Galerie Fons Welters has the pleasure of introducing the work of Esteban Cabeza de Baca in a solo exhibition in the front space of the gallery.

When people learn about the first Americans, they are told the Natives lost to the Europeans because of guns, germs and steel. Historically, the forces of colonial oppression perceived the American landscape in a way that benefited their resettlement of indigenous people. Traditional European representations of conquered landscapes in painting mask the violence on a literal and a formal level of representation. What was painted is illusion. What is absent is the complexity of belief structures tied to the land through native abstractions. Modernism furthered the appropriation of aboriginal forms through the wall of painting. The Demoiselles D’Avignon and the drips of Jackson Pollock steal from ancient rituals (African masks and Navajo sand paintings). These stolen and repurposed images are the bedrock of contemporary Western art history. We find ourselves in a time where the wall still exists around poverty stricken communities, because the colonizers gaze strangles still our vision of reality. By recalling Pre-Columbian narratives and clay sculptures rising out of the ashes of hundreds of years of genocide, Esteban Cabeza de Baca keeps his Mexican and Native American narrative alive. Within this work, a thought experiment takes place on how to perceive the spiritual through man-made boundaries. By directly connecting to the landscape through clay, ancient cave paintings in the Southwest United States, observational painting, graffiti and found objects a site for American history is excavated. Even though we exist in an age of corporate resource extraction–where man becomes more similar to its own pollution–a persistent mantra within this exhibition is to unlearn the colonialist gaze.

Esteban Cabeza de Baca’s paintings explore the landscape’s role as a social political signifier and the history of man using his hands to represent landscape. Cabeza de Baca’s work emerges from his Mestizo culture in the Southwest United States. He is from the border town of San Ysidro, California. In the early years of his life he watched many people cross the same border that his mother and grandmother had crossed years earlier. His father the historian Vincent C. de Baca traced his family’s heritage back to the conquistador and faith healer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca. By deconstructing his regional American landscape, Cabeza de Baca unravels our cultural background.

Esteban Cabeza de Baca (1985) is from the border town of San Ysidro, CA (USA). He has attended residencies such as the LMCC Workspace Program, the Sharpe-Walentas Residency, and the Byrdcliffe Residency. He is the recipient of the Stokroos Grant, Gamblin painting grant and the Stern fellowship. He has exhibited at Gaa Gallery (Provincetown, MA), David Richard Gallery (Santa Fe, NM), Dickinson Gallery (New York, NY), Fisher Landau Center for Art (Long Island City, NY), Museum of Outdoor Arts (Englewood, CO), and Columbia University (New York, NY). Esteban holds a BFA from The Cooper Union and an MFA from Columbia University. He currently lives and works in Amsterdam and New York and is a resident at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten.