by Marco Aquino
Funded in part by the New York-based Surdna Foundation, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center’s Artist Lab fellowship provides selected artists with both creative and business development opportunities and culminates with a year-end showcase. The latest edition gathers works by 2016 participants Lisette Chavez, Raul Gonzalez, Sarah Fox, Jose Villalobos, Andrei Renteria and Kristel Orta-Puente.
On view through February 3, the group exhibition is a chance to get familiar with some of San Antonio’s most talented emerging artists, several whom are recent graduates from the MFA program at the University of Texas at San Antonio. While there’s no unifying concept here, as each artist works individually, several over-arching themes emerge. Orta-Puente and Fox both explore gender identity, with Puente presenting a series of photographs based on the Mexican American chola and Fox tapping into maternal instincts with her mixed-media sculptures. Chavez and Villalobos explore subject matter commonly shunned by societal norms. Gonzalez and Renteria’s work sheds light on socio-economic structures.
Standing out among the highlights are Renteria’s En La Boca Del Diablo and Fox’s Lick and Nuzzle, two works that transport the viewer to unbeknownst worlds.
Inspired by the mountain ranges on either side of the Rio Grande in West Texas, Renteria’s En La Boca Del Diablo consists of two large mounds on opposite ends of the room with pieces of shattered ceramic balls — a collision of sorts — spread throughout the center of the room. According to Renteria, the piece is meant to question the historical practices of colonialism and exploitation along the U.S.-Mexico border. “Political bosses, cartels and transnational companies are left to do as they please, creating cemeteries and killing fields out of the landscape,” Renteria writes in his artist statement.
While Renteria’s work openly embraces chaos, on the opposite end of this scale is Fox’s Lick and Nuzzle, a seemingly peaceful portrayal of two deer-like hybrid creatures showing affection to one another. Inspired by the inner turmoil of a mother’s failed pregnancy, the work is visually striking. “The gesture of a parent putting her or his nose to the top of her baby’s head is a universal, mammalian, act of bonding,” reads Fox’s statement. A collaborative effort with the artist’s own mother, the piece is a testament to the bond between mother and child.
Since its inception nearly three years ago, the Artist Lab fellowship has fulfilled a high order and its selected artists do not disappoint. Here’s hoping for continued success among San Antonio's most ambitious young artists.
Artist Lab, Free, Noon-5pm Mon-Fri, panel discussion 2-4pm Sat, Jan. 28, Galería Guadalupe, 723 S. Brazos St., (210) 271-3151, guadalupeculturalarts.org. Through Feb. 3.