Wednesday, December 14, 2016

McNay Acquires Painting from Vincent Valdez's 'Strangest Fruit' Series

Posted By on Wed, Dec 14, 2016 at 4:05 PM

  • Vincent Valdez, The Strangest Fruit 9

At the age of 26, San Antonio native Vincent Valdez hit a career milestone with “Stations,” an exhibition of charcoal drawings depicting a boxer’s last fight in a format referencing the Stations of the Cross. Not only did it introduce Valdez to a broader audience, “Stations” made him the youngest artist to be honored with a solo show at the McNay.

Since then, Valdez has emerged as both a hometown hero and a nationally recognized artist who has exhibited widely, earned numerous awards and prizes (including a prestigious Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant in 2015) and landed in more than a dozen permanent collections. Often tackling socio-political issues in photo-realistic drawings and paintings, Valdez first presented his body of work “The Strangest Fruit” at Brown University’s David Winton Bell Gallery in 2013. Showcased by Artpace the following summer, the large-format oil paintings hauntingly address “the lost/erased history of lynched Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the state of Texas from the late 1800s well into the 1930s.”

Named after the Abel Meeropol poem “Strange Fruit” (popularized by Billie Holiday’s 1939 song of the same name), the series presents a number of Valdez’s friends and contemporaries as metaphorical victims, dressed in modern-day attire and suspended in mid-air, as if hung by invisible nooses. Seemingly levitating amid ethereal white canvases, these figures transcend their grim points of reference to pose myriad questions — including, as Valdez has suggested, whether they’re “coming back into existence or … fading out of history forever.”

Recently acquired by the McNay and currently on view in the museum’s Stieren Center for Exhibitions, The Strangest Fruit 9 is the largest and final piece in the series. Coincidentally enough, the painting depicts local artist/curator Rigoberto Luna back-to-back with his brother Ruben Luna, the McNay’s chief preparator.

Art Minute: The Strangest Fruit 9 with Vincent Valdez from The McNay Art Museum on Vimeo.

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