The Linda Pace Foundation presents It Takes a Village, a solo exhibition of work by New York-based artist Alejandro Diaz. The exhibition focuses on Diaz’s eclectic and satirical aesthetic, featuring a series of new works comprising sculptures, paintings, and a site-specific installation, as well as a hand-woven tapestry from 2014. It Takes a Village will be on view at SPACE, the Linda Pace Foundation gallery, from April 18 to September 12, 2015.
As an artist with a national voice, Diaz grew up in San Antonio, Texas and much of his work is influenced by the contemporary Mexican/Texan cultures of his youth. It Takes a Village uses pop, modern, and folkloric works of art as its starting point, and evokes previous artists or art movements that combined high and low art, often using language and humor as a form of cultural and socio-economic critique.
Works in the exhibition include This is not a Calder (2014), made of hand-dyed, hand-woven wool and produced in Mexico in collaboration with the renowned Taller de Gobelinos in Guadalajara, Mexico. The work references both Calder and Magritte, presenting a tongue-incheek reinterpretation of the paradoxical painting. Facebook Likes (2015) references a series of cardboard signs Diaz made in 2003 and sold on the streets of Manhattan to passersby.
Continuing in the tradition of sign making, Diaz later translated many of his pithy slogans into neon and most recently into the medium of painting. Facebook Likes functions as both a conceptual, text-based work of art and an everyday, non-art commercial sign. Other new works include The Color Field (2015) a solid yellow painting that references minimalist color field painting from the 1940s – 1960s. The work also includes Mexican marketplace souvenirs on a pedestal below the painting, drawing a link between the artist's use of high and low materials. A new painting on canvas, I’m Exhausted (2015), mimics 1950s Abstract Expressionist painting, and is both a humorous critique on high art and painting, and a commentary on the exhausting life of an artist struggling to make it in New York.
It Takes a Village (2015) is a new, site-specific work that will be installed in a large glass vitrine and includes various found objects, including Mexican clay figurines, artificial aloes, a plastic radio, a marble statue, Spanish moss, and Mexican colonial painting, among others. Referencing a world's fair pavilion, It Takes a Village is part department-store window, part architectural model, part Mexican nativity scene. The work is characteristic of Diaz’s interest in art as a form of public engagement and political and cultural commentary. Also on view will be a series of new sculpture works called Muebles (2015), a series of castresin, life-size pieces of furniture that are in the shape of migrant workers, representing stereotypes of the Mexican identity. Diaz explains, “The Spanish word Muebles (furniture) comes from the Latin Mobilis which means something that is movable or easy to move. These sculptures co-opt Allen Jones' high art furniture of the 1960s to draw attention the plight of Mexican immigrants and to Mexican-American culture as a whole — as a commodity that when no longer needed can be easily moved or removed like a piece of furniture.” Linda Pace Foundation Trustee and Curator Kathryn Kanjo adds, “Diaz reflects the creative, cultural energy of San Antonio--the same energy that so inspired Linda Pace. He filters challenging, social subject matter through visual art tropes that seem to simultaneously critique and celebrate their subjects. With works that are declarative, bold, and playful, he is one of the core artists that helped define the San Antonio contemporary art community in the 1990s.”
Based in New York City, Diaz is originally from Texas where he developed a pertinent body of work exemplifying the complex and visually rich cultural milieu particular to South Texas and Mexico. Diaz received his MA at the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, in 1999. In 2003, Diaz created a major installation for the Havana Biennial titled I (Heart) Cuba, an installation of free souvenir items emblazoned with the artist’s twist on the familiar New York slogan. He was commissioned by the Public Art Fund, New York’s premier presenter of public art, to create 4 large-scale sculptures for the grand concourse in the Bronx (2006). His work was featured in Phantom Sightings, a Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) exhibition that traveled to Mexico City, San Antonio, New York, and Houston (2008-2010). He received a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award for excellence in the visual arts in 2008, and had a solo exhibition at the RISD Museum at the Rhode Island School of Design (2012-2013).