"Retablos: The Art of Faith" exhibition to open in Visitors Center March 1
Posted: 02/26/2007
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The exhibition "Retablos: The Art of Faith," owned by Debbie and Ricardo Backal, will open at The University of Texas-Pan American Visitors Center March 1.

The exhibit, which will run through June 1, showcases a private collection of 75 original oil paintings on copper and tin known as retablos, or laminas as they are called in Mexico. The exhibit, which has been displayed only in Mexico, is making its first appearance in the United States at UTPA.

Pictured is one of the paintings that will be on display in the exhibit opening March 1 at the UTPA Visitors Center.
The colorful and engaging retablos, which were displayed in home altars to honor their patron saints, are deeply rooted in Spanish history and represent the heart and soul of traditional religious beliefs in the 17th through 19th century Mexican culture. The collection also includes ex-votos, similar devotional art normally hung on church walls, which paid homage to particular saints in the form of short narratives. The exhibition will include explanatory panels in both English and Spanish.

The Backals, from Mexico City, said the collection began more than 50 years ago with Ricardo's father, who was an architect. Ricardo said his father started collecting Mexican stamps at a young age, then moved to collecting books and a variety of art forms. His father's collection of silver objects from colonial Mexico, once a part of an exhibition in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, is currently on display at the International Museum of Arts and Sciences in McAllen.

"My father had a passion for art, especially Mexican art," Ricardo said. "This type of art (retablos) represents Mexico. You get to know the people of Mexico through this type of art - it comes from their heart. You still find people making retablos today."

Debbie and Ricardo Backal pose in front of several works in their private collection that will be featured in the exhibition "Retablos: The Art of Faith," that will be hosted in the UTPA Visitors Center March 1-June 1.
Ricardo, also an architect, and his wife Debbie, a teacher and interpreter, work closely with the Mexican Consulate in promoting art in the Valley. They have formed a company titled Half Spoon, which will feature exhibitions of works collected by the Backals available for tour as well as educational and workshop materials to accompany the exhibitions.

The exhibition is free and open to the public. Visitors Center hours are Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Saturday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. For more information and tours, contact 956/292-7338.