Modified Menu

Collaboration with Ricky Yanas for the YLA 20: WITHIN REACH exhibition at the Mexic-Arte Museum, June 12-August 23, 2015. 11 x 17 inches, cardstock, double sided print with insert. Limited edition of 150.

This project came from research done on Mexican restaurant menus from several decades of Austin history. Ricky and I were fascinated by the language, spelling quirks, and categorization styles of the menus, especially those from the middle of the 20th century, when the phenomenon of Tex Mex food was establishing its roots in central Texas. In this era, many Mexican restaurants also featured American food offerings, with interesting results (Nachos categorized as American food, ham sandwich occasionally placed under the Mexican food section, etc.). We were also inspired by Gloria Anzaldúa’s seminal writing “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” which explores the dynamism of linguistic and cultural cross overs.

More about the show: The Young Latino Artists (YLA) exhibition has historically provided Latina/o artists under the age of thirty-five with professional-level museum experience and exposure. Now in its twentieth year, YLA 20: Within Reach is guest curated by visual artist Ricky Yanas. Mestizaje, as Chicana activist and writer Gloria Anzaldua defined the term, is a border consciousness that comes from the “continual intermarriage between Mexican and American Indians and Spaniards.” Unlike the myth of the American “melting pot”, Mestizaje embraces contradiction and plurality, emphasizing the act of cultural mixing and transition as key to its understanding.

YLA 20: Within Reach embodies this philosophy by interweaving a multitude of artistic practices and ideas, finding points of intersection and divergence in a garden of objects, images, and flora. This exhibition brings together stand-alone and site-specific works by nine Chicano/a, Tejano/a, Mexicano/a, and Puertorriqueño/a artists focusing on acts of negation/destruction and reinterpretation/revitalization, highlighting that generative space between these conflicting ideas. Through processes of collage, archiving, and personal and environmental exploration, these artists are beginning to break down the alienating messages produced by dominant corporate culture, finding new symbols and mythologies in their own personal histories and the physical space around them. The title of the exhibition, Within Reach, refers not only to the proximity of these artists to their materials and subjects, but also to a future free of corrosive mainstream influences, driven by trust in one’s own cultural heritage and experience.

The exhibition was conceived of as a garden, literal and metaphorical, where images, objects and ideas mix and converse. Alcoves, nooks, and passageways open to new contrasts. The potted plants contrast against the institutional space of the museum and the artworks, echoing a possibility of personal and political growth from that place between nature and artifice. We encourage visitors to bring their own potted plants so they may be incorporated into the exhibition.

Featured YLA 20 Artists: Jaime Alvarez (Philadelphia, PA); Annmarie Avila (Philadelphia, PA); Tamara Becerra Valdez (Austin, TX); Grimaldi Baez (Philadelphia, PA); Isaiah Carrasco (Dallas, TX); Teresa Cervantes (Philadelphia, PA); Lauren Moya-Ford (Austin, TX); Ashley Thomas (Austin, TX); and Hope Mora (Buffalo, NY).

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