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Justin Favela: Fresh Cut Fruit

Posted on March 03 2022

Justin Favela: Fresh Cut Fruit 
March 25 - May 8, 2022 

Justin Favela, Still Life With Plantains and Bananas, After Francisco Oller, 2022.
Tissue paper and glue on board, 21 in x 38 in. Photo by Mikayla Whitmore.
Paradigm Gallery is pleased to present Fresh Cut Fruit, a solo exhibition of new works by mixed-media artist Justin Favela. Fresh Cut Fruit features artworks rendered in paper, including piñata-style paintings, sculptures, and a large-scale mural, which directly reference 19th and 20th century Latin American still lifes. Through a reinterpretation of these references, Favela reveals the settler-colonial infrastructure embedded within the visual representations of fruit and landscapes. The artist’s paper renditions reclaim power and identity from the canonically imperial bodies of work they reference. Fresh Cut Fruit will be open to the public from March 25 to May 8, 2022, with an opening reception on Friday, March 25th from 5:30 - 8:00 PM.

Known for creating ephemeral works of joy that build upon cultural commentary, Favela looks towards his Mexican-Guatemalan heritage and experience as inspiration for his art. Favela uses multi-colored layers of tissue paper and glue to create vibrant large-scale murals. Often reduced to a kitsch symbol of Mexican culture in the American mainstream, piñatas serve as a unifying ritual of celebration in Latin America. Favela amplifies the commodification of the piñata as it is consumed in American culture, utilizing the symbol as a commentary on the absurdity of ‘authenticity’ amid the multitudes of Latinx experience. Reimagining the exoticized stereotypes of Latinx iconography through colorful, joyful work, Favela creates a space for communities of color to tell their own stories.

The artist’s new body of work draws inspiration from Shana Klein’s groundbreaking scholarship between visual studies and the history and politics of food in her 2020 book, The Fruits of Empire. Klein’s interdisciplinary research links the turn-of-the-century technological advancements in fruit refrigeration and transportation to the concurrent proliferation of fruit imagery in visual and material culture. Throughout the imperial expansion of Latin America, fruits became complex visual tools, deployed in service of a wide and often contradictory range of messages. Fruits appeared in visual campaigns diverging from nation-building and identity formation, to reinforcing settler-colonial cultural systems, to galvanizing resistance among the marginalized class of agricultural workers responsible for their harvest. Still life paintings, in particular, became vehicles for narratives ranging from the colonial conquest of Indigenous land, the creation of ‘the nation,’ and later, the imperial exploitation of farmworkers.

In Fresh Cut Fruit, Favela presents a vibrant installation reinterpreting 19th and 20th century Latin American still lifes that display the agricultural bounty and diversity of their respective lands. Expanding across the gallery walls, the rich tones of tissue paper recall the playfulness of celebration, welcoming the viewer into the space. Thousands of hand-cut tissue paper pieces come together to form pixelated images of masterworks, such as Still Life With Plantains and Bananas, by the celebrated Puerto Rican artist Francisco Oller. Historically dismissed as surface-level representations, still lifes, as seen by Favela, reveal cultural, social, and political insights that transcend their appearance as naturalistic depictions of fruits. Favela’s subversive renderings of these works in brightly colored cut paper breathes new life and meaning into a painting genre long misunderstood as superficial, through a medium often dismissed as the stuff of disposable party decor.

For Favela, food serves as a vehicle to explore the ways in which history, culture, and identity are systematically alienated from the material to become a digestible illusion for the masses. Favela’s vibrant ‘piñatas’ serve as radical acts of resistance; they not only blur the boundaries between traditional notions of art and craft, but they also celebrate the never-ending ways of being Latinx in a world that insists on reducing identities to mere consumer products.

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Paradigm Gallery + Studio
746 S. 4th Street, 1st Floor / Philadelphia, PA 19147 / (267)266-0073

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About Justin Favela
Based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and known for large-scale installations and sculptures that manifest his interactions with American pop culture and the Latinx experience, Justin Favela has exhibited his work both internationally and across the United States. His installations have been commissioned by museums including the Denver Art Museum in Colorado, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas and El Museo del Barrio in New York. He is the recipient of the 2021 Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship. He holds a BFA in fine art from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

About Paradigm Gallery
Paradigm Gallery + Studio® was established in 2010 by co-founders and curators, Jason Chen and Sara McCorriston. The gallery exhibits meaningful, process-intense contemporary artwork from around the world. Now open 11 years, Paradigm Gallery is globally recognized and known as a tastemaker within their greater Philadelphia arts community. As the gallery grows, it maintains its original mission to keep art accessible. Through monthly donations, free public art installations, and initiatives like Insider Picks, Paradigm Gallery, continues to be a champion of small businesses and emerging and mid-career artists.

746 S 4th St
Philadelphia, PA 19147

Media Contact:
Lainya Magaña, A&O PR
347 395 4155