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Arts & Culture

Firebrand: The McNay celebrates controversial artist Luis Jiménez

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Luis Jiménez, 'Self-Portrait'


As per its title, this show focuses on the artist’s two-dimensional works, although in some cases there are direct links back to his sculptural endeavors. From the collection of Harriett and Ricardo Romo, Fiesta (Diptych) (1985), could be a study for the UTSA sculpture, depicting a dancing couple with the man wearing a rainbow-colored serape and the woman a green, gold and red dress. Also from the Romos is the shiver-inducing Sidewinder (1988), a fork-tongued snake in rippling blue and orange. Both works are lithographs accented with glitter.

In his drawings, Jiménez unites the flowing, swirling lines of the Mexican muralists and their concerns for the human condition with Chicano rasquachismo, which debunks convention and spoofs conformity. Drawing on hot rod cartoons and romanticized Mexican calendar art, Jiménez merged pop art with the primarily Latin American 1960s movement known as New Figuration, which rejected the utopian premises of modernism to probe the corruption of contemporary society.

Nowhere is Jiménez’s existential despair more evident than in his series of prints inspired by the Day of the Dead. A wobbly man is propped up by a prostitute and skeletal woman in Entre la Puta y Muerte (Between the Whore and Death). A grinning skeleton batters a man to the ground in La Lucha (The Struggle). Like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse, Death rides an angry steed in A Veces a Trote, A Veces a Galope (At Times a Trot, At Times at a Gallop).

In his Self-Portrait (1996), Jiménez’s face is so thin-skinned you can see his skull underneath. His hair is thinning into spidery lines, he has one dead eye and he’s lost his nose. But the most haunting image is the final screenprint he worked on at Austin’s Coronado Studio, which shows a screaming woman running from the fires of hell.

Wrestling his demons, Jiménez merged his North American and Mexicano experiences to forge a new way of seeing the border region that shaped him, creating a fiery body of work to outlast la muerte, which finally overtook him doing what he loved best.

Native Son: Prints and Drawing by Luis A. Jiménez Jr.

$10-$15; free for members and from 4-9pm Thu
10am-4pm Wed, Fri; 10am-9pm Thu; 10am-5pm Sat; Noon-5pmSun
McNay Art Museum
6000 N New Braunfels
(210) 824-5368
mcnayart.org
Through Jan 19

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