San Antonio/ Arts & Culture
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Published on June 14, 2024
"Xicanx: Dreamers + Changers" Exhibition Showcases Mexican American Identity and Activism in San AntonioSource: Google Street View

The "Xicanx: Dreamers + Changemakers" exhibit, which has made a splash at the Contemporary at Blue Star, refuses to be defined by a single lens. With a collection spanning across an array of mediums and perspectives, the show's 30 artists share personal and shared stories of Mexican American identity, told through art pieces that reflect a wide spectrum of emotion and political discourse, as reported by San Antonio Report.

This emotionally and politically diverse exhibition, says Contemporary curator Jacqueline Saragoza McGilvray in a statement obtained by San Antonio Report, contains levity and tackles the weight of alienation, themes that resonate through pieces like Alejandro Diaz's neon wall sculpture "Make Tacos Not War," which combines a playful facade with a protest against societal injustices while a multi-panel 1982 work by Celia Álvarez Muñoz contemplates the perplexities of an immigrant's acclimatization.

The term Xicanx itself is an echo chamber of generational voices, genders, and cross-border experiences, embracing a conscious choice of allegiance to a cultural, community identity as well as a civil rights movement, Greta De León and Jill Baird, the exhibition's original curators, highlight the chosen nature of this identity, “Being Chicano or Xicanx is an identity all of the artists in this exhibition choose... it is accepting the responsibility to fight for their community, their culture and their civil rights,” a mindset reverberated in the artwork on display.

Homegrown talent from San Antonio, such as Davíd Zamora Casas and Al Rendón, brings a local perspective to the stage, presenting a mix of paintings, installations, and photographs that delve deep into the complexities of Xicanx culture, with imagery ranging from Casas' room-filling installations to Rendón's intimate portrait capturing the symbolic importance of the Virgen de Guadalupe to Mexican Americans instances of embracing culture include Jose Esquivel’s 2014 painting "La Tiendita,” which reflects a dreamy, natural invasion into modern life, and Chuck Ramirez’s “Trash Bags: American Flag” from 1998, questioning consumerism by presenting cast-off advertisements and political flyers.

Artists within the show do not shy away from the political facets of the Mexican American narrative, as demonstrated by Luis Valderas' "The Horizon" which illustrates the Rio Grande border from an orbital perspective, and Celeste de Luna’s woodcut "Our Lady of the Checkpoint" that offers a compassionate view at the migrant experience. "Muneefest Destiny" by Alfred Quiroz frames the U.S.-Mexico border transformation through historical and contemporary eyes, emphasizing the Chicano saying, "we didn't cross the border, the border crossed us," which is featured adjacent to the artwork. Rodolfo Anaya's novel "Bless Me, Ultima" resides in the room as well, its presence magnifying the impact of Chicano literature despite its controversial reception. The exhibition, as per San Antonio Report, also pays homage to San Antonio intellectual Tomás Ybarra-Frausto, citing his essay on Rasquachismo—a testament to a defiant and subversive Chicano spirit—as a mirror to the exhibition's overall essence.

Open to the public free of charge until October 6, this non-profit space encourages donations, and for those seeking to understand the breadth of the exhibition, the Contemporary’s events page provides information on related events.