Thursday, April 08, 2010

Art List

This week Bernardo Cantu is holding his Master of Fine Arts exhibition titled "Interdimensional Relics from the Barrio" at the Cora Stafford Gallery on campus at the University of North Texas. The exhibition will be open to the public through Friday with a closing reception Friday night from 5 to 9pm.

RICHARDSON HEIGHTS: Having grown up near The Great Border, you've said your work is an expression of the interchange between Texas and Mexican cultures. Tell us how your thesis show title relates to the work you'll be showing.

BERNARDO CANTU: First of all I want to thank WeShotJr for this opportunity. Ever since I landed in North Texas, about 3 years ago, and discovered this blog I've been following along. So It is an honor to be interviewed here.

My work is a product of who I am which is a product of where and how I was raised - my environment and culture. I'm descended from violent mixed ancestral history forged in Mexico but born on this side of the border. Growing up I always felt in between. Being Mexican-American I grew up not feeling neither truly Mexican or truly American, neither here nor there. In Chicano cultural studies the term for this is called "Nepantla" which refers to the in-between spaces produced by colonization. For others and me, living in Nepantla is common. Finding myself in that space reminds me that I am a product of two elements creating a hybrid identity- a new mestizo identity. This and being born right near a man made geographical marking of an in-between space (the Tex-Mex border), it is no wonder that I find myself working with hybrid abstractions. I use "interdimensional" in the title because that is sort of an interesting way of talking about both my situation culturally and dealing with something grand or cosmic. The genesis of my interest in exploring the visual arts began in a barrio. I embrace and carry my roots with me, which is embodied, in my work. I use "relics" as well in the title, when referring to my work, because my work has associations with the past, which is why I give them a worn look illustrating accelerated archeology. The title of my show also has a nice alternative meaning that brings up notions of something sci-fi, b-movie, the bizarre or another world which fits with my art. My hybrid abstractions are a mix of high and low art and that combination I think is also reflected in the title. I know it's a lot of information but I found no better show title then that for dealing with the art I've created for the show and my particular aesthetic.

RH: You indicated in your bio that barbacoa tacos somehow fit into all of this -- how?

BC: My work is inspired by many seemingly unrelated elements and one of those elements is the poetry I find in a good barbacoa taco. In good barbacoa tacos (or just good mexican tacos in general) I'm transported through time and space via flavor to my birth home and my family down south. It reminds me of my roots. Also, thinking about a barbacoa taco and what it is made from and how it is made, can be rather detestable (or agreeable) depending on who you talk to. So for me barbacoa tacos house a polarity of information that I associate with my art as well. From the eloquent to the irreverent, to the grotesque and the sublime.

RH: The Zapolitecos Machine really is pretty incredible. It has an overall feel of pre-Columbian art, but you've made it with all ultra-modern materials. How did you put this piece together?

BC: I wish I could say lots of tequila and peyote but that might not be the whole truth. This piece uses a combination of layers and approaches. I begin an art piece with a frame or a structure. Throughout the way it evolves into something else entirely different then what I started with (specifically with this one). There are a variety of materials going into this object: stretched and non-stretched fabric, plastic, wood, latex and acrylics. I usually gravitate towards stretchy fabric because when stretched it has a unique code of information. New lines and shapes (drawing information) emerge from the tension of the material being stretched. Enclosing or capturing the material's stored energy when stretched is also something I am attracted to. Which is why choosing material that has flexibility is important. Other parts of this object are materials that have a different caliber of texture, a different voice or code of information, which separates it from the stretched fabric. I also enjoy using mesh fabric because it has a certain resonance to certain parts of my youth in the 80's. This zebra or psychedelic striped pattern that dominates this object is a repeated pattern in most of my recent work. Using all these materials together transports my work to this bizarre space of "the odd" that I like. A space influenced by thinking about various aesthetics and feels such as in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Afrika Bambaataa, pre-Columbian, Neo-tribalism and steam punk. Most of my work asks questions rather than delivers answers and it also is a reflection of the music I'm listening to... and so this is true for this artwork in particular. Even though this one carries this information for me I allow the end product to have a voice of its own and thus allow people to interpret it how they will in whatever way they want. Which is why I like the idea of "purposeful ambiguity." So far, your interpretation and other's views on The Zapolitecos Machine have been consistent... so that feeds into this work now.

RH: You use a lot of interesting materials in your "wall-mountable" pieces, including what looks to be reshaped plastic and latex. What is your studio set up like? What is one of your work sessions like?

BC: I have a pretty messy studio. I think I have the messiest one in all of oak-street hall currently. I might hold that honor for a long time. I really have no more room in my studio... every area is taken up with something. Sometimes I wish I could be more minimal but its just not happening. In one area there is a speed bag, in another area there is a plastic Cerberus given to me by my gal Vero and in other areas there are piles of materials (from fabric, plastic to acrylics) that I like to think of as alchemy mounds. Every other space is occupied with my art. A work session for me is getting some specific type of music going, then attacking a project with a combination of a bad attempt at Mike Tyson in his prime by knocking something out in a matter of seconds and the more slower, pensive, sensitive painter side of me. I go back and forth between these dichotomies often in my studio. Which is probably a big reason why I think the style in my work carries this mixture between brute elegance and irreverent baroqueness.

RH: Do you employ any particularly original technique in your work? And more importantly, would you be willing to share your secret?

BC: I guess I do have an original technique that I use to create my art. I haven't been pointed to anyone else that is doing what I am doing technically so until then it is original. It is extremely low- tech/lo-fi and for that I love it but It might be original because I don't think anyone in their right mind would do what I'm doing technically... or maybe so who knows. If anyone wants the secret sauce I might give it out from a bottle at my closing reception but you are going to have to approach me and ask me about it.

RH: So, you got an MFA. What happens next?

BC: To borrow an idea from the late great Mitch Hedberg I'm going to hit the ground running with a "get rich slow scheme." I think I'm in the right business for that. On the other hand if someone wants to make it happen quickly I don't mind forfeiting the scheme.




Stewart Cohen
Photographs Do Not Bend Gallery
1202 Dragon Street, Dallas, TX 75207
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM


Lady Classical, Mother Metamorphosis, and other Holy Fables
Michael O'Keefe
Valley House Gallery
6616 Spring Valley Road, Dallas, TX 75254
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM


Janet Chaffee and Heidi Lingamfelter
Mighty Fine Arts
419 N. Tyler, Dallas, TX 75209
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Grind, Hassle, Jump Jam
Nic Noblique
Cameron Gallery
1414 Dragon Street, Dallas, TX 75207
6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Ginger Geyer
Kenneth Hale
Jacqueline Bishop
3120 McKinney Ave, Dallas, TX 75204
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM


Oak Cliff Art Crawl
Davis St, Seventh Avenue, Tyler, and Bishop Ave in Oak Cliff
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM Saturday
4:00 PM - 7:00 PM Sunday

Image courtesy of Bernardo Cantu.


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