Culture

8 Texan Artists Take On Identity And Politics In New Exhibit

In Trump’s America, activist art is on the rise. Artists have a wide range of emotions — from frustration to hope — that they want to express through their medium of choice.

Mexic-Arte Museum, an art institution located in Austin, Texas, has a long history of presenting emerging Latino artists to the public, and this summer season they have a lot of topics they’re exploring.

“Young Latino Artists 22: ¡Ahora!,” guest curated by Alana Coates, marks the 22nd installment of the emerging Latinx artist exhibition series at Mexic-Arte Museum — and this show gets political.

This is their curatorial statement: “In an era of socio-political upheaval in the United States -– from U.S.-Mexico border relations, to widespread economic inequalities, increased racial tensions, and subsequent hate on the rise across the country — the selected artists navigate matters of gender restrictions, immigration politics, cultural heritage, and privilege. Their artworks confront viewers with prominent issues of the contemporary Latinx experience in the United States.”

“Young Latino Artists 22: ¡Ahora!” features the work of eight Texan artists.

CREDIT: Instagram/@danielacmadrigal

The featured artists include Nansi Guevara (Laredo, Texas), Daniela Cavazos Madrigal (Laredo, Texas), Mark Anthony Martinez (San Antonio, Texas), Michael Martinez (San Antonio, Texas), Paloma Mayorga (Austin, Texas), Ashley Mireles (San Antonio, Texas), Andrei Rentería (Chihuahua City, Mexico / Presidio, Texas), and José Villalobos (El Paso, Texas).

In response to the politically-heavy theme, Coates told The San Antonio Current that it’s a topic that isn’t easy to escape, especially for these artists. “The Trump administration has forced itself into the national discourse” and added that the artists are “negotiating with the current climate.”

In an interview with mitú, the artists featured in this show discussed their artwork, their mental process in developing it, and how it has affected them and their family.

José Villalobos challenges the ideas of gender roles from conservative communities along the border.

CREDIT: Jose Villalobos. Sin La ‘S’, 2017. Mixed media installation.

Villalobos has several pieces in this show, including an installation featuring several sombreros. He tells mitú that before he created this installation he had to consider the space and the formulated an idea.

“Eventually, after thinking about these hats that I would see [on] my uncles I thought that by suspending these hats in the manner that I did would in some way or another imitate a person, the effect I got was rather ghostly as well,” Villalobos said. “The reason I chose those hats… it was because it is something I grew up seeing. These ‘men’ would be walking in their macho way and their hat was a symbol of power.”


Villalobos said that his family has a “hard time understanding art,” including “conceptual and contemporary art.” He has tried explaining how he associates himself and the concept to the objects.

“I don’t think some of my family is quite supportive of the work I do because it deals with the issues of being gay and that is something they are not 100% supportive about,” Villalobos said. “My family’s overall sentiment is ‘mas-o-menos’ for lack of a better term.”

Mark Anthony Martinez looks at representations of “whiteness” and how they are interconnected with systems of domination and privilege.

CREDIT: Mark Anthony Martinez

Martinez tells mitú that the phrase “No New White Friends” is a take off Drake’s song “No New Friends.”

“I’m using it precisely as a POC who’s had ‘those’ long debates [usually on social media] with clueless white, and sometimes brown, folks who claim to ‘get it’ yet, make apologies for oppressive structures,” Martinez said. “In this context, the work ‘No New White Friends’ is a motto of self-preservation against the malaise of toxic comment threads that inevitably crop up whenever racial inequities are brought up or shared.”

Daniela Cavazos Madrigal’s work reflects her interest in sociocultural issues along the U.S.- Mexico border from the perspective of a woman and mother.

CREDIT: Daniela Madrigal “Sopita De Letras, 2017”

Cavazos tells mitú that she was originally intending to do something completely different for this show, which would have looked something like funeral wreaths, however, when she began working on them, her grandmother passed away.

“So my work evolved into an homage of the life of my grandmother,” Cavazos said. “I wanted to pay tribute to her life as a homemaker, as a woman, who despite many injustices in her life, worked hard and never gave up hope. She never reached her American dream, but she did live out her own dream, a life of contentment.”

“My work is composed mainly of installations, using materials that belonged to my grandmother, as well as found materials and repurposed clothing sourced from the ‘pacas’ (warehouses that sell clothing by the pound). My pieces are embroidered and spell out ‘dichos’ or sayings that my grandmother would often use, most of them humorous, but very direct. As much as this work helped me deal with the loss, I wanted my work to evoke a sense of collective healing in the midst of our current time.”

Photographer and painter Paloma Mayorga tells mitú her work deals with themes of healing.

CREDIT: Paloma Mayorga. Poderosa II (Powerful), 2016.

Some of her photographs are actually created with a scanner. “The ways in which I hold my body, or other objects meant to symbolize my body, against the glass of the scanner are informed by my emotions and desire for healing,” she says.

Mayorga said that the intention behind her work is to reconnect with her roots, culturally, spiritually, and physically.

“Growing up in the U.S. as the daughter of two Mexican immigrants, issues and questions of identity have always intrigued me and are now at the forefront of my work.” Mayorga tells mitú. “I’m particularly interested in dismantling gender-specific roles imposed on us by others, as well as dissecting the rhetoric used to talk about women and our bodies. I hope to contribute to the conversations people have regarding that rhetoric.”

Michael Martinez is a multidisciplinary conceptual artist whose work confronts identity from the vantage of a Gay person of color.

CREDIT: Michael Martinez

Martinez, who has four pieces featured within this year’s YLA exhibition, titled the above-pictured installation “Courageous.”

Martinez tells mitú that this artwork deconstructs the metaphorical “closet” and is a hand-made, 30-foot long Pride flag, which arcs downward from the ceiling of the Mexic-Arte Museum, and culminates in the explosive impact through a wooden closet door, whose splinters are suspended in the air via a gold thread.

The colors in this piece are also referencing the recently unveiled Philadelphia Pride Flag of 2017, which includes black and brown stripes, “in honor of the legacy and endurance of Black and Brown People within the LGBTQ community.”

“I didn’t start examining the salience of gender within my identity-based art practice until I ‘came out’ to my family at the end of 2014,” Martinez tells mitú. “All this is very new to me. The gender-neutral framework of Latinx is very appealing to me, because it makes space for all those Black and Brown People who never had a platform within the binary models of Chican@ or Latina/o. I can only hope that my art practice blossoms in a similar fashion—making space for my LGBTQIA fellows so that they might not feel forgotten or alone.”

Nansi Guevara’s work uses her rascuache sensibilities to create de-colonial public artwork.

CREDIT: Nansi Guevara

Guevara said she was working on her pieces while protesting SB-4 with local activists in Brownsville and in the state capital.

“After working and volunteering in activist circles lead by women and queer folks in the Rio Grande Valley, seeing the fire and passion and the tireless work of these activists, but also experiencing these circles as sources of healing, mutual support, and solidarity helped me understand that no injustice is met without community resistance and power,” Guevara tells mitú.

“I started to create these fabric murals that are sort of a continuation of the political posters I was doing previously — but building them with fabric material you would normally find in a typical home on the border — as a way to represent gente fighting from their households through sustaining their families and working for a dignified life.”

CREDIT: Andrei Renteria

“These drawings have been altered to look like gigantic individual sheets of notebook paper ripped apart at the seams,” Renteria tells mitú. “Each drawing is done at different levels of rendition and is accompanied by text and/or notes that entail, in an investigative in a journalistic manner, the tragic end to that particular person’s life.”

“As a native of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico where the number of forced disappearances has risen over the years, I am trying to understand the motives or the backstory to the succession of such events,” Renteria said. “My initial intentions for the series was to re-create the step by step process of a forced disappearance, by putting myself or the viewer into the role of the perpetrator.”

The exhibit will be open until Aug. 27.

READ: This Young Latino Creates Art Inspired By His Immigrant Parents

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If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Culture

If You Call Yourself A Frida Kahlo Fan Then You Should Be Following These Five Artists

Bettman Archives / Getty Images

So many of us have been moved the art of the late Frida Kahlo. Even in death she’s gone on to inspire entire generations with her Surrealist self-portraits, lush depictions of plant and animal life, and magical realist tableaux. Not to mention her incredible life story.

She also inspired future generations of artists, many of whom are alive today creating beautiful works of art. These are just a few of the artists who have similar techniques, subjects, and styles to Frida Kahlo that you’ll definitely love if you’re a fan of Frida Kahlo.

Maria Fragoso – Mexico City

Credit: Teach Me Sweet Things / Theirry Goldberg Gallery

Influenced by the style and narratives of Mexican surrealists and muralists, Maria Fragoso creates work that celebrates her Mexican culture, while also addressing notions of gender expression and queer identity. Her brightly colored canvases offer voyeuristic glimpses into intimate moments, with subjects engaging in acts that seem at once seductive and mischievous—often while gazing directly out at the viewer.

Recently featured in Forbes’s “30 Under 30” in the “Art and Style” category, the 25-year-old artist is quickly rising to prominence. Born and raised in Mexico City, Fragoso moved to Baltimore in 2015 to pursue her BFA at the Maryland Institute College of Art. While in school, Fragoso was the recipient of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship at the Yale Norfolk School of Art. Since graduating, she has completed residencies at Palazzo Monti and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Nadia Waheed – Austin, Texas

Credit: Message from Janus / Mindy Solomon Gallery

Born in Saudi Arabia to Pakistani parents, Austin, Texas–based artist Nadia Waheed explores notions of relocation, displacement, and vulnerability in her work. Her life-size figurative paintings are both allegorical and autobiographical—the female figures represent her own lived experiences, as well as the multifaceted identities of all women.

Rodeo Tapaya – Philippines

Credit: Nowhere Man / A3 Art Agency

Rodel Tapaya paints dreamlike, narrative works based on myths and folklore from his native Philippines. Drawing parallels between age-old fables and current events, Tapaya reimagines mythical tales by incorporating fragments of the present. “In some way, I realize that old stories are not just metaphors. I can find connections with contemporary time,” Tapaya said in a 2017 interview with the National Gallery of Australia. “It’s like the myths are poetic narrations of the present.”

While the content of Tapaya’s work is inspired by Filipino culture, his style and literary-based practice is heavily influenced by Mexican muralists and Surrealist painters such as José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera, and, of course, Frida Kahlo. Often working at a large scale, Tapaya has been commissioned to create several site-specific murals, including one for Art Fair Philippines in February 2020.

Leonor Fini – Buenos Aires

Credit: Les Aveugles / Weinstein Gallery

Long overlooked in favor of male Surrealists, Leonor Fini, a contemporary of Kahlo, was a pioneering 20th-century force. Known for having lived boldly, Fini is recognized for her unconventional lifestyle, theatrical personality, and avant-garde fashion sense. Born in Buenos Aires in 1907, Fini was raised by her mother in Trieste, Italy. She taught herself to paint and first exhibited her work at the age of 17.

Fini had one of her first solo exhibitions at age 25 with a Parisian gallery directed by Christian Dior. Her work was then included in the groundbreaking exhibition “Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism” at MoMA in 1936, while at the same time she had her first New York exhibition with Julien Levy Gallery. Today, Fini’s work is represented in many major public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice.

Ramon Alejandro – Miami

Credit: Eternal Life / Latino Art Core

José Ramón Díaz Alejandro, better known as Ramon Alejandro, paints idyllic still lifes of tropical fruits set in ethereal landscapes. The surrealistic compositions have a similar spirit to Kahlo’s less iconic but equally masterful still-life works

Coming from a long lineage of artists, Alejandro grew up with the artworks of his great-grandfather, grandfather, and uncle adorning the walls of his childhood home. After growing up in Havana, Alejandro was sent to live in Argentina in 1960 amidst political turmoil in Cuba, and has continued to live in exile since then.

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Yes, Someone Created An Actual Honest To God 108-Foot Vulva Statue In Brazil

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Yes, Someone Created An Actual Honest To God 108-Foot Vulva Statue In Brazil

BUDA MENDES / GETTY IMAGES

There’s no denying the fact that the female form, and it’s bits, in particular, have inspired artwork the world over. Tarsila do Amaral was inspired by it. Frida Kahlo and artists like Zilia Sánchez and Marta Minujín too. Women’s bodies are inspired and so they inspire. Still, a recent unveiling of vulva artwork has become so controversial and made people so besides themselves that it seems many have forgotten these truths about our bodies.

Over the weekend, Brazilian visual artist Juliana Notari revealed her latest sculptureDiva, on a hillside at Usina del Arte. The art park is located in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco and is described by Notari as “a massive vulva / wound excavation.”

The massive sculpture created on the hillside located in northeastern Brazil features a bright pink vulva and has fueled what is being described as a cultural war.

Notari created Diva, a colorful 108-foot concrete and resin sculpture on the site of a former sugar mill. The mill was converted into an open-air museum in Pernambuco state. Last week, when Notari debuted the installation she revealed it was meant to depict both a vulva and a wound while questioning the relationship between nature and culture in a “phallocentric and anthropocentric society.”

“These issues have become increasingly urgent today,” Notari wrote in a post shared to her Facebook page which was shared alongside a series of photos of the sculpture. According to NBC, it took a team of 20 artisans 11 months to build the entire concept.

No surprise, the piece of art sparked a wave of controversy on social media, with critics and supports debating its message and significance.

Over 25,000 users have commented on Notari’s Facebook post so far including leftists and conservatives. On the far-right, supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro have also been vocal about their views of the product.

“With all due respect, I did not like it. Imagine me walking with my young daughters in this park and them asking … Daddy, what is this? What will I answer?” one user wrote in the Facebook section of the post.

“With all due respect, you can teach your daughters not to be ashamed of their own genitals,” a woman replied.

Olavo de Carvalho, an advisor to Bolsonaro, vulgarly criticized the piece on Twitter.

Notari, whose previous work has been displayed at various galleries explained on her Facebook page that she created the piece to comment on gender issues in general.

“In Diva, I use art to dialogue with…gender issues from a female perspective combined with a cosmopocentric and anthropocentric western society,” Notari shared on her post to Facebook. “Currently these issues have become increasingly urgent. After all, it is by changing perspective of our relationship between humans and nonhuman, that will allow us to live longer on that planet and in a less unequal and catastrophic society.”

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