Arts & Culture
Sprawling New Latino Art Exhibit Revives Former Museo Alameda
Published: June 4, 2014
The future of Texas is in the hands and heads of a rising Hispanic majority, according to the state’s latest demographic studies. Young Latino graduates wearing luminous blue robes and mortarboards float upwards into the sky in José Esquivel’s Dreamers in Space, a vision of hope and reconciliation in the inaugural exhibit, “Contemporary Latino Art: El Corazón de San Antonio,” at Texas A&M University–San Antonio’s newly opened Educational & Cultural Arts Center, formerly the Museo Alameda, in Market Square.
However, younger artists’ visions of the future aren’t so sanguine. Adán Hernández imagines Border Patrol agents being blasted by rays from a flying saucer in La Migra is Zapped by Illegal Aliens. A female Latino astronaut struggles with a rocket pack that looks like it might have been cobbled together at a Westside salvage yard in Juan de Dios Mora’s black-and-white print. A serene green field waiting for astro-migrants grows beside a giant pyramid in Rudy Treviño’s Lettuce on the Moon.
Whatever the future holds, “Contemporary Latino Art” is a fairly comprehensive and conciliatory exhibit for a troubled institution that wouldn’t have survived without the intervention of TAMU–SA, which also needs the art space to better connect with the community. Assembled by a curatorial model for “inclusive, visitor-centered exhibitions” known as Supported Interpretation (SI) developed by Florida State University professor Pat Villeneuve, the exhibit was curated by a committee that excluded art historians, although the presence of artists Alex Rubio and Kathy Vargas ensured the inclusion of the city’s best-known and most promising Latino artists.
Except for a few treacly realistic painters, the antithesis of “contemporary,” I can’t argue too much with the committee’s choices, but there’s no catalog and the label information is skimpy. Instead, visitors are provided with stick-on hearts they can use to “like” the paintings they think are best.
The two Humanscapes by Mel Casas may not be collecting the most hearts, but he is arguably the most influential Latino artist in the exhibit. Casas mentored many of the other artists included in this show while on the art faculty at San Antonio College, and his blend of modernism and social commentary set the bar high, as seen in the two large-scale paintings combining Southwestern icons, a cactus and serape, with desert landscapes. Equally respected is César Martínez, whose pachuco portraits have influenced every Chicano portraitist who came after.
The first gallery neatly reflects the three themes of the show: “real and imagined personalities from various communities, public and private spaces where people reside or gather and culturally relevant objects found in day-to-day life.”