Interview: Eduardo Xavier García
by Claire Ruud
This year, Mexic-Arte Museum invited artist and curator Eduardo Xavier García to put together their annual exhibition of young Latino artists. Before the exhibition opened, García and I had a chance to talk about curating Young Latino Artists 14.
…might be good: You were trained as an artist. How did you end up curating Young Latino Artists 14 (YLA 14)?
Eduardo Xavier García: I have always been interested in the curating/production side of art. While I was an undergraduate here at UT Austin, I began organizing exhibitions. Then, in 2005 I founded the Sound Alternative Space for Contemporary Art in Laredo, Texas. For three years I directed, curated and maintained the artistic direction of the space. I had the opportunity to work with many different artists from around the country and from abroad who worked in a wide variety of styles and mediums. Along the way I developed a curatorial portfolio, which includes all forms of art ranging from installation, painting, performance, to an annual experimental film festival.
In early 2008 I decided to move back to Austin, and Sylvia Orozco [Director of Mexic-Arte Museum] invited me to curate YLA 14.
…mbg: How did you develop the concept behind the show?
EXG: When I set out to curate YLA 14 about a year ago, I had no concept. I simply set out to find artwork that spoke to me in some way. When artists asked me what the concept or theme for the exhibition was, I told them not to worry about that, to work and produce art that they normally do. My idea was simply to collect art and artists; once I felt I had what I needed, I would then step back and reflect on what I had collected. That would be my concept for YLA 14.
After I’d chosen the artists, I realized that one thing I liked about all their work was the absence of references to the recent financial meltdown. In other words, I liked the fact that they were working purely out of their hearts. (Not to say that if you work on the current financial situation, you are not working from the heart.) I simply found these artists’ work to be so detached and far away from the situation that the rest of the world was in—to offer a kind of lona, cover or shield, from the financial crisis through their creative processes. This transported me and helped me do the same thing.
…mbg: Can you give me some specific examples of what drew you to these artists’ work?
EXG: Some of Jorge Javier Lopez’s work is about personal guilt. It allows the viewer into the world of one man and his internal struggle. Another artist, Julia Barbosa Landois, simply works from within and explores personal themes that have to do with one’s self-perception, shaping or upbringing.
Overall, each one of these artists approach to their work is very introversive and personal.
…mbg: The two central parameters of YLA are that artists be under 35 years old and Latino/a. What do you think the implications are of curating an exhibition of Latino artists today?
EXG: It depends I guess on what a curator sets out to present or speak about. Myself, I am very interested in contemporary art and the progressive mindset of the artist today (this can be found in all ethnicities). In YLA 14, I set out to look for Latino artists that are producing work that speaks of them being here in the present yet looking ahead; making the statement that they seek solutions. So in a way through them I am voicing out this very perspective of mine; our collective perspective.
A lot of times people expect for Latino art to stay within the traditional boundaries or realm of the legacy of the Chicano Movement. The Latino, as well as any artist today, is aware of our surroundings and the world we live in and no longer falls under “expected” implications.
…mbg: It sounds like you’re saying we’ve moved past the moment of identity politics. Each artist is an individual first; of course cultural and ethnic backgrounds affect an artist’s work, but they don’t define it. Am I getting this right?
…mbg: So given this situation, what’s the significance of limiting the artists chosen for an exhibition to Latinos/as?
EXG: The idea of “Latino art” has played a major role in the development and documentation of history. This history is part of the mission and context of Mexic-Arte Museum, and I was offered the opportunity to work within these guidelines. It is a great opportunity to get a good perspective or sense of what young Latinos are doing in Texas. But truthfully, I believe that the “key” factor for me in the YLA shows is that they give young artists the opportunity to exhibit in a major cultural institution. I know from personal experience that this type of show gives a young artist a sense of an open door to the rest of the art world. Through YLA and other programs, Mexic-Arte Museum has and will always help to encourage young Latinos to have a say so in the ever-changing art world.
Claire Ruud is Editor of ...might be good.