It all started when I had the opportunity to visit the Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden in Zapotitlán Salinas, the place Henry Wangeman says is his favorite spot in the world. Frequent visits with artist friends in tow left their mark on us all, but one that is difficult to describe. Being there was an awesome experience: a site so beautiful it takes your breath away while at the same time it inspires and moves you. This site is within the emblematic border area between the states of Puebla and Oaxaca, part of the biosphere region that in early July UNESCO placed on its list of World Heritage mixed sites—mixed because of its natural and cultural components—under the name Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley: Originary Habitat of Mesoamerica.
This magnificent place, frozen in time, has tangible and intangible wealth that encompasses far more than a vast territory of microclimates and endemic flora and fauna: there is no place like it on the planet. It bears the early memory of sedentary life with vestiges left by people who started to cultivate maize seven thousand years ago.
In all truth, I was barely aware of this patrimony when I started to visit the zone. It is also true that some of the artists in this exhibition had already been to some parts of it, sporadically, without realizing its complex biological, historical, and diverse importance. What was clear to them was the overwhelming impact of what they saw that captivated them over time. That’s how it all started. And that is why I decided to channel my enthusiasm into building a cultural project that would make this memory the artists had experienced a reality, to bear witness to the ancient wisdom of nature that was gradually revealed to all of us in the astonishment and delight of each visit.
ENDEMISMO is a collective exhibition. It displays work by several generations of painters and photographers, living and working in Oaxaca, here and now. Thus it showcases the work of contemporary artists grappling with the problems art addresses today. It brings together work by mainstream artists working in Oaxaca, who have had successful, lengthy careers and have contributed to giving Oaxaca a place of honor as a region where a number of superb artists have emerged over the centuries.
Younger artists were also invited to visit the biosphere and share this experience through their artistic concerns, from their personal vision and using other visual languages. The project took shape and the selection process took into consideration the production of twenty painters and six photographers, men and women, who submitted from two to seven works to the curatorial selection committee, culminating in this selection now on view to the visiting public.
Each artist’s gaze is as endemic as the species that inhabit the biosphere. It couldn’t arise from any other culture than the one in Oaxaca. This diversity of expression, the desire to know more, rigor in research, and commitment to create proposals from their contemporary condition have informed the collective Endemismo.
These lines would be incomplete without expressing my supreme recognition and gratitude to the scholar who dedicated time to individually interviewing each artist, collaborated in selecting the works, prepared the exhibition discourse, and gave me sage advice, valuable lessons, and well-targeted encouragement throughout the year I worked on making this project possible: Luis-Martín Lozano.