By Glauco Adorno
Contemporary Masters: Works on Paper from the Art Museum of South Texas features sixty works by artists that touch on a range of media, subject matter and styles. With names like Robert Rauschenberg, Ed Ruscha, Robert Motherwell, Lee Krasner, Josef Albers and Lee Bontecou, the exhibition offers examples of prints and drawings created by high-profile contemporary artists.
Many names in the exhibition hail from the state of Texas—where the museum that organized the exhibition is located—and a number of those artists are of Mexican-American descent or have ties with the Latino community. Issues particular to the Mexican-American community such as national identity, immigration, and social justice are present in a number of works in the exhibition.
Lilian Garcia-Roig appropriates figures of works by Diego Velazquez (Spain, 1599 – 1660) and infuses them with Meso-American iconography, such as feather headdresses, funerary masks. By juxtaposing Meso-American and 17th century European iconography in one image, Garcia-Roig points to the similarities in both cultures, attempting to blur the line in the “us vs. them” mentality.
Luis Jimenez also touches on transcultural issues, but in a contemporary setting. Using the border between Mexico and the US as a starting point, Jimenez creates works that strive to be simple and accessible. Insisting on a low-brow feel, Jimenez uses industrialized materials such as fiberglass and airbrushes them in a manner reminiscent of hot rod culture. The subject matter is focused on popular culture, depicting cowboys capturing wild cattle and dancing couples, figures that are part of the visual vocabulary of the US-Mexican border.
Kathy Vargas’ take on childhood, family, death and memory represents a much more intimate way to celebrate Mexican-American communities. Her haunting double-exposure photographic prints attempt to memorialize the struggles and achievements of her own family, while meditating on death and the fleeting nature of human life.
Alex Rubio’s work has always been tied to his community. Starting as a mural painter in his local community center, Rubio became an art teacher in his neighborhood, working on public art commissions for parks and churches. After finding his way into the art world, Rubio developed a style that infuses street art and graffiti iconography with distinct wavy lines that are reminiscent of psychedelic imagery from the 1970s. His works often touch on themes of gang violence and drug abuse, but also celebrate a range of members of his San Antonio community, from the raspas (shaved ice confections similar to sno-balls) vendor to fellow artist Vincent Valdez.
Vincent Valdez showed talent for representational drawing from an early age. Through drawing naturalistic figures, the artist focuses on social justice by looking at historical events that impacted the Mexican-American community, such as the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, and the series of poorly documented lynchings of Latinos during the first half of the twentieth century. In a number of series, Valdez engages issues of prejudice, violence and masculinity, creating realistic portraits of victims and perpetrators of aggression.
Glauco Adorno is LSU MOA's curatorial assistant.
Contemporary Masters is organized by the Art Museum of South Texas. Generous support for this exhibition is provided by The Imo N. Brown Memorial Fund in memory of Heidel Brown and Mary Ann Brown, Louisiana CAT, L. Cary Saurage II Foundation, and Charles Schwing. This exhibition is organized by the Art Museum of South Texas.