La Malagua celebrates the Loteria at Museo del las Americas.

Maruca Salazar became the director of the Museo de las Américas (861 Santa Fe Drive, 303-571-4401, www.museo.org) in the fall of 2009 and unveiled her first show, La Malagua, a couple of months ago. The exhibit highlights the work of a collaborative group of artists based in Puerto Vallarta and known as El Colectivo Malagua — the Jellyfish Collective. Salazar was herself born in Mexico but has been a part of the Colorado art scene for decades as a practicing artist. She also recently retired from a long career as an art teacher and administrator for the Denver Public Schools.

The artists of El Colectivo Malagua are Yesika Felix, Sergio Martinez, Fernando Sanchez, Miguel Perez and Ireri Topete. The group has made works in the form of banners that riff off the iconography of the Lotería game, creating their own versions of the cards and adding one, a jellyfish, hence the group's title (pictured). Lotería, which is played throughout Mexico, is similar to bingo, but cards — the appearance of which are reminiscent of tarot cards — are used instead of numbered balls. The 54 Lotería cards are drawn and their names called out; players then mark the corresponding spots on their boards with a rock or bean. The Museo has even set up tables with score cards and bowls of beans so that visitors can play.

Salazar has supplemented the effort with the work of two Colorado artists, and she should be lauded for that: Carlos Frésquez, Denver's premier exemplar of a post-Chicano artist, and Belen Escalante, who just graduated from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. Unlike their Mexican cohorts, who did two-dimensional pieces — the same format as the original Lotería cards — Frésquez and Escalante created three-dimensional installations in response to the game.

La Malagua works on several levels, not the least of which is introducing Lotería to Denver art audiences. I know that I'd never heard of it before. The show runs through June 6.

 
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