Southwestern and Mexican contemporary art with Haydeé Muñoz, founder of Art Magazine
16 apr 2014 by Ashton Chandler
art:i:curate’s Ashton Chandler interviews writer, art promoter, independent curator, and founder of Art Magazine, Haydeé Muñoz, to discuss her art world experiences and her views of the Southwestern and Mexican contemporary art scenes.
AC: As a Curated by contributor, you featured works by mostly San Antonio, TX based artists. Can you describe for us the contemporary art scene in San Antonio?
HM: For Curated By, I wanted to share work from artists that I have come across in the different cities that have been relevant in my life. I chose artists from Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, my hometown, Chihuahua, Mexico, where most of my extended family lives, and San Antonio, Texas, where I currently live. I think the contemporary art scene both in Ciudad Juárez and San Antonio has a lot of energy. In San Antonio, people are very proud of their close-knit and friendly artist community, which has taken San Antonio to a great place. A lot is going on right now, the city in general is flourishing and getting national attention and the contemporary art scene has seen a lot of changes in the past three years. New commercial galleries are opening, the city government has restructured their grant program, we have the first public higher education institution in Texas in our city, great high school art programs, and a healthy collector base. I believe San Antonio is at the verge of breaking through to the next level; it is a very exciting moment to be here.
Mexican contemporary art: "El abandono no es absoluto", Victor Moreno (Ciudad Juárez, México).
AC: Why did you select these artists how does their work reflect their environment and culture?
HM: In Ciudad Juárez, there are very talented amazing artists who are emerging from difficult times and have a lot of sensibility in their work. A lot of them speak of the violence and political issues that we have experienced in the past years, but some of them are connecting the underlying feelings to a more universal discussion. I think universality is beautiful because it makes all of us come together in common ground. That is what I took into consideration when choosing all the artists, despite them being regional, I wanted to make a connection with the world.
In San Antonio, the close-knit community is a double edge sword. On one hand, many artists are too comfortable doing what works for them and they have a structure that allows them to do so. But on the other hand, a lot of them are pushing the limits and trying to be relevant in the international art scene and not limited to their local community. We have some very good artists that are doing very unique work and I think it is in part because of the facilities and freedom that being in San Antonio provides.
Contemporary art in San Antonio: Cantilever House I, Sara Frantz.
AC: You are the founder of Art Magazine, a magazine about the progressive contemporary art in Southwest Texas. How did the magazine highlight what is happening in this area?
HM: I founded the magazine in 2011, after noticing a lack of coverage in the area. I think the magazine embodied what is going on very well because we were giving coverage to smaller artist-run spaces or emerging artists that bigger publications would not give as much coverage to. Art Magazine also served as a place for discussion that connected the dots on what was happening in our city. It also opened lines of communication and found common ground between San Antonio and El Paso, two mainly Latino cities that despite being eight hours apart have more in common than San Antonio has with Houston for example. The magazine is in a restructuring process at the moment and has paused operations. We are figuring out what is the future for Art Magazine and how it will look like when it comes back.
Mexican contemporary art: from the exhibition "Personas sin Convicciones" by Jellyfish Collectivo (Ciudad Juárez, México).
AC: You currently work at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center; how does this institution embody and promote contemporary and historical Latino art and culture?
HM: Yes, I am very excited to be working for the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center. The Center was founded by a group of social activists who wanted to educate the community on their Latino heritage and culture at a time where it was frowned upon to even speak Spanish, so the fact that our team is continuing this mission after almost forty years gives me goosebumps. The Guadalupe is located in the westside of San Antonio and it is surrounded by a lively hispanic community that also happens to be one of the areas in the city with most need. It is one of the few multidisciplinary organizations in San Antonio, Texas, so we offer contemporary programming in Art, Dance, Music, Film, Theater and Literature that connects history and heritage to the present. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center prides on pushing to be a revolutionary national model and I am excited about participating in some of these programs, such as the Chavez Artist Incubator, a two-year program for emerging and established Latino artists to help them develop their career in the artistic and creative area but also in the business aspect, which is a very unique program nationally.
AC: Can you elaborate on your curatorial experiences working with international artists? What other artists would you like to work with in the future?
HM: Being exposed to the art from Ciudad Juárez, I have developed a fascination for the role that art takes when a society is in distress. It seems like art becomes necessary for survival again and recovers its soul and essence. I have been studying the Latin American political art movements of the 60s and 70s and I have also been looking at artists from Egypt. I am very passionate about bridging cultures for which I would like to continue working with international artists. I am currently working in independent curatorial projects mainly with local artists and artists from Mexico, but I would love to expand my reach to other countries.
Contemporary art in San Antonio: "Metamorphosis'" by Cathy Cunningham-Little, 2013. Glass, stainless steel, and light.
All images courtesy of the artists.