Justin Favela’s piñatas at P3 Studio in the Cosmopolitan are filled with social commentary, not candy.
Justin Favela created this life-size piñata of a 1964 Chevy Impala lowrider for a Route 66–themed exhibit in Springs Preserve.
This summer at Downtown’s Trifecta Gallery, when Andreana Donahue began curating an exhibit of works created from humble materials, she immediately considered including Justin Favela’s humorous, sometimes sardonic large-scale piñatas, made with paper, cardboard, and a glue gun. Fusing commentary on pop culture with his Mexican and Guatemalan heritage, they have earned him a growing reputation as “the guy doing Chicano art,” he says. This month, Favela will be at Cosmopolitan’s P3 Studio for a residency, during which he’ll create Piñatatopia, an interactive installation for which he’ll construct piñatas based on drawings made by visitors depicting their ideas of Mexico.
What distinguishes Favela is his ability to present various perspectives on cultural and social imagery with a wry sense of humor. For his 2011 solo exhibit “County Center,” he created poor man’s versions of large-scale works from CityCenter’s $40 million art collection. The crude, funny renditions in cardboard—touching on ideas about public art, community, the art market, and casino culture—included appropriations of Henry Moore’s Reclining Connected Forms, Jenny Holzer’s Vegas, and Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen’s Typewriter Eraser, Scale X (with a delete key replacing the famous typewriter eraser). His version of Maya Lin’s Silver River, an 84-foot-long sculpture inspired by the Colorado River and fabricated in reclaimed silver, was made from tinfoil and chicken wire bent in the shape of the Las Vegas Wash. The humble materials, he says, reflect the idea of Las Vegas as a place built from limited resources as well as the faux reality of the city, where marble pillars and other ostentatious displays are really just façades made of Styrofoam, fiberglass, and paint.
The idea of rendering his works in paper and cardboard isn’t limited to his Vegas-themed pieces. Inspired by 19th-century Mexican paintings, Favela plans to install a “piñata-style” Romantic landscape made from tissue paper to serve as the backdrop for his P3 Studio project. Joining the pixilated countryside will be a piñata constructed on-site, creating the feeling of a diorama. The timing of Favela’s residency overlaps with Mexican Independence Day, resulting in a social study laced with humor and subtle cultural commentary. Piñatatopia runs September 10-October 5 at P3 Studio at Cosmopolitan, 702-698-7000