The title of this exhibition, Un/Provincial: Art of South Texas is predicated upon the notion that the media casts a shadow of provincialism over South Texas artists, who defiantly claim their right to localism and assert that their work stands up to standards established by the metropolitan center. I believe they have proven their point.
The spacious lobby of the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art features a large abstract painting by Cande Aguilar. Gathering inspiration from the local landscape, he recreates surfaces that suggest a process of decay, transformation and renewal. His compositions are energized by the interplay of vibrant color, texture and image. His thoughtful use of different media reinforces a sense of history and memory.
Nancy Moyer’s photographic prints are lovely chiaroscuro abstracts with soft cloud-like shapes. Surprisingly, the “clouds” are roughly textured washcloths. The prints range from soft muted tones to bright hues. Smaller images are encased in resin and juxtaposed against precious metals and stones in necklaces and brooches.
In her artist’s statement, Moyer refers to excess waste in the textile industry. Since washcloths are used to cleanse the body, I drew a connection to a 15th century painting by Robert Campin titled the Mérode Altarpiece. In it, a basin and washcloth symbolically illustrate the cleansing of the sins of the world. Moyer’s celestial clouds may be a reminder to us to make sacrifices to create a better world.
Mark Clark skewers what he considers to be downright foolish and ruinous behavior on the part of individuals and corporations in his pseudo-primitive style paintings. Instead of being isolated incidents, the dramas are played out in very close proximity to each other, evoking a sense of magnitude. No one and nothing is exempt from his satirical critique whether they be local or national.
Mark Clark, Moctezuma’s Revenge Part 1, oil on linen 2011
In his 3:10 minute video “Casa Iceberg,” Mauricio Saénz conveys a sense of psychological disturbance. In a nightmarish mindscape, the artist wanders through a decaying abandoned residence in an apparent state of dissociation. These are symptoms of a mind that has been negatively affected by the many obstacles facing immigrants, such as exclusion, isolation and displacement.
A clear message of instability stands out in Veronica Jaeger’s assemblages. Geometric shapes reminiscent of architectural elements float independently, in a column, on the wall. The parts hover in a seeming state of suspended animation, creating a feeling of tension. The disembodied head of a woman floats on its side. This is a small version of a woman’s portrait with an expression of worry, sadness and resignation that is Jaeger’s signature style. Patterns of violence are expressed in Jesus de la Rosa’s designs. Hand grenades are transformed into floral designs, and bullets become repeat patterns found in household goods. The designs suggest that the ubiquitous presence of violence invades our homes. In his Borderland Child with Gun Halo, de la Rosa expresses his deep concern for his own children.
David Freeman utilizes carpets as a backdrop for his abstract expressionistic figurative paintings in the manner of de Kooning. Scenes of violence in the Middle East, fracking, and American meddling in foreign affairs take place within the borders of the carpet. The carpets are a reminder of the intimacy of violence.
The graphic icon is becoming prevalent as a means of communication in our digital world.
Jorge Puron renders his own icons in the style of hard-edge paintings, but he incorporates figurative imagery, perspective and depth. In La Vista de Calle Juárez St. a stylized apple, orange and knife rest on a table in front of a window.
It is a nostalgic depiction of the view from his bedroom in his childhood home in Piedras Negras, Mexico.
The goal of these eight artists in expressing their own humanity is to find a shared or common humanity. This impetus is not simply a local phenomenon, but takes place throughout the world.
Participating Artists: Cande Aguilar, Mark Clark, Jesus de la Rosa, David Freeman, Veronica Jaeger, Nancy Moyer, Jorge Puron, Mauricio Saenz
“Un/Provincial: Art of South Texas” curated by Jennifer Cahn
Where: Brownsville Museum of Fine Art, 660 E. Ringgold St., Brownsville
When: June 11 – September 1, 2016
Time: Open during business hours
Contact: (956) 542-0941