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Arts & Entertainment

At the Dallas Museum of Art, a Customized Culture in the Concourse

The DMA concourse mural space renders a celebration of lowrider cruising culture through color, light and glimmer.
By At the Dallas Museum of Art, a Customized Culture in the Concourse Leslie Fuentes | |Photography by Korena Bolding Sinnett
Dallas museum of art
Korena Bolding Sinnett

At the Dallas Museum of Art, there is a massive space that palpitates with visitors’ footsteps. The concourse is the heart of the museum. Visitors walk through it, and when they do, they cannot help but pause to engage with the artwork on display, even if it’s just turning their heads.

Most recently, red, pink, orange, yellow and silver cover the glossy 153-foot wall. Specs of light emit from a hanging disco ball that decorates the floor, walls and ceiling. Spectators look into lightboxes to decipher the phenomena behind their mirroring effect.

Neon lights run across the floor, paving a path for visitors to follow. This has been the scene in the center of the museum since December. The lowrider mural installation, disco balls, pinstripes, and all, stands until July.

The DMA invited Guadalupe Rosales, an East Los Angeles-based multidisciplinary artist, to reimagine the concourse. When she visited the site for the first time, the long hall reminded her of a tunnel and how memory functions like a void. Her mural, “Drifting on a Memory,” recalls her memories cruising as a teen with her friends and family in the 1990s.

“Memory and the materiality of memory have been so important to her,” said Dr. Vivian Li, the DMA’s Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art. “The photographs that she has in the pair of light boxes are pictures of lowrider cruises that she went to last summer in East L.A. Some of them are also family photographs from the Calderon family, paying homage to not only the collaborators of her mural, but also to the lowriding families in Dallas.”

In the glass lightboxes— one engraved with the words “Smile Now” and the other with “Cry Later,” multi-exposure photography acknowledges the continuity and ambiguity of memory. The lightboxes house infinity mirrors that make photographs, images of lowrider magazine covers and ephemera—like a Homies character—appear to recur eternally.

“In a way, this concourse mural is a platform for each of the artists she collaborated with to also showcase each of their art,” Li said. “It’s all been about collaboration and including other people besides her to create this work and to create experience. They rose to (the) occasion.”

Rosales collaborated with local artists to create a mural intended for the Dallas community.

Lokey Calderon, a Dallas pinstriper recognized locally and nationally for his work, created the pinstripes all around the installation. He invited Forth Worth muralist Sarah Ayala to assist with painting those precise lines. His brother, Oscar Calderon, designed the lush velvet interior that is on display in the window niche.

That window niche, which oversees into the neighboring gallery, extends the mural space.

Unlike many artists in the past, Rosales integrated it into her installation. Upholstery activates the space. Sewn buttons, lush velvet, a disco ball, and fuzzy dice are displayed just as they would be through a lowrider’s rear windshield.

The hall is a large canvas, unimaginable for many artists to work with. The mural scales up the surfaces of customized lowriders. Scaling up the scrollwork, the pinstriping, and a silver leaf called for ingenuity. A large rear-view-like mirror that relays the installation’s title is placed over one end of the hall.

Floating right above the heads of visitors is a rotating disco ball that was recycled from a previous project. Its placement was coincidental, but it complements the smaller one that hangs in the window niche.

It is all mostly hand-made improvisation and customization right in the center.

“The lowriding artistry hasn’t really been celebrated at the institutional level like that at museums,” Li said. “It’s always been there, but I think it hasn’t been centered like this. It’s literally in the center, in the main spine of the museum.”

“Inclusive,” “ambitious” and “collaborative” are just a few attempts at describing the immersive space that houses Rosales’ work. “Drifting on a Memory” is the rendition of a lowrider, inside and out. Memories of the joys of cruising overpower the installation and are shared with those who walk by.

On view through July 10. Dallas Museum of Art