in order to become something at once familiar, exotic, and most of all recognizable. This movement in art and art-making was done not only with an eye towards nation-building but with the idea of presenting a palatable image to global powers as well. Much of the work produced during this time, like the murals of Los Tres Grandes or the tradition of ballet folklorico, is today seen as quintessential representations of Mexican culture.

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