Help support Presa House Gallery exhibitions and programming by purchasing our NEW Official T-Shirt designed by Alexandria Canchola. The limited-edition tees feature illustrations of artwork by Jose Villalobos, Alejandro Macias, Eva Marengo Sanchez, and Cande Aguilar. T-Shirts are available in WOMEN SIZES ONLY for $20.00 plus tax at the gallery or online with an additional $6.00 for shipping. Available in XL, L, M, S, and XS sizes.
Glasstire staff and contributors share which Texas-based shows, events, and works made their personal “best” lists for 2019.
Neil Fauerso, Glasstire Contributor
Jose Villalobos’ performance art is rigorous and densely coiled with ideas and symbols. Early this year he performed at the family ranch of Presa House founder Rigoberto Luna, just south of San Antonio on a perfect, golden spring day. Villalobos’ work often concerns effort, restraint, and catharsis. At the ranch he was dragged by a horse, donned high heels, hoisted bales of hay, stacked them and knocked them over. It was mesmerizing, beautiful, and resolutely non-didactic experience meditating on gender, colonialism, and the icons that uphold them. The best performance art can achieve moments that feel instantaneously cinematic. On this day, Villalobos singlehandedly unfurled an entire film.
Jose Villalobos was born and raised in the El Paso/Juarez region, steeped in the canonically masculine and generally conservative western and Norteño culture. His current show, Cicatrices, at Presa House Gallery in San Antonio (through March 30) applies a lens of gay and transgressive identity to archetypical symbols — the hooves of deer are manicured and nail-polished, cowboy boots are cast in glycerine (aka soap) and scented with rose or lavender. Villalobos’ work uncoils these totems erotically, as if they had been waiting in some stultifying sepia malaise for their Technicolor arrival.
Part of Villalobos’ practice involves his highly rigorous, ritualized performances, and on Sunday March 17, he performed at Rigoberto Luna’s family ranch south of San Antonio. (Luna is the co-founder and curator of Presa House Gallery with his partner Jenelle Esparza.) There is an endearing risk with doing these kind of high-concept, challenging, and intimate performances in unlikely locations. Quite simply: the deck is stacked against you. An audience may not show, the weather may mock your aspirations, and that elusive vibe of communion and a general frisson of reverence that could be described as liturgical might not materialize. It can end in folly. But sometimes, as on that Sunday, the elements align. It was a perfect spring day; the clouds plumed and froze like marble. People showed up. Norteño and Tejano music played on the PA. Luna’s mother prepared perhaps the best rice, beans, and guacamole I’ve ever tasted.
Then the performance began. Villalobos, barefoot, wearing denim with yellow fringes, was dragged across the ground by Rigo’s father’s horse into the corral. Villalobos has a preternatural gift to swing fluidly from cultural symbolism to psychology in his imagery. Immediately this introduction conjured thoughts of black people, Latinos, and Native Americans dragged through the desert — a legacy of conquest and murder. But there is simultaneously a striking and universal emotional resonance too — the recognition of being dragged into something, or dragged through the very shit of existence.
Inside the pen, there were four bales of hay positioned at the arcs of the enclosure , and each bale supported a pair of women’s shoes hidden under red velvet. The tableau had an elegant, sun-baked surrealism of de Chirico and Jodorowsky. Villalobos proceeded to uncover each pair of shoes, put them on, hoist the heavy bale on his back and stagger to the center of the corral, where he stacked the bales and cut the shoes off his feet with a switchblade. The repetition and release of this sequence was deeply cathartic. It spoke to the weight that women and LGBTQ people carry, and the relief that comes when that weight is dropped, even if temporarily. Standing behind him as he hoisted a bale, hay fluttered in the air like gold filings, and it was like a still from a film, realized in front of us. Performance art, when it clicks, becomes instantaneously cinematic and mythic.
Once the hay was stacked and formed a wall, Villalobos put on cowboy boots and a hat and proceeded to spray paint the gay slurs “Fag” and “Joto” onto the hay, before running full bore into the wall and scattering the hay. He then painfully stuffed hay into his shirt, creating an exaggerated hay gut. This was Villalobos becoming a literal straw man of masculinity, the intrinsic chafe in assuming that illusory stance.
In about 30 minutes, Villalobos had created a near-perfect and haunting cycle that meditated on racism, gender, the weight of the past hanging on one’s back — the universal desire to knock the walls down, cut the binds off, drop the mask, and be free.
Jose Villalobos will perform a final performance at the closing of ‘Cicatrices’ the evening of March 30 at Presa House Gallery, San Antonio.
Brandon Zech is with guests Adrian Aguilera, Tammie Rubin, and Betelhem Makonnen to talk about their show in Austin called constant escape, an important group show in College Station, and an alternative art fair called Satellite.
1. constant escape
George Washington Carver Museum (Austin)
March 7 – July 27
“Founding members of the Austin-based Black Mountain Project Adrian Aguilera, Betelhem Makonnen, and Tammie Rubin will debut a new body of work in sculpture, photography, text, and video. This collaborative exhibition, constant escape, provides a sensory experience for resisting absolute definitions of culture and identity.”
2. Satellite Art Show Austin
The Museum of Human Achievement (Austin)
March 13 – 17
The Austin premiere of the Satellite Art Show, a national art fair that highlights emerging and artist-run organizations and galleries. Glasstire has partnered with Satellite Austin and will be on site during the five-day event to record a podcast with fair attendees and guest hosts. In the DIY spirit of Satellite’s fairs, Glasstire’s staff will produce the podcast in a van-turned-sound booth just outside of MoHA’s building.
3. R. Eric McMaster & Michael Chesser: Bells Suspended from Clouds
January 27 – March 17
“Bells Suspended from Clouds approaches sound as sculpture material, and as a visual initiator. The exhibition features aural and visual elements inspired by the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin, who in the late 1800s and early 1900s created works at the intersection of music, light, and experience.”
4. She Matters
Wright Gallery, TAMU College Station
March 6 – April 26
“This exhibition showcases women of color and their responses to the prejudice, discrimination, violence and more that women of color face in today’s society. She Matters originated as a group show for the Art League in Houston titled How Do I Say Her Name? in 2017. Curated by Assistant Professor of Practice at Prairie View A&M University, Ann Johnson, the original group show included all of the same artists and was spurred by the 2015 news reports on the arrest and subsequent death of Sandra Bland. Johnson wanted to give a platform to women of color to creatively respond to issues such as family separation, law enforcement brutality, sexual assault and violence and more.”
Artists in the show include: Regina Agu, Rabéa Ballin, Ann Johnson, Autumn Knight, Lovie Olivia, Kaneem Smith, Rosine Kouamen, and Monica Villarreal.
5. Jose Villalobos: Cicatrices
Presa House Gallery (San Antonio)
March 1 – 30
A show of works by San Antonio artist Jose Villalobos. “In Cicatrices, Villalobos juxtaposes distress with a feeling of comfort deriving from patriarchal and religious social structures which marginalize gay identity. Using found objects, he manipulates material through the context of self-identity as he examines gender roles within family culture. Villalobos demonstrates that dismantling traditional modes of masculine identity center an interstitial space where materiality softens the virility. In his work Villalobos protests the toxicity of machismo through the use of objects, specifically within the norteño culture, that carry a history by deconstructing and altering them. Although new forms are created he demonstrates the battle between the acceptance being a maricón and assimilating to the cultural expectations.”
KABB FOX29 San Antonio / David Norris
Jose Villalobos knew from a young age what he wanted to do.
“Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always like being creative,” said Villalobos.
When that passion led him to art school, his mother had some questions.
“How are you going to make a living at that. And I was like, it’s ok, I’ll be a teacher and do art on the side,” said Villalobos.
His hard work paid off.
He’s now an award winning artist, and was one of 25 people to be selected to receive a major grant from New York. And the only artist from Texas.
“Only one. And that was me,” said Villalobos.
His new solo exhibit, Cicatrices, or scars, is on display now at Presa House in San Antonio.
It’s about symbols of masculinity.
Hats, boots, belt buckles, and the expectations laid upon them.
“I deconstruct it and I reconstruct it, making a new form,” said Villalobos. “And those forms tend to be a lot more flamboyant or have a feminine touch to them.”
In this world, everything has a meaning. From the roses to the hats, even the dirt you see on the ground.
He’s not trying to change what masculinity is, but expand upon it and break its social limitations.
“There are these expectations of how the male figure should be in the household,” said Villalobos.
He knows a lot about changing expectations.
“Growing up closeted, a lot of my thing was oppressing these feelings of who I was,” said Villalobos.
That’s right, he’s also gay.
“I came out in my early 20’s.”
This work is more than an exhibit.
For Villalobos, it’s a cry for change, and maybe a symbol of hope.
San Antonio Current / Bryan Rindfuss
The trappings of South Texas Latino culture get an irreverant, flamboyant spin in the work of multimedia artist Jose Villalobos. Raised in El Paso in a conservative, religious Mexican-American family, he often transforms his own life experiences and observations into visually arresting sculptures, installations and performances that comment on gender stereotypes, gay identity and machismo culture.
A UTSA graduate and co-director of Beacon Hill’s Clamp Light Artist Studios & Gallery, Villalobos has earned press and praise for bodies of work involving suspended cowboy hats tricked out with layers of fringe, deconstructed cowboy boots, Western shirts emblazoned with the contrasting terms “Macho” and “Maricon,” and stamped leather belts defiantly reclaiming derogs like “Jotito” and “Puto.” In 2018, he was one of 25 artists from across the country to earn a $25,000 Painters and Sculptors grant from the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation.
In what’s likely to be one of the highlights of this year’s Contemporary Art Month (CAM), Villalobos is taking over Presa House Gallery with “Cicatrices (Scars),” a solo show that sees the artist “dismantling traditional modes of masculine identity” and protesting “the toxicity of machismo.” Through deconstructed and altered objects associated with norteño culture and a one-time performance during the First Friday reception, the exhibition also aims to juxtapose “distress with a feeling of comfort deriving from patriarchal and religious social structures which marginalize gay identity.”
Out in SA / By Sam Sanchez
Work by gay San Antonio artist Jose Villalobos will take center stage at the Presa House Gallery in an exhibit that opens on March 1. The title of the show, Cicatrices, translates into English as “Scars.”
Last January, Villalobos was the recipient of a $25,000 Painters and Sculptors grant from the Joan Mitchell Foundation. He was the only Texas artist to receive one of the 25 grants awarded this year.
“It was surreal that I was selected,” Villalobos told the San Antonio Current at the time. “When I got nominated to apply, for some reason I had this self-doubt. But that goes to show that the work speaks for itself. I feel very honored to be among the recipients for this award … This reassures what I’m doing and I feel like someone is looking at my work.”
In a report on Villalobos in the Current, Marco Aquino wrote, “Born along the U.S.-Mexico border in the city of El Paso, Villalobos is largely influenced by the merging of cultures and takes a particular interest in the use of language and its ever-evolving nature. His work explores gender norms, gay identity and the effects of an overbearing patriarchal society.”
Over time, Villalobos has initiated explorations into men’s fashion and the deconstruction of masculine symbols by repurposing cowboy attire. In 2017, he told Out In SA, “When I was a lot younger my mother used to always say that I was going to be a fashion designer and I would always deny it,” he said. “I would always say ‘No, that’s gay!’ because I was hiding myself. … I’ve always loved creating something that goes over a person, clothing and accessories and things like that. … I think my goal is altering certain things … to change the perspective people have of certain clothing. It’s like bending reality.”
Villalobos has exhibited and performed regionally, nationally, and internationally including exhibits at the Mexic-Arte Museum in Austin, El Paso Museum of Art, El Museo de Arte de Ciudad Juarez, and will be included in the McNay Art Museum’s summer 2019 exhibition Transamerica/n: Gender, Identity, Appearance Today.
In announcing Villalobos’ latest exhibit Presa House says in a press release, “In Cicatrices, Villalobos juxtaposes distress with a feeling of comfort deriving from patriarchal and religious social structures which marginalize gay identity. Using found objects, he manipulates material through the context of self-identity as he examines gender roles within family culture.”
“Cicatrices,” a solo exhibition by Jose Villalobos at Presa House Gallery, 725 S. Presa. Opening night reception featuring a live performance by the artist, on Friday, March 1 from 6:00 to 11:00 p.m. The exhibit is on view by appointment and runs through March 30.
Glasstire / Hannah Dean
San Antonio-based artist-run space Presa House Gallery was founded in late 2016. In Corpus Christi, at K Space Contemporary, there’s an exhibition titled Ctrl+A, which is the second part of a gallery exchange that, in this case, presents all the artists who have shown at Presa House thus far.
In a group show of more than 50 artists, you might expect at least a few stinkers. To my delight, every piece in this exhibition stands strong as an individual work. As a group, the work showcases artists, many from Texas, working through American-Texan-Latinx-Borderland issues, through the laser-focused curatorial decisions of Presa House. I suppose this was the point, and the results are impressive. In short, Ctrl+A presents like a most timely biennial.
K Space Contemporary used every inch of its first-floor exhibition space for this show, including the ceilings and the floors. At the opening night, one floor installation served as a performance site for San Antonio artist Jose Villalobos. He stood in a circle of dirt that was punctuated by small mirrors and roses. On the mirrors he wrote words like “fag” and “jomo” in lipstick and attached them to his chest and legs, later breaking them apart with a jewel-mosaic hammer. What’s left behind is Villalobos’s rose-adorned cowboy hat in the center of a circle of dirt, petals, and shards; the hammer lays where it was tossed after the performance. The effect of busted mirrors littered around a makeshift cemetery plot is strikingly unsettling. Lo Que No Existe simultaneously reads as a burial site, a crime scene, and a painfully shattered memorial.
Allison Valdivia’s paintings maintain their quality as constructed objects, while her tightly-rendered scenes are excellent. They seem to come from old photographs, but her painter’s play of focused figures and loosely-adapted backgrounds keep these paintings fresh, as though from recent observation or memory. The Plexiglass overlay on Con Cariño has a remnant of a hand-written letter and signature in red, and the drop shadows it leaves on the image below are somehow more legible than the writing itself. I can’t help but think about families broken up by circumstance, and hidden ancestral histories, and I wonder if the images are derived from Valdivia’s personal history, or someone else’s. I’m not sure it matters. It may seems off-topic, but this painting also leaves me perturbed that cursive handwriting isn’t taught in schools anymore. The personal and intimate marks of the handwritten letter means something when it’s an exchange between people who know and love each other.
Raul Gonzales — a painter, performer, dancer, stay-at-home-dad, and AirBnB artist — has three object/paintings on display (pictured at top). His odd-shaped, tablet-sized technicolor hunks of concrete are adorned with illustrative drawings and paintings. There’s construction workers riding on the tailgate of a truck, Gonzales working at home with his daughter, and a yellow road roller. Though small, these have a hot energy to them. (I like them so much that I started to wonder what his drawings and paintings would feel like blown up. Gonzales’s often-immersive tape/painting/cardboard dance floor installations are a frenzy of color and movement, and it could be something to see his clear-eyed representational paintings and drawings on that scale.)
Ruben Luna’s graphic-novel-style wall pieces house, among other things, a lightning-bolt belt (‘Andalé!’) and a chancla. I’m reminded that they’re used to whack the wayward child or husband. Between the pair, on a pedestal, is an open case displaying a deconstructed broom (like a pool cue), an egg, and Vicks VapoRub: it’s a kit to help you prepare for various Mexican rituals. At first glance, this trilogy of works feels buoyant, but with time it lends itself to heavy subjects, like the preservation of traditions, the frustrations of parenthood, and the ways in which authority — generational or otherwise — is often maintained by physical force.
Other artists definitely deserve mention: Albert Alvarez’s twisted, near-apocalyptic paintings are bawdy and weird. Dan Guerrero’s painting Los Padrinos, in which a couple cradles a huge, veiny snail, the way one holds a baby, is uncomfortably familiar and also funny. Patricia Carrington’s photographs and elaborate Instagrammable interactive photobooth, Aire para llevar, is both beautiful and more than a bit facetious.
In fact, there’s a substantial dose of biting humor throughout this exhibition. When paired against the raw, deeply unsettling works of Angel Lartigue’s Self-portrait as I were Muerto (various small photographs of the naked artist lying in a ditch, or crumpled up next to a structure, with another clothed figure occasionally on the scene), Ctrl+A is downright incisive. With such powerhouse programming through their first two years, I very much look forward to what Presa House Gallery co-directors Jenelle Esparza and Rigoberto Luna do next.
At K Space Contemporary in Corpus Christi through Feb. 22, 2019.