Celebrating 35 Years of Mexic-Arte Museum’s Día de los Muertos & Community Altars

Sep. 14, 2018

Sep. 14, 2018 @ 10:00 am Nov. 25, 2018 @ 5:00 pm


Viva la Vida: Celebrating 35 Years of Mexic-Arte Museum’s Día de los Muertos is an exhibition presenting the Museum’s 35-year quest to share and expand the public’s knowledge about Day of the Dead. Día de los Muertos is a holiday with a historically rich tradition that integrates pre-Columbian and Catholic customs. It is celebrated in Mexico on November 1 and 2 in connection with the Catholic All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. It is a time to honor and greet the departed as the spirits make their journey back from Mictlan (the underworld) to be with the living each year. Día de los Muertos is a time for families and friends to gather in celebration—a time when the cycle of life and death, rather than loss and sorrow, are embraced.

While living in Mexico in 1979 and having interest in Mexican traditions, Mexic-Arte Museum Founders Sylvia Orozco and Pio Pulido visited San Andres Mixquic, a small community on the southeast edge of Mexico City to celebrate Día de los Muertos. These experiences later inspired the first Día de los Muertos exhibit, La Muerte Vive, and celebration in Austin, Texas in 1984 at the Arts Warehouse.

For over three decades, the Museum has presented exhibitions, performances, street festivals, videos, murals, installations, processions, publications, and other cultural manifestations. During this time, a marvelous transformation has occurred—what was historically a religious holiday has become an expressive commemoration of family and a celebration of Mexican and Mexican American life and culture.

This exhibition highlights artworks from the Permanent Collection and information assembled over thirty-five years. In the Museum entrance, items from the 2011 exhibition Death to Dollars: The Commercialization of Day of the Dead—curated by Claudia Zapata—demonstrate the popularity of Día de los Muertos. Some of the first works acquired for Mexic-Arte Museum include La Vida y La Muerte by Mexican artist Arturo Garcia Bustos, Jose Guadalupe Posada’s vintage Calavera prints, and multiple linocuts from the Taller de la Grafica Popular. Featured is Sam Coronado’s oil painting, Muerte, Celebración. Coronado, Mexic-Arte Museum’s third founder, painted this artwork for the Museum’s first Día de los Muertos exhibit. Coronado’s painting will return to the Museum permanently through the generous donation of Pam and Michael Reese. Viva la Vida: Celebrating 35 Years of Mexic-Arte Museum’s Día de los Muertos also includes documentary photographs by Mary Andrade, silkscreen prints from the Serie Project, and additional works by other Latinx artists. Popular art is represented by Felipe Linares’ papier-mâché sculpture and ceramics donated throughout the years.


For almost two generations, Mexic-Arte Museum has encouraged communal sharing of what were once private expressions of faith; and artists started creating altars as part of art exhibits. Mindful of the day’s historical-religious roots, Mexic-Arte Museum helped transform the celebration by mixing popular with traditional materials, sacred with secular objects, personal with social issues, and popular art with contemporary expressions. The underlying Mexican sense of commitment to honor the deceased has remained but the public expression has evolved into a voice for the Latinx community. Images of ofrendas created by artists, community, and Museum staff over the years are assembled in a projection in the exhibit.

With great sadness and gratitude, the Museum commemorates the late Pio Pulido, founder of the Museum, who passed away on July 12, 2018. His energy will continue in his art, in the memories he leaves, and the Mexic-Arte Museum that he helped build. Other altars pay tribute to the following: Austin Lowrider family members who participated in the first Día de los Muertos processions, Francisco Gabilondo Soler, Cri-Cri: El Grillito Cantor, a Mexican composer and performer of children’s songs built by Alina Flores and friends of the Consulate General of Mexico in Austin, as well as the hundred-plus Mayan peoples of Guatemala whose lives were taken with the eruption of the volcano earlier this year; Felipe Linares and Carmen Caballero, cartoneria artists who immortalized skeletons into beautiful sculptural forms.

Installation Images