Spectra: Work by Adrian Esparza

February 7, 2014 — May 11, 2014
In the Front Gallery

Opening Reception
Friday, February 7, 5:30 – 8:00 PM
5:30 – Artist Talk by Adrian Esparza
6:00 – Artist Talk by Christine Nofchissey McHorse
The opening will also feature Dark Light: The Micaceous Ceramics of Christine Nofchissey McHorse in the Main Gallery. Open studios by current resident artists to follow talks.

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft (HCCC) presents Spectra, a site-specific installation by El Paso native, Adrian Esparza. Through his transformation of low-cost mass-produced products, such as T-shirts, serapes, and posters, Esparza combines traditional Mexican-American craft-based practices with the universal language of geometric abstraction. Permeating HCCC’s Front Gallery, his deconstructed serape installation brings Mexican-American identity to the forefront by calling into question the serape’s function as Mexican icon. Through a process of unweaving and reconfiguration, Esparza dilutes the textile’s potency as a clean-cut symbol of Mexican heritage. Taken as an aesthetic platform, Esparza’s installation opens up a conversation that addresses the socio-economic and political issues of living in a border town. On a broader level, the work connects Mexican-American identity to a global heritage.

Living in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, a melting pot of varied traditions, Esparza acknowledges the complex identity that one is faced with growing up in a border town. And, yet, popular culture boils down Mexican-American identity into a series of stereotypes rooted in immigration prejudices, drug trafficking, Speedy Gonzales, and old Westerns. While growing up, Esparza had little exposure to art history and was first introduced to art through DIY craft activities. In his house, objects were reused again and again, and materials gained a new sense of purpose. The artist takes the same approach to the recyclables that he collects for his installation work.

By unraveling a serape that hangs from a gallery wall, Esparza functions as a prism, as he separates the fibers of the textile into a colorful abstract composition that radiates around the room. Recognizing the material for its aesthetic potential, he takes the wall as his canvas. Punctuating the surface of the wall, nails stretch the fibers into obtuse and acute angles, straddling the line between landscape and pattern. Repetitive forms articulate distance and space, as lines extend from one point to another.

Through his installations, Esparza’s source material moves beyond kitsch into the realm of cultural empowerment. By displacing the serape from its familiar context of Mexican tradition, the artist connects the object to a universal heritage through line, color, and shape. The installation relates to the architecture of Ancient Egypt, the linear perspective that defines Renaissance painting, and the simple geometric forms of Modernism. In Spectra, Esparza provides a portal into a new global territory that provokes his audience to accept Mexican-American identity as part of an international visual culture.

Adrian Esparza received a BFA degree from the University of Texas at El Paso in 1996 and an MFA degree from the California Institute of the Arts in 1998. He has held solo exhibitions at Cindy Rucker, New York, New York (2013); the Taubert Contemporary, Berlin, Germany (2012); and Artpace, San Antonio, Texas (2009), among others. He has also participated in many international group exhibitions, including the 12th Instanbul Biennial-Untitled, Instanbul, Turkey (2011); Lines of Thought, Parasol-Unit, London, United Kingdom (2012); Volver, San Francisco Museum of Craft and Folk Art, San Francisco, California (2010); and Phantom Sightings: Art after the Chicano Movement, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2010). His work may be found in the collections of the Perez Miami Art Museum, the Dallas Museum of Art, the El Paso Museum of Art, and the Rubins Center for the Visual Arts.

Above: (1-5) Exhibition view of “Spectra: Work by Adrian Esparza,” in the Front Gallery at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. 2013. Photo by Kim Coffman.