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Spotlight: RMAC opens to the public

Christina Stock Photo Tonee Harbert is seen here at his Roswell Artist-in-Residence compound studio earlier this year before social distancing and the museums had to close statewide due to the pandemic.

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

By Aubrey Hobart

Special to the Daily Record

After a seven month closure, the Roswell Museum and Art Center (RMAC) is once again open to the public. To welcome everyone back, we have a slate of new art exhibitions to share with you. Normally, RMAC showcases one of the artists of the Roswell Artists-in-Residence (RAiR) program at a time, but because we were closed for so long, the schedule got changed a bit, and we are now featuring three different artist shows at once. They are wildly different but complementary.

The first is Tonee Harbert’s exhibit, “Through the Static and Distance.” It was completed in March just after RMAC shut down, but we’ve extended its run so that the Roswell community would have an opportunity to see it. I’ve written about Harbert’s work before in my column, so I won’t go into a great deal of detail. He is a landscape photographer who uses a vintage Diana camera to collect dream-like images of places that have been manipulated by human beings. In his RMAC show, Harbert has focused specifically on the unique landscapes that surround Roswell.

Leaving the minimalist black-and-white gallery of Harbert’s show, a visitor may be surprised by the vibrant green and pink walls in the next room. “Planet River of the Tenement” is the work of Agustín Pozo Gálvez, or Lucho, as he is known around town. After moving to Roswell in 2009 for his first residency, Lucho has lived here for over a decade, building a local following of friends and admirers. After qualifying again for the RAiR program, he began working on this current body of work: a series of large, colorful canvases, covered in thick layers of paint, paper and other media, including discarded medical gloves. Bold and deliberately overwhelming, these semi-abstract works are meant to expose the confusion and uncertainty that all of us have been experiencing during the pandemic and its associated economic and political difficulties. In contrast to the chaotic vitality of the paintings, the small sculptures in the show help make the space feel a bit more like an ornate Baroque church than a museum gallery. Though this exhibit may not be restful, exactly, I do find it has a strong spiritual energy and a lot of clever things to say about our present moment, which is, of course, exactly what artists are supposed to do.

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Another artist who is holding a mirror up to our current situation is Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez-Delgado with his show “SpaceJammer.” Rodríguez-Delgado is a sculptor and inventor who is showcasing three separate bodies of work in his technology-centric exhibition. The first deals expressly with the COVID-19 crisis. Looking for practical solutions, he built two working prototypes of a portable air-purifying device with a HEPA filter that could help prevent viral transmission. In another series, Rodríguez-Delgado built dioramas out of recycled electronics and objects from the natural world like rocks and feathers. In doing so, he highlights the tension between technology and nature, explores the uniqueness of specific places, and critiques the consumer world that has us discarding perfectly useful equipment in the unending quest for the newest thing. The artist’s last series stems from experimentations with flight and space. Rodríguez-Delgado built a backpack that can launch model rockets containing a payload of Mylar, a reflective plastic. At the top of its arc, each rocket released the Mylar, letting it fall back to Earth. As various forces like gravity, wind, friction and resistance worked on the plastic, Rodríguez-Delgado photographed the sheets, documenting their contorted shapes. He then analyzed those shapes, eventually carving them into beautiful wooden sculptures. Recognizing that his minimalist carvings somewhat resembled those of the famous Romanian Futurist, Constantin Brâncuși (especially “Bird in Space” at the Metropolitan Museum in New York) Rodríguez-Delgado named his sculptures “Spacebirds.”

All these shows will be up through the end of 2020 and there is currently no charge for admission. The RMAC, 1011 N. Richardson Ave., is now open Tuesdays through Fridays, 1 to 5 p.m., and we’re asking guests to call us at 575-624-6744 to make reservations to visit. This helps us ensure that we won’t exceed our 25% capacity. We are also requiring all visitors to wear face masks and maintain social distancing to keep things safer for everyone. If you’re in good health but need a change of pace, we hope to see you at the museum.

Aubrey Hobart is Roswell Museum and Arts Center’s curator of collections and exhibitions. For more information, visit roswell-nm.gov/1259/Roswell-Museum-Art-Center or call 575-624-6744.