Last month, Houston-based writer, educator, and curator Reyes Ramirez launched a virtual exhibition exploring the use of grids in contemporary Houston art, literature, history, and politics.
Mr. Ramirez holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Texas State University and a BA in Political Science & Creative Writing from the University of Houston. Earlier this year, his collection of short stories, The Book of Wanderers, was published by the University of Arizona Press. Next year, his forthcoming collection of poems, El Rey of Gold Teeth, will be published by Hub City Press. He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his writing, including being named the University of Texas at Austin’s 2023 Dobie Paisano Fellow.
Organized by Mr. Ramirez, the virtual exhibition The Houston Artist Speaks Through Grids (THASTG) features works by Houston artists of color working in a variety of disciplines. Included are abstract painter Ronnie Queenan, photographer Haoua Amadou, multidisciplinary artist Julia Barbosa Landois, multidisciplinary artist Guadalupe Hernandez, and many others. Along with images of the works of art, many of the site’s pages include audio interviews with the artists. The exhibition also incorporates historic photographs and archives, many of which were sourced through the Houston Public Library. Using the theme of grids, the exhibition explores larger concepts such as urban planning, gentrification, and institutional racism.
In a press release announcing the online exhibition, Mr. Ramirez stated, “Houston, like any city, is a series of grids. What makes H-Town different is its infamous lack of governance regarding land use. I’ve lived in an apartment complex that had a movie theater, a Wal-Mart, several restaurants, a gas station, food trucks, auto repair garages, a bar, a laundromat, a sex shop, and three elementary-age schools within a five-minute walking radius of a predominantly Black & Brown block. The squares on these urban grids have always been conduits for the Houstonian imagination. Thus, I, as a Houstonian writer and independent curator of color, want to explore the use of grids through artwork that subverts its utilitarianism by repurposing the form to serve POC aesthetics.”
Unlike most websites which rely on images as visual cues in navigation, the homepage of THASTG includes black text on a white background and a grid of 41 identical square buttons that lead viewers to the next page. The site is presented in English and Spanish and includes an impressive accessibility menu that allows users to make a multitude of adjustments, including contrast, text size and spacing, dyslexia-friendly fonts, and more.
The virtual exhibition received funding from the Mid-America Arts Alliance Interchange grant program, with support from the Mellon Foundation, as well as The Idea Fund, an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts re-granting program administered by DiverseWorks, Aurora Picture Show, and Project Row Houses.
Mr. Ramirez will continue to update THASTG throughout 2023 to include works by additional artists, articles, and teaching materials. Additionally, he has created a pop-up in-person exhibition that can be presented at festivals and community spaces. Click here to explore the site.