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Arts & Culture

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Artist Vincent Valdez, the anti-James Franco

Photo: Courtesy of the Artist, License: N/A

Courtesy of the Artist

Vincent Valdez in the studio, working on 'The Strangest Fruit', 2013

Photo: Mark Menjivar, Courtesy of the Artist, License: N/A

Mark Menjivar, Courtesy of the Artist

'The Strangest Fruit' (detail), 2013


He wanted not just to portray these young men as victims, but to present them as potentially arisen. “I got really into their outfits,” he noted, because fashion can serve as a form of self-expression but also as an easy target for stereotyping and profiling. “And I wanted them from all walks of life. These aren’t ‘symbols,’ they’re individuals.” He gestures to the pamphlet from the Brown University exhibition. “Maybe this guy grew up on the border, there’s this guy in his sports jersey, the vaquero shirt here, this guy took a lot of time picking it out...”

The paintings make use of Valdez’s keen attention to detail, but something in the relational focus has changed. These men are embattled and worn down, like his previous boxers and soldiers, but the violence done to them happened in another time and reaches forward to right now. According to Valdez, these subjects “are in moments of constructing their own shells, rather than just receiving what the outside world does to them ... How are they identifying, in a sense, how are they branding themselves? I want to deconstruct this very vulnerable masculinity, not prop up some macho comic book fantasy.”

It’s this kind of refocusing that makes for exciting leaps, potential failures and real transmogrification. Amazingly, I anticipate his Artpace exhibition with very few preconceptions. Hearing Valdez openly examine his own methodology and ways of seeing, it’s clear he’s busted out of the loop, and that he’s become too ambiguous—too involved with mystery and shifting meanings—to be used for any branding. Valdez called this shift in tone “experimental.” He explained, “I intensively spent [my] early years focused on crafting my technique and skill capabilities … I have now begun to strip away and deconstruct these methods in which I work … this enables me to branch out and head in new directions.” I can’t wait.

Vincent Valdez: The Strangest Fruit

Free
Opening reception 6-9pm Thu, May 8
Noon-5pm Wed-Sun
Artpace
445 N Main
(210) 212-4900
artpace.org
Through Aug 31

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