El Paso's 10 Contemporary Art Galleries And Museums To Visit

| © uıɐɾ ʞ ʇɐɯɐs/Flickr
Enrichetta Frezzato

Embedded in the desert landscape of far West Texas, El Paso is a borderland city that straddles the cultures of both the USA and Mexico not just on its superb dining scene. This dual culture location also has a huge influence on the local arts, which fuse influences from the respective traditions, and allow new talents to blossom. We explore 10 of the best contemporary art museums and private galleries in El Paso and its surrounding area.

1. El Paso Museum of Art


Sol Project at El Paso Museum of Art
© Visit El Paso/Flickr
El Paso Museum of Art (EPMA) was founded in 1959 to become one of the most acclaimed and influential cultural establishments in the areas of West Texas and New Mexico. Located a few steps away from San Jacinto Plaza, dominated by Los Lagartos, a fibreglass statue of two alligators, the museum houses a vast permanent collection comprising the renowned Kress collection, the Spanish Viceroyal, the American and the works on paper collections. The contemporary collection encompasses some of the best new art from Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Mexico, with works displayed as part of the permanent collection and showcased during the many temporary exhibitions. Among the gems presented at EPMA are works by local painter Carmen Lomas Garza, Color Field artist Sam Gilliam, sculptures by Texas-based James Surls, and assemblage works by Al Souza, demonstrating a wide spectrum of media and styles.

2. Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts

Art Gallery

Housed by the University of Texas at El Paso since its opening in 2004, the Stanlee and Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts is committed to bringing the most innovative trends in artistic practice to the region. Serving as a creative laboratory for art students and local emerging artists, the Rubin aims at creating a space where internationally recognised, cutting-edge art meets the inventiveness of home practitioners. Among the ongoing series of regular exhibitions, workshops, site-specific installations, and Biennial Faculty Exhibitions, a highlight is the current retrospective on jeweler and metal artist Rachelle Thiewes, Rachelle Thiewes: Something Gleams. Thiewes, in addition to being a professor at the university, is also an acclaimed sculptor with works displayed in Washington D.C., Scotland, New York and Chicago, among others.

3. The Glass Gallery


Also lodged at the University of Texas at El Paso, this time at the Fox Fine Arts Center, the Glass Gallery focuses exclusively on the artworks of the up-and-coming talents from the UTEP Department of Art. Run under the supervision of the Rubin Center’s staff, this student-led gallery has been showcasing artistic research on a range of different media for over 20 years. With an ambitious program of around 15 exhibitions every year, both solo and collective, the gallery displays the newest explorations and reflections driving artistic practice in the area’s arts hub.

4. Galleries at the Memorial


Commemorating the peaceful setting of the Chamizal border dispute between the US and Mexico, the Chamizal National Memorial is committed to celebrating the history and culture of the borderline region where it is located. Three galleries showcasing the work of local painters and sculptors make up the complex: the Los Paisanos, the Abrazos, and the Borderland gallery. By hosting exhibitions such as River People, featuring local artists like Nestor Valencia and Julio Sanchez de Alba, the gallery’s aim is to shed light on the rich and diverse heritage that characterizes this frontier area. Also on display in the bookshop is a collection of colorful alebrijes, curious animal-like creatures dreamed up by Mexican artist Pedro Linares which later became popular folk art objects in the Oaxaca region.

5. Hal Marcus Gallery

Hal Marcus Gallery

In an airy exhibition space perfect for a large number of paintings and artworks, Hal Marcus Gallery hosts one of the preeminent exhibitions spots in El Paso. The gallery has a strong focus on local artistry and in addition to displaying a large, distinctively bright and hued collection of paintings by Hal Marcus himself, it also brings together some of the finest contemporary works produced by artists in the area. In the gallery, Botero-esque portraits by Mauricio Mora share the space with the sharp tones of Mark Paulda’s photographs, and with the surreal phantasmagoria of Evelyn Ainsa’s oils.

Hal Marcus Gallery, 1308 N Oregon St, El Paso, TX, USA, +1 915 533 9090

Hal Marcus, RainbowTwins, 2014 | Courtesy of Hal Marcus Gallery and the artist

Hal Marcus, RainbowTwins, 2014 | Courtesy of Hal Marcus Gallery and the artist

6. Encaustic International Art Studio & Gallery


Encaustic International Art Studio & Gallery

Founded by German-born artist Brigitte von Ahn, Encaustic is located in Northwest El Paso, just a couple of miles west of Franklin Mountain State Park. The gallery specializes in the encaustic technique, a painting method involving heated beeswax mixed with added colored pigments. Alongside the main collection, the gallery hosts a selection of sculptures and works by early El Paso artist Eugene Thurston. Other works include the colorful abstract creations of Ju-Yi Fu or the dreamlike landscapes of Lori Wertz.

7100 Westwind, Suite 120, El Paso, TX, USA, +1 915 833 0454

7. International Museum of Art


El Paso Exploreum Museum
©Visit El Paso
Together with the African and Western galleries, the Kolliker and the Mexican Revolution galleries, the Red Room Gallery makes up the permanent collection at the International Museum of Art of El Paso. The Red Room is devoted to contemporary local art and presents a selection of paintings and drawings by top artists from El Paso and the Southwest. Occupying the lower floor of the museum with a showcase of diverse artistic media and themes, the gallery is a great place to start your exploration of local art. Among the artists to see here are muralist Ernesto Martinez and beloved local mixed media artist Lawrence Benjamin Porter.

8. Agave Rosa

Agave Rosa

In 2011, artist Martha Arzabala founded Agave Rosa with the mission of providing a dedicated space for Hispanic artists to showcase their work in El Paso. And, in line with this initial goal, the gallery now displays works by both emerging and more established artists from the cities of El Paso, Las Cruces (NM) and Ciudad Juarez, on the other side of the national border. Visitors will find works spanning a wide range of different media, from ceramics to paintings, to sculpture, photography and jewelry. Among other works on display at Agave Rosa, the paintings of Hector Bernal offer an original perspective on the great European masterpieces from which they take inspiration.

Agave Rosa Gallery, 905 Noble St, El Paso, TX, USA, +1 915 533 8011

9. Purple Pop-Up Gallery

Purple Pop-Up Gallery

From shops to restaurants, the ‘pop-up’ concept is a wide-spreading trend that has so far left very few spheres untouched. The idea reached El Paso and its arts scene in the form Purple Pop-Up. Its actual form might be temporary, but the experience is bound to remain in El Paso’s cultural memory for a long time. The project was devised by photographer Peter Svarzbein, who, riding the wave of the hugely successful Chalk the Block events in 2013, aimed to establish a new urban spot to house rotating showcases of cutting-edge art in the El Paso and Juarez areas. Debuting in 2014 with three to four exhibitions per year, the gallery will show the works of over a dozen artists, including Svarzbein’s own El Paso Transnational Trolley Project, which involves a border-crossing trolley and thousands of tiny pictures of local residents on both sides of the frontier.

Purple Pop-Up Gallery, 210 E Mills Ave, El Paso, TX, USA (temporary)

10. Amado Peña Gallery

Art Gallery

Included in El Paso metropolitan area, San Elizario is known for its Historic Art District and Mission Trail, which are surely worth the drive. Among the cluster of art galleries dotted around the village, the Amado Peña Gallery stands out for its commitment to fostering local and Native American art. Housed in a renovated historic building, the gallery showcases works by some renowned artists from the region, such as Helen Hall and Manuel Franco, as well as some of Amado Peña’s very own paintings, whose strength shines through their strong dedication to Native American art.

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