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October 27, 2022–March 26, 2023
Methuselah, a digital piece created by Houston-based artist Reynier Leyva Novo, who is of Cuban descent, is on display at El Museo del Barrio. Methuselah, a commission from El Museo with funding from VIA Art Fund, simulates a single monarch butterfly’s 6000-mile transnational migratory trek from southern Canada via the United States to Mexico. The epic voyage is housed and replicated in real time on a specifically created, open-access, dedicated website and is embodied through the life of a virtual avatar. To access site, visit here.
On September 22 at 7 p.m. EST, Methuselah makes its public debut, timed to the Fall equinox and the beginning of the monarch migration. Starting on this day, viewers will be able to track the virtual avatar as it travels south through shifting topography, shifting weather patterns, and other shifting physical situations. Novo will participate in a project demonstration and online discussion with curator Olga Viso as part of a celebration, which will be chaired by Susanna V. Temkin, organizing curator of El Museo. Public event that is free to attend online.
Methuselah will be displayed as an in-person mixed reality installation beginning on October 27 at El Museo del Barrio in conjunction with Juan Francisco Elso: Por América. Visitors will be able to experience and witness the monarch butterfly’s activity in a shared environment while using holographic lenses to follow the butterfly as it glides by them. Reservations are essential and just three visitors are allowed to see Methuselah at once (first-come, first-serve; must be made on-site, the day of your visit).
Methusaleh discusses more general modern concerns such as migration, climate change, and the need for international collaboration through the story of the monarch’s journey across the Americas. The artwork, which draws attention to the fictitious security of borders and provides a crucial metaphor for life in the twenty-first century, is made all the more poignant by the monarch’s recent listing as an endangered species.
A community of art museums, research centers, and cultural institutions in North America have joined in partnership to support Methuselah and bring greater awareness to the inspiring life cycle of monarch butterflies. These more than 20 international cultural organizations (and growing) include Americas Society, New York; ASU Art Museum, Arizona; ASU Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center, Arizona; Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada; Ballroom Marfa, Texas; Desert Botanical Garden, Arizona; High Museum of Art, Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C.; International Center for the Arts of the Americas / Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Texas; MIT List Visual Arts Center, Massachusetts; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Tennessee; Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Canada; Museo Jumex, Mexico; Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, MUAC, UNAM, Mexico; Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, Florida; The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Missouri; New York Botanical Garden, New York; Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona; Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California; and Seattle Art Museum, Washington.
About Reynier Leyva Novo
One of Cuba’s top conceptual artists is Reynier Leyva Novo, who was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1983 and now resides in Houston, Texas. Novo questions a person’s capacity for change by challenging ideology and symbols of authority. He uses historical data and official papers in his multidisciplinary approach to create sculptures and multimedia installations that are conceptually and formally simple.
Reynier Leyva Novo: Methuselah is commissioned by El Museo del Barrio through the generous support of VIA Art Fund. The project is presented in relation Juan Francisco Elso: Por América, which is possible thanks to major support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Additional support is provided by Tony Bechara; Celso Gonzalez-Falla; Craig Robins; Steven and Judy Shank, and John Thomson. Commissions are made possible by VIA Art Fund and the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Supported in part with public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the NYC Council.
El Museo del Barrio
1230 5th Avenue
10029 New York NY
Hours: Friday–Sunday 11am–5pm