LatinX: Artistas de Tejas

April 7 - May 27, 2017

Christine DeVitt Exhibition Hall
Helen DeVitt Jones Studio Gallery

 

Participating Artists:

Rene Alvarado                                     Juan Granados

Fernando Andrade                             Anabel Toribio Martinez

Richard Armendariz                          César Augusto Martínez

Margarita Cabrera                              Delilah Montoya

Gaspar Eníquez                                   Dario Robleto

Jose Esquivel                                        Kathy Vargas

 Justin Garcia      

Brought to you through a generous gift from the Mid-America Arts Alliance and The Rea Charitable Trust

 

Aquí Estamos: Ahora y Always                      
by Ann Marie Leimer, Ph.D.

LatinX: Artistas de Tejas is dedicated to the recognition and celebration of artists living and working in Texas who are of Mexican ancestry. The exhibition reflects the richness, depth, and diversity of media, themes, and subject matter of these thirteen artists who have deep ties to Texas. Many of the artists are Tejanas and Tejanos, Americans of Mexican descent born and bred in Texas, others “got here as soon as they could” and now make Texas their artistic, cultural, and intellectual home. They hail from various regions of the state from major urban centers such as San Antonio and Houston, to border cities such as El Paso, and to the High Plains and West Texas cities of Lubbock and San Angelo. Some claim Mexico as their birth site, having crossed the border to US citizenship later in life. Some remain lifelong citizens in the cities of their births, some others have migrated through various locations before calling Texas finalmente en casa (finally home), while still others, like migrant farmworkers, seasonally move between places of residence and places of employment. They represent various generations from those who actively participated in and came of age during El Movimiento Chicano, the movement for civil rights for people of Mexican descent in the United States that arose in the 1960s, to those who matured during the rise of globalization, the Internet, and the end of the Cold War. Significantly, the artists’ lives and artistic influences have often intertwined with legendary figures in Latinx art, such as the late Mel Casas and Sam Coronado.

Pero Primero (But First) - Nomenclature

Nomenclature is understood as a process of naming things or people, applying terms as a means of identification. Art work produced by American artists of Mexican and Latin American descent and by Mexican and Latin American citizens living and working in the United States has a long history, often responding to the unique events and cultures that have shaped a particular region. The trajectory of these art histories and the various terms used to describe them has been covered elsewhere. However, the term “Latinx” deserves some comment and clarification because it serves as an organizing metaphor for this exhibition. The use of Latinx seeks to confront, critique, and eradicate gender distinctions inherent in Spanish as a Romance language understood as privileging the masculine over the feminine. The term first emerged in 2004 as part of a larger project of equality and inclusion and gained traction via popular and scholarly networks by 2015. While some may argue that Latinx blurs or makes invisible distinct national or regional identities, it does provide a broad linguistic referent to distinguish all things Latin American.

Reading LatinX: Artistas de Tejas

The artists from this exhibition work in a range of media including drawing, painting, photography, printmaking, and sculpture and demonstrate a unique relationship to their individual ethnicity and art making process. Not surprisingly, the exhibition reflects a broad array of the social, cultural, and spiritual references specific to Latinx-lived experience and to these art makers. How do we begin to read such diverse representations? The vast majority of the work in the show is intensively figurative, meaning that it positions a recognizable human form as the central device for the carrying of meaning, and story emerges as a second important device whether the treatment is abstract or naturalistic. Therefore, I suggest using figuration and narrative as skillful lenses with which to consider this exhibition.

The artists have created recognizable portraits of individuals known to them, as in the images of César A. Martínez and Gaspar Enríque that emphasize the orgullo (pride) and power of the Pachuco body, while Richard Armendariz invents characters whose imagined stories connect him with his artistic antecedents. Armendariz and René Alvarado develop a unique visual vocabulary that complicates religious figures such as John the Baptist, the Madonna, and Christ and that locates spiritual power within landscapes of earth, sky, and universe. The use of family photographs shapes the work of Juan Granados and Kathy Vargas, serving as a point of departure for a nuanced exploration of lineage and the realities of the most vulnerable family members, children. For both these artists, intensive technical processes serve to weave memory, family, and community together an integrated and complex whole.

In stark contrast, Dario Robleto digitally removes any remnant of a specific individual from pre-existing photographic portraits, a process of abstraction similar to the grief process where the person’s essence is remembered when we can no longer recall their face. What remains is light in various intensities and hues that demonstrates the power and enduring energy of the person long gone.

Anabel Toribio-Martínez and José Esquivel portray domestic interiors with people engaged in the activities of daily life. Esquivel moves from the domestic interior to the performative public spaces of the porch and front yard that imply human interaction by the very absence of its portrayal. Delilah Montoya’s project echoes that of Toribio-Martínez’s and Esquivel’s, but differs in that it depicts both interior and exterior places replete with scenes of social interaction and that it asks the viewer to consider the impact of ethnic and racial mixing as part of lineage and family history.

Fernando Andrade and Margarita Cabrera use the seemingly humble materials of graphite and found objects to animate local and regional realities of border life. The matter-of-fact manner of the human beings that populate Andrade’s drawings creates a tension between their exquisite formal rendering and the horror of his subject matter. Exposure to violence becomes a casual everyday occurrence, shaping the imaginary of current and future generations. Similarly, Cabrera’s plant forms consist of flowering cactus and yucca that simultaneously proclaim the beauty and resilience of desert life, that witness the harsh brutality of events taking place in border areas, and that symbolize human presence through the use of border control agent uniforms as the very fiber of the sculptures themselves.

Justin Garcia sustains a more abstracted investigation of place and our role in the cosmos, absenting the human figure while investigating phenomenological questions on the nature of time and human existence through explorations of the paint medium. The physical process of applying paint in thick and thin layers, of scraping and reapplying pigment, results in a tantalizing visual tale that compels the viewer to decipher. Taken together, the works produced by these artists reveal intricate, multifaceted, and deeply satisfying narratives of Texas Latinx life.

 

Ann Marie Leimer received a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2005, where she studied Latin American Art and Art of the Américas, and specialized in Contemporary Chicana and Chicano Art.  Leimer is a scholar, a curator, and cultural critic. Her research interests include spirituality, ritual and performance, pilgrimage and issues of gender, sexuality, and identity. Her published work has appeared in the journals Afterimage; Chicana/Latina Studies; Chicana Critical Perspectives; Praxis at the Turn of the 21st Century; and in the books Beyond Heritage; Blanton Museum of Art: American Art since 1900; Voices in Concert: In the Spirit of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz; and New Frontiers in Latin American Borderlands. She currently serves as Associate Professor of Art and Chair of the Juanita and Ralph Harvey School of the Visual Arts at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas.