This fall, the Craft in America Center will present Piñatas: The High Art of Celebration, an in-person and virtual exhibition that will focus on the overlooked craft of handmade piñatas and piñata-based art objects. Piñatas, ubiquitous and often the focal point of parties and festive occasions across the U.S., are handcrafted and ephemeral objects that signify happiness, joy, and celebration. This show will explore how they are designed, constructed and executed, and the integral role that they play in modern material culture. It will present the work of traditional piñata artisans alongside artists who reinvent and reinterpret the piñata through their engaging sculptural practices and strong political expressions.
The contemporary artists featured in this exhibition reconsider the techniques, materials, form, function, and concept of the piñata to create sculptural art. For example, Los Angeles artist Roberto Benavidez creates exquisite fantastical beasts, creatures, and animals through a cut and applied paper process that stems from piñatas, but that carries them into a new world of imagined possibilities. Other participating artists, including Giovanni Valderas in Texas, amplify the materiality and performative aspects of piñatas to address the displacement and mistreatment of Latinx communities in the United States. Binational San Diego/Tijuana artist Diana Benavidez’s trio of Vehiculos Transfronterizos is a group of remote control cars that use the piñata as a form of political resistance.
Yesenia Prieto, a third-generation artist-maker, makes vibrant custom piñatas for parties, events, concerts, and performances across Hollywood. Prieto, like several makers in the exhibition, is dedicated to bringing the beloved yet under-recognized and underpaid work of piñateros, many of whom are immigrants, to the forefront.
Piñatas are a rooted Mexican tradition that has become widespread and dispersed across the world. The intent of the exhibition is to bridge communities through the engaging, accessible nature of the piñata as an art form and popular cultural artifact. Considering the popularity of piñatas in our lives and how many memories are made around piñata play, this form of cultural craft has been relatively unexamined and the show will expand that conversation.
Piñatas are intertwined with childhood experiences, gatherings of family and friends, and moments of happiness—all of which became more rare and precious over the past year and a half. As markers of these events, piñatas have new contemporary meanings. They continue to be shaped to reflect changing times. This exhibition will spotlight makers who creatively generate these objects in response to our shifting world.
As creators of material culture, craft makers design and build the relics of our everyday, modern world. This exhibition touches on the ephemeral and performative nature of certain forms of craft. Craft today plays a part in our traditions, our celebrations, our relationships, and it deepens how we experience life. This exhibition will engage people of all ages and backgrounds, including children and families, in an effort to expand awareness of the handmade, craft of every day, and views of what art can be.
Participating artists include:
Alejandro Arredondo, Diana Benavidez, Roberto Benavidez, Sita Bhaumik, Amorette Crespo, Dignicraft, Justin Favela, Francisco Palomares, Yesenia Prieto, Josue Ramirez, Isaias Rodriguez, Lorena Robledo, Ana Serrano, Giovanni Valderas and others.
- Curatorial Walk-through—Wed., Sept. 15 at 11am PDT
- Giovanni Valderas & Isaias Rodriguez on the Poetry & Politics of Piñatas—Fri., Sept.17 at 11am PDT
- All Ages Piñata Workshop with Isaias Rodriguez—Sat., Sep. 25th at 11am PDT
- Yesenia Prieto & Lorena Robledo: Labor of Love: the Economics of Piñata Making—Fri., Oct. 15 at 11am PDT
- Global Origins of the Piñata with Dr. Yong Chen—Friday Nov. 12 at 11am PST
- Casita Triste: Piñata Workshop with Giovanni Valderas—Sat., Nov. 13 at 11am PST
- Piñata Workshop with Yesenia Prieto—Thurs., Oct. 21 at 6:30pm PDT
Check the Craft in America website for more information about upcoming events.