Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

January 10, 2013


Host: José Cárdenas

Get to Know: Julio Cesar Morales


  • The Arizona Art Museum has a new curator, Get to Know Julio Cesar Morales. Before coming to the museum, Morals served as adjunct curator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
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Jose Cardenas: The ASU art museum has a new curator. Julio Cesar Morales started back in the fall. Before coming to the museum, Morales served as adjunct curator at Yerba Buena center for the arts in San Francisco. We will get to know Julio Cesar Morales in a moment, but first, here is a clip from "Interrupted passage," a film exploring the diverse history of California. Morales directed it and the film is currently in a traveling exhibition. [suspenseful music]

Jose Cardenas: Joining me now is Julio Cesar Morales, ASU art museum's new curator. Welcome to "Horizonte" and welcome to Arizona. Item us about the segment we just saw.

Julio Cesar Morales: This film is called "Interrupted passage." And essentially, it boils down to the last eight hours of California was Mexico. So I worked on this project as an artist. I am also an artist as well as a curator and the project looks at the last eight hours in 1846, right before the eruption and the war between the United States and Mexico, specially General Vallejo. Basically what I am interested in in the project is how General Vallejo negotiated the feature of California after an eight-hour meal he helped cook.

Jose Cardenas: And this shows, we mentioned it's part of a traveling exhibition but it's also on display at the house itself.

Julio Cesar Morales: Yes. Well, it was shot in the Vallejos' house in Sonoma.

Jose Cardenas: It is it's a tourist attraction.

Julio Cesar Morales: It's the first time they let anyone shoots inside the complete house.

Jose Cardenas: What was the point that you were trying to emphasize? It's about seven minutes long?

Julio Cesar Morales: It's seven minutes long. No dialogue. It's just movement and sound. And I think one of the interesting things for me is because a lot of my work deals with the border issues or issues related to the border, I wanted to go back 150 years before, and just kind of explore when California really was Mexico. And also what I am interested in is Vallejo's back ground and utilizing hospitality and utilizing food as a way of negotiating.

Jose Cardenas: And you yourself are part of the border in your background. Both Tijuana and San Diego.

Julio Cesar Morales: I was born in Tijuana and then I moved a block away to San Diego to San Ysidro.

Jose Cardenas: How has that influenced your work?

Julio Cesar Morales: I think it influenced my work very dramatically in regards to, you know, just as a person, coming from one culture to another and being bicultural in that sense, and also the idea of language and how movement affects how you deal in both situations, whether you are in Mexico or the United States.

Jose Cardenas: Let's talk a little bit about your work as a curator.

Julio Cesar Morales: Sure.

Jose Cardenas: With you mentioned that you are most recently at Yerba Buena. Talk about that institution and the things you have done there.

Julio Cesar Morales: The Yerba Buena center for the arts is in San Francisco. And I spent about four years there where I did a series of projects called pause projects. Essentially, I work would with artists from Latin America, from Asia and from the United States, develop a series of laboratory-based projects.

Jose Cardenas: And then you are now at ASU.

Julio Cesar Morales: I am now I am at ASU.

Jose Cardenas: What brought you here?

Julio Cesar Morales: I think I was really interested in the rich history of Arizona, and also its current climate as well. But also the work that was done here before by my previous predecessor, john Spiak. I was very interested in looking at how art now can really engage with social issues. And essentially what I have been working on at ASU for the last couple of months is developing a new series of projects that can really kind of create a bridge between art and social life.

Jose Cardenas: Now, when you say you were attracted by the climate I assume you are not referring to the weather.

Julio Cesar Morales: This is the west weather right now, we are in January. But, no, a cultural climate. You know, I am always interested in seeing how art can push the boundaries, how art can maybe negotiate and how art can create a bridge between certain situations outside of the museum and outside of the art itself.

Jose Cardenas: And more specifically, I take it, the reference is to the immigration debates that have been going on.

Julio Cesar Morales: Sure.

Jose Cardenas: In Arizona and we have got some pictures that we want to show from one of the exhibitions that you were involved in that captured part of the immigration issue. We have got one of the pictures on the screen. Tell us what we are looking at.

Julio Cesar Morales: So this project is called -- sorry, "Undocumented intervention." And this project originated at the art museum, and essentially traveled for a few years and actually was here in Phoenix at the art museum here. So this is, as I mentioned, growing up in Tijuana, I was really interested in this imagery because it came from the immigration service's website. All these images are what I use as the content for the water color.

Jose Cardenas: And when you say from the website. We are talking about pictures of various ways that people have attempted to cross the border.

Julio Cesar Morales: Exactly.

Jose Cardenas: And that one was an illustration of somebody inside --

Julio Cesar Morales: Inside the car.

Jose Cardenas:A chair.

Julio Cesar Morales: And essentially, that work also is about labor and it's also about the, how the United States often deals with labor and essentially since I am from Tijuana, people go a lot of these very extreme situations and dangerous situations, they place themselves to come here and work.

Jose Cardenas: We had another one on the screen, somebody inside a dashboard.

Julio Cesar Morales: Yes, inside a dashboard. Essentially in Tijuana there's places where you can pay someone to change your car seat so you can fit someone in it.

Jose Cardenas: And this will all -- this is one of those car seats?

Julio Cesar Morales: Yes. This is, these are all failed border crossing attempts. So every one in this series has been caught crossing over. And you can see how, you know, take a lot of the things that are not completely necessary in a seat or a dashboard and you place someone in there and then you close it up. And you hope or you pray that they are not going to find you.

Jose Cardenas: We have one more, which I was just fascinated in terms of the, it's a young child we are look at inside of a pinata.

Julio Cesar Morales: That's right. That's SpongeBob. So this is also based on the same series where sometimes they are trying to unite families here in the United States, and these kind of desperate measures call for very creative endeavors as well. So one of the ways people have started to attempt to come here to the United States is placing children inside custom-made pinatas.

Jose Cardenas: Fascinating. Tell us about what you are doing now at ASU. And some things that might be upcoming.

Julio Cesar Morales: Sure. So what we have coming up at ASU that, my first co-curated project is working with the Humex collection, a collection out of Mexico City. It's one of the most important art collections in the world. Jose Cardenas: It's really only the third time they show their collection in the United States.

Jose Cardenas: Jumex refers to the Mexican juice company?

Julio Cesar Morales: Yes. The heir to the juice company decided to create an important collection. And he's been doing it for about 15 years, and we chose work that really resonates about some of these issues that we have talked about in this conversation. Essentially, artworks that deal with labor, that deal with boundaries and deal with movement.

Jose Cardenas: Can you give us a sense for what some of the images are?

Julio Cesar Morales: Sure. Some of the workings they're from diorama to photographs of people going, crossing borders, going through airports. Really amazing artists, both from Latin America and the United States.

Jose Cardenas: From Europe?

Julio Cesar Morales: From Europe as well. And the exhibition will open on March 22nd.

Jose Cardenas: And these are mostly contemporary artists?

Julio Cesar Morales: They are all contemporary artists.

Jose Cardenas: From a variety of regions. What is it you hope to accomplish with this? We are almost out of time.

Julio Cesar Morales: Sure. With this exhibition or in general with my position?

Jose Cardenas: Both.

Julio Cesar Morales: I think with this exhibition, we hope that people are aware of this amazing collection in Mexico that houses one of the most important collections in the world. And besides that, also part of what I wanted to do is create more of a dialogue between the art community here, ASU, in regards to the university with students, but also with Latin America. So part of the focus is also working with artists in Latin America within the next programming phase of ASU art museum.

Jose Cardenas: Julio Cesar Morales, new ASU art cure 80er, thank you for joins us on "Horizonte." That is our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte," I am José Cardenas. Have a good night.

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