Miguel Angel Rios wants you to view his art at ASU with an open mind

September 9, 2015

Miguel Angel Rios doesn’t mind if you love or hate his art, he just wants you to view it with an open mind.

“Art has many different levels of understanding and interpretation. It doesn’t bother me at all if someone doesn’t like my work as long as they have their own interpretation and feel something,” said the 72-year-old Mexico City-based artist. "Piedras Blancas" by Miguel Angel Rios "Piedras Blancas," by artist Miguel Angel Rios, is a visual project that involved Rios throwing ceramic spheres down a mountainside and documenting on camera. Download Full Image

Well, people will get a chance to feel as his show “Miguel Angel Rios: Landlocked” will open Sept. 12 in the ASU Art Museum and remain up through Dec. 26.

An opening reception for “Landlocked” will be held 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Sept. 11, with Rios present. The event is free and open to the public.

The exhibition is a video survey that follows Rios’ journey into an artistic practice which addresses issues of power, migration, apathy and violence. His work incorporates social and political narratives and state-of-the-art production techniques. Four of these pieces will be exhibit exclusives as the museum commissioned the works.

“Landlocked” is part of the Contact Zones series of exhibitions at the ASU Art Museum which focuses on contemporary migration and its intricate uncertainties within border culture. The series includes new commission-based installations, public engaged programs, guest-curated exhibitions and artist initiated projects.

“These new works are very much site-specific and grounded in a new approach to land art,” said ASU Art Museum curator Julio Cesar Morales. “Rios challenges traditional modes of representations within landscape.”

Rios has been challenging traditions ever since he became an artist, which he says commenced when he was “in the womb.” He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and has received numerous awards including the John Guggenheim Fellowship for his work exploring the mediums of painting, drawing and collage.

At the height of his career in the late 1990s, Rios put down the paintbrush and picked up a video camera, pushing the boundaries of an emerging art genre — like a 5-minute video called “The Ghost of Modernity” in which Rios uses a Plexiglas box as a “prism of privilege” to view the streets and landscapes of Mexico City.

“I’m constantly exploring different genres and video seems to have stuck with me for the last 15 years,” Rios said. “There are a lot of movements that go on with video that you cannot get in a drawing or painting. It’s like a small movie and outdoor space becomes the landscape. I can then use the landscape for any metaphor I wish to convey.”

In addition to the video installation, a portion of the exhibition is dedicated to Rios’ creative process, intended to give viewers a glimpse into the mind of the artist. The “studio of curiosities” includes research materials, photographs, works on paper, storyboards, production ephemera and video documentaries on the making of some of Rios’ most acclaimed works.

For more information about Landlocked, call 480-965-2787 or visit asuartmuseum.asu.edu.

Reporter , ASU Now


'Pencils of Promise' founder to speak about purpose at ASU West campus

September 9, 2015

After surviving a shipwreck that nearly cost him his life, Adam Braun decided to re-evaluate his purpose.

He dropped his pursuit of a career in finance and began traveling the world, making a habit of asking children wherever he went what they wanted most. One child’s answer ultimately inspired him to establish Pencils of Promise, a for-purpose organization that builds schools, trains teachers and funds scholarships to help ensure that children all over the world have access to quality education. After a near-death experience, Adam Braun re-evaluated his life's purpose and ultimately established an organization that works to ensure access to quality education in developing nations. His book was the 2015 Summer Common Read at ASU's West campus. Download Full Image

In March 2014, Braun published his book “The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change,” which tells the story of how he came to found Pencils of Promise and also provides advice for others looking to make positive change in the world.

The book was chosen for Arizona State University’s 2015 Summer Common Read at the West campus. Braun will be visiting the campus Sept. 10 for a 7 p.m. keynote speech on “The Promise of a Pencil,” followed by an 8 p.m. book signing, both located in the La Sala Ballrooms in the University Center Building.

For more information about the event, click here.

ASU News caught up with Braun ahead of the event for a brief Q&A. Read on to find out more about what inspired Pencils of Promise and the philosophy behind it.

Question: During your Semester at Sea in college, you had a near-death experience in the form of a shipwreck that you said gave you a “renewed sense of purpose,” and after that you began traveling extensively. At what point did you know that purpose was to work toward accessible education?

Answer: While traveling in India I met a young boy begging on the streets who, when asked if he could have anything in the world, answered, "a pencil." It made me realize the tremendous injustice that millions of children around the world lack access to quality education, and from that moment forward I wanted to do something about it.

Q: You make a point of distinguishing your organization, Pencils of Promise as “for-purpose” as opposed to “nonprofit.” What is the difference between the two?

A: It's a subtle shift in language, but it's also a difference in two approaches. For-purpose focuses on maximizing impact and not treating your work with a scarcity mentality where you're constantly trying to do the most with the least amount of resources expended. It's important not to overspend, but if you're constantly focused on the nonprofit side of this work then you undercut its true value.

Q: Pencils of Promise works to provide educational opportunities in developing worlds. Are there plans to address access to education in the United States? Why or why not?

A: We believe in the value of laser focus and that great organizations clearly define where they can have the greatest impact. Given that, our programs are focused on rural parts of the developing world, but we train and equip people in the U.S. to become changemakers by supporting those efforts.

Q: Before you started Pencils of Promise, you went to school for finance and also spent five years backpacking through foreign countries. What would you be doing now if you weren’t the founder of PoP?

A: I'd be working for sure on a different company or organization serving a social mission. The world has a lot of problems that are only going to get addressed when audacious people step up to change things, and whether it's with PoP or another effort, I know that I'm here to make a difference.

Q: You recently gave a Zeitgeist talk at Google in which you describe the five steps involved in the “road map to profitable purpose.” What would you say is the single most important piece of advice for college students interested in pursuing careers in the nonprofit sector?

A: Focus on gaining a hard skill first, and you'll be more valuable to the organization you seek to support. Whether that's in graphic design, database management, coding or any other marketable skill, there's plenty of people that have passion, but college students should focus on finding that unique ability that nonprofits all need but rarely find, and you'll find yourself ahead of the pack.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657