Exhibition: CALAFIA: Manifesting the Terrestrial Paradise
Exhibition Dates: October 6, 2019, through January 12, 2020
Opening Reception: Saturday, October 5, 6-8 pm
Location: Armory Center for the Arts, Caldwell Gallery 145 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91103
The Armory will host the third iteration of the MexiCali Biennial, which
explores the possibilities and contradictions of California through its founding mythologies.
Pasadena, CA – The Armory Center for the Arts is pleased to present the fourth iteration of the
MexiCali Biennial, CALAFIA: Manifesting the Terrestrial Paradise, a series of exhibitions and
programs taking place throughout the California region north and south of the US/Mexico
border exploring the myth of the indigenous Black Queen Calafia, and her island.
The exhibition is on view in the Caldwell Galleries from October 6, 2019, through January 12,
2020. It will be preceded by a free, public reception on Saturday, October 5, from 6-8pm.
The word ‘California’ was first written in the sixteenth-century novel Las Sergas de Esplandian
(The Adventures of Esplandian) by Castilian author Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo and is regarded
by many to be the etymological source of the region’s name. This chivalric romance exoticizes
Queen Calafia and her Black Amazon pagan women, who are armed with golden weapons and
ride upon mythical beasts, living on a prosperous island filled with gold and precious stones
called California. The Eurocentric narrative ultimately ends with the colonization of the land and
the subjugation of the queen and her army through marriage and proselytism.
The 2018-2020 Mexicali Biennial attempts to reactivate the mythology of Calafia and the island
of California–fiction and facts combined rethink the extended region that was conceived and
intended to be–from a colonial perspective– a “Terrestrial Paradise.”
This particular chapter, the third in the exhibition series, features twenty-nine artists and
collectives using diverse aesthetic strategies to engage with the consequences of being in a
place continuously framed as a “paradise” through a colonial project of erasure and dominance.
Artworks reclaim and rewrite the myth of Calafia to deactivate the concept of the “paradise”
and show its contradictions, as well as to outline and reimage the island of California in
contemporary times. Futurisms, land poetics, critiques of immigration politics, an analysis of
gentrification processes, the myth-making connected to surveillance and militarization, and
deconstructions of race and gender are just some of the lines that shape the shore of the island
In conjunction with the Armory Center for the Arts, satellite programming will take place in
Calexico, Mexicali, and Tijuana. Previous chapters included the launch of CALAFIA: Manifesting
the Terrestrial Paradise through a series of performances at LACE Los Angeles Contemporary
Exhibitions in Summer 2018, and an exhibition at RAFFMA Cal State San Bernardino in Fall 2018.
Artists: #SNATCHPOWER, Juan Bastardo, Chelle Barbour, Mely Barragán, Miguel Buenrostro,
Enid Baxter Ryce, Chris Christion, Cog•nate Collective, Nikki Darling and Dean Erdmann, Yutsil
Cruz, David de Rozas, Melora Garcia, Invasorix, Maya Mackrandilal, Noé Olivas, Abigail Raphael
Collins, Adee Roberson, Mónica Rodríguez, Sandy Rodriguez, Timo Saarelma, Paulina Sánchez,
Julio Romero, Amanda Trager & Erik Moskowitz, Hillary Mushkin, Chinwe Okona, Jeniffer
Pereda, Jessica Sevilla, Diane Williams, and Kim Zumpfe.
CALAFIA: Manifesting the Terrestrial Paradise is organized by the curatorial team of the
MexiCali Biennial: Ed Gomez, Luis G. Hernandez, and Daniela Lieja Quintanar, with coordinator
and researcher April Lillard-Gomez.
About the MexiCali Biennial
The MexiCali Biennial is a bi-national arts organization that explores the area of the California
border as a site for aesthetic production. Nomadic exhibitions partner with arts institutions to
showcase both emerging and established artists working in all media. Originally started in 2006
as a critique of the proliferation of international and regional biennials, the MexiCali Biennial
may occur at any time and on any side of the U.S-Mexico border.
About the Armory
Armory Center for the Arts, in Pasadena, California, is one of the Los Angeles region’s leading
independent institutions for contemporary art and community arts education. The Armory
believes that an understanding and appreciation of the arts is essential for a well-rounded
human experience and a healthy civic community. Founded in 1989, the Armory builds on the
power of art to transform lives and communities through presenting, creating, teaching, and
considering contemporary visual art. The organization’s department of exhibitions offers
diverse programs at its main facility and in locations throughout the region. Armory exhibitions
inspire dialogue around visual culture and contemporary life; contribute to global discourses in
contemporary art; include residency programs that encourage experimentation and outreach;
and introduce contemporary visual art to Pasadena, the Los Angeles region, and beyond. The
Armory also offers studio art classes and related educational programs to more than fifty
schools, community sites, and juvenile justice centers in the greater Los Angeles area.
Admission to the Armory is free. Parking is available on the street or in the Marriott garage
directly north of the Armory for free for 90 minutes. The Armory is off the Gold Line at
Memorial Park – walk one half block east to Raymond and one half block north to the Armory.
For more information please visit www.armoryarts.org.