Curator, Artist Celebrated with NMMA Exhibition

A love of pop art and contemporary issues, combined with a flair for the unusual, led to a retrospective art exhibition by Professor Benito Huerta at the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA) in Chicago.

The exhibit, which showcases Huerta’s abstract paintings and other work from the past 20 years, will run now through Aug. 28. It’s part of the museum’s efforts to showcase the talents of Mexican Americans on a national stage.

“More of my figurative work is included [in the exhibit], but there are some pieces that have an overlapping of imagery,” said Huerta. “It’s a nice transition of my work over time.”

The recognition and celebration may seem unusual for Huerta, who spends most of his time behind the scenes as director and curator of The Gallery at UTA. For 14 years, Huerta has been reviewing the work of others – students and masters – and pulling together public exhibitions at UT Arlington and other galleries across the country. Before that, he was working as an artist in Houston, Las Cruces, N.M., San Francisco, Calif., and North Carolina.

Huerta’s painting are often filled with bold, bright colors, words in English or Spanish, and familiar imagery. He’s a fan of geography and maps, occasionally incorporating the outline of a continent or a scene from a particular place into his work. Like most artists, he desires to have his audiences evoke a reaction – positive or negative – but a reaction, nonetheless. It’s a must, he says.

Benito Huerta, director of The Gallery at UTA, reviews work for an upcoming exhibition.

“The worst reaction any artist fears is one of indifference,” Huerta said. “In the end, it goes back to one’s own reaction. If I don’t have a reaction to the work, then there’s something wrong … there’s something missing. Most artists go by that intuition.”

In addition to directing the university’s main art gallery, Huerta teaches a “professional practices” class for all art majors. In the class, students learn the business side of art, how to assess a monetary value to the work they do and negotiate with galleries and private collectors.

The NMMA exhibit, “Intermission,” was curated by Cesareo Moreno, a colleague of Huerta. The Department of Art and Art History professor said as honored as he is to be selected, he’s also curious as to how Moreno selected the pieces he did.

“I’m always interested to see how other curators work,” Huerta said, “the way they’re framing the work and what they’re trying to say with the work.”

As a curator, Huerta is often asked to review work from artists across the country and pull together the pieces that have a central theme. Recently, he contributed to a national touring exhibit of U.S. printmakers. He said over the past 15 years, sources for artwork has expanded globally and it has been the commonalities between the artists and the audiences – wherever they may be – that makes the most impact.

“The content that seems to get the most attention is that which deals with where the artist is working,” Huerta said. “It might be social or political issues … but [these artists] do it in a way that strikes a chord on a universal level.”

For more on Huerta’s exhibition at NMMA, log on to www.nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org/currentexhibitions.html. For more on The Gallery at UTA, including summer hours and current exhibits, log on to the gallery’s website.

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