Kill the Pachuco Badtard!
Kill the Pachuco Bastard!
Oil on canvas, 41″ x 80″, 2001.
Courtesy of www.thechicanocollection.net

Recently on a trip to San Antonio, I visited the Museo Alameda, the first Latino-museum affiliate to the Smithsonian Institution. I had heard many negative comments about the Alameda, primarily that their shows did not reflect the voice and the cultural vibrancy of San Antonio’s Chicano/a and Latino/a communities. Considering the latter, I was thrilled to find an exhibit by Vincent Valdez and Alex Rubio. The show was titled San Anto: Pride of the Southside, En el Mero Hueso and was curated by Benito Huerta, professor of Painting at the University of Texas at Arlington.

As I walked around the Cortez Gallery in the Museum, I noticed a young man, short in stature, walking around with a cell phone. He looked very determined and continued to talk on the phone and described the way the artwork had been hung. I thought how rude, to be on the phone, did he not get the memo. Well it turned out to be the young Vincent Valdez, who had just flown in from LA to see the exhibit.

Born in 1977 in San Anto’s Southside, Valdez became acquainted with art at an early age. His great-grandfather was an artist and by the age of 10 Valdez had already been selected to participate in the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center Mural Project. The lead artist for the project was Alex Rubio, who became a mentor and friend for Valdez. Both artists have collaborated on a number of public art commissions. Upon graduating high school, Valdez was awarded a scholarship and received his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design. I’m not certain, but I’ve been told that his tour de force painting, Kill the Pachuco Bastard! was done as part of his senior thesis exhibition. The work is now owned by the Cheech Marin Collection.

Pride of the Southside
Pride of the Soutside
Pastel on Paper, 59″ x 36″, 2004
Courtesy of http://www.sacurrent.com

In Pride of the Southside, Valdez depicts his brother as a boxer in active pose. The Southside neighborhood is in the background with a glowing sunset that fills the entire picture with a dark and sensual mood. His boxer stands fierce, yet his eyes reveal fear. There are several pictorial elements central to Chicano iconography in the work: the roses, the title painted on the actual work, the tatoos and gold chain, and they way the sun is depicted can almost be a Mexican or Aztec reference. Pride of the Southside is really a mesmerizing portrait of more than just his brother, it is a portrait of his neighborhood. The dynamic stance of the boxer, the palette and the layout of the composition creates a captivating experience for viewers.

El Chavez Ravine
El Chavez Ravine, 2005-07.
Photo by Genaro Molina.

This past August, Valdez completed his largest project to-date, El Chavez Ravine, commissioned by Ry Cooder. The project raises awareness of the story of Chavez Ravine, a Mexican American working-class neighborhood that underwent violent gentrification to make room for Dodger’s Stadium. With a 1953 Chevy ice cream truck as his canvas, Valdez set out to depict the history of Chavez Ravine. You can find a nice flash movie narrated by Valdez on the LA Times website. Valdez currently lives and works in Los Angeles.

San Anto: Pride of the Southside is on view till March 23, 2008 @ Museo Alameda

Interview with Vincent Valdez and Alex Rubio published in the San Antonio Current.