New Works in the Fort Worth Iteration of “Soy de Tejas”

by Jessica Fuentes May 25, 2024

In 2023, independent curator Rigoberto Luna presented Soy de Tejas: A Statewide Survey of Latinx Art at Centro de Artes in San Antonio. The exhibition brought together 40 artists who are from or currently living in Texas, with various regions of the state represented. More than 16,000 visitors saw the show, an increase of over 10,000 people compared to the previous exhibition attendance at the venue. Soy de Tejas helped to build community among Latinx artists across the state and illustrated the diversity and strength of Latinx art in Texas. With such a successful presentation, it is not surprising that the exhibition has traveled to a second venue, Arts Fort Worth, in the heart of Fort Worth’s cultural district.

Last year, I reviewed the exhibition and wrote about a night of performances featuring Christian Cruz, Cande Aguilar, and José Villalobos. Soy de Tejas coming to my hometown gave me an opportunity to revisit the show. Though I loved the first iteration, I was excited that nearly half of the artworks in the Fort Worth exhibition would be new pieces. Luna explained that this is partially because works from the San Antonio exhibition were sold, but also because some artists wanted to showcase new works. Notably, Francisco Moreno and Arely Morales completed massive detailed paintings in the months prior to the Fort Worth opening.

An installation photograph of large scale paintings by Francisco Moreno and Arely Morales.

Works by Francisco Moreno and Arely Morales

Morales’s Bruno and Reina are a continuation of her Labor series, which is focused on the contribution of immigrants to the U.S. economy. Reina smiles warmly with a hint of exhaustion in the way she rests her hand on the metal edge of a sink where she washes dishes. Bruno, carrying a ladder and hammer, exudes a similar joy as he looks directly at the viewer with a wide smile. The pairing of the two pieces reveals the behind-the-scenes type of work — cleaning and construction — that is often available to immigrants. This type of labor is the backbone for industries and life, the unseen work that makes other things possible.

Moreno’s A City in a House in a Room is the newest of his history paintings, coming from a series of surreal mythological narrative works. The roughly eight-by-nine-foot acrylic painting is filled with a range of icons and references. Skyscrapers from the Dallas skyline are tightly packed and confined by the walls of a two-story house, which sits on a round table in the middle of a room. Two nude figures look intently at the buildings, as does a crouching dog and a metallic humanoid robot. At the bottom corner of the room sits an Aztec sculpture of a serpent’s head. In Aztec culture, snakes held many meanings as they were seen as being able to move between earth, water, and sky. In Moreno’s work, the reference seems to root his painting in the history of Mexico while also alluding to this in-between space that he has created. Historical references such as the vaulted arches in the background, combined with futuristic imagery such as the android, situate this work within the larger context of Latinx Futurism, a literary and visual arts movement related to Afrofuturism. 

Two new powerful sculptures in the exhibition are Angel CabralesRosario del paso del Águila and Violette Bule’s AGAINST RE-PRESENT-ATION. The pieces are adjacent to each other and both speak to the harsh realities of the immigration process. Like the earlier pieces from his 2013 series Juegos Fronteras, which paired reimagined playground equipment with barbed wire, chain link fencing, and security cameras, Cabrales’ latest work combines familiar, seemingly innocuous objects with hazardous items. The “beads” of his larger-than-life rosary are made from bright orange pool buoys, but they are assembled on a chain and separated by round metal razor-sharp slivers. The use of these buoys is a reference to the razor-wired buoys used by the Texas government in an effort to deter migrants from crossing the Rio Grande. At the end of the rosary stands a cross that is reminiscent of metal fence pickets. At the top of the cross is a small sign that reads, “Prohibida la entrada,” which translates to “No entry allowed.”

An installation image of a large sculpture of a rosary by Angel Cabrales.

Angel Cabrales, “Rosario del paso del Águila.”

Cabrales’ work evokes a visceral reaction. A rosary is typically an intimate object that one holds in their hands as they pray, however, Rosario del paso del Águila would be a dangerous object to run your fingers across and would give no comfort. There are many possible interpretations wrapped up in the imagery he uses. Religion is often a source of solace for people, but this object might suggest that religious beliefs are being used as dangerous weapons. 

An installation image of a work by Violette Bule featuring a claw machine game set in a pit of sand.


Beside Cabrales’ sculpture, Bule has created an installation in which visitors must trek across a small sand pit to arrive at a claw crane arcade machine where they can attempt to retrieve a Venezuelan passport. Though ultimately the sand is a small nuisance to step through, potentially resulting in sandy shoes, the barriers continue when you realize that the machine requires two quarters to play. While this is a seemingly small fee, nowadays, with the digitization of money, few people carry cash. Then, once the money is paid, there is also a time limit — participants have one minute to grab a passport with the claw. Finally, of course, the retrieval of a passport is made more difficult through the game itself, as they are contained in plastic balls, which are nearly impossible to grasp with the claw. 

A detail photograph of Venezuelan passports contained in small plastic balls.

Detail of Violette Bule’s “AGAINST RE-PRESENT-ATION.”

Interacting with the piece made me reflect on my privileges as a U.S. citizen who has never had to endure the dangers and hardships of immigration. In addition to the standard wall text for the artwork, Bule has authored a statement about the installation. In it, she explains the complications of immigration for Venezuelans, noting that the cost of a passport there reaches up to $360 U.S. dollars, as opposed to a Spanish passport, which costs approximately $30. She goes on to say that along with a financial barrier, there is a timing difference: whereas a European passport can take weeks to arrive, a Venezuelan passport might take six to eight months. Bule takes a full paragraph to point out the many issues faced by Venezuelans, including violence, a lack of public services, environmental damage, and drug trafficking. She concludes by explaining that the piece is not about these issues, rather it is about the issues of Venezuelan’s ability to travel unencumbered and to have their identity officially represented.

An installation photograph of a paintings by Fernando Andrade on Styrofoam plates.

Fernando Andrade, “Homemade Cakes and Piñatas

Tucked away in a small hallway are nine small works by Fernando Andrade. His Homemade Cakes and Piñatas series was completed in 2022, but at the time of the first Soy de Tejas exhibition, it was being shown elsewhere. The intimate depictions of birthday scenes drawn from family photos are painted on Styrofoam plates. These otherwise disposable items used at large family gatherings have been transformed into deeply personal and meaningful keepsakes. The plates add a sense of vulnerability to the work, which might evoke a different mood if painted on a more traditional surface. Whereas a canvas seems like a durable material meant to last generations, the plates feel as though the memories that they now hold are ill-fated. 

Audiences who visited the San Antonio iteration of Soy de Tejas may wonder if the trip to Fort Worth to see the show again is worthwhile. It absolutely is. Aside from seeing some of the same works in a new environment, the Fort Worth iteration has many new pieces that add to the story of Latinx art and experiences in our state. 

Soy de Tejas is on view at Arts Fort Worth through June 23, 2024.

0 comment

You may also like

Leave a Comment

Funding generously provided by: