Instituto art project to unify cultures

Antonio Gomez’s favorite art comes from surrealism, a movement that is known for its elements of juxtaposition. So, it is fitting that he is the organizer of a project intended to form a union between two artistic locales. For the past few years, Gomez has been working to obtain a sculpture installation for the city that will connect Guadalajara, Mexico, and San Antonio.

“It’s our sister city and there’s not a cultural bridge between us,” says Gomez.

The Xalli Art Project, which Gomez is proposing to the City of San Antonio, will feature a series of sculptures by Guadalajara artists that will be located on the grounds of the Instituto Cultural de México as well as surrounding areas.

The Xalli Art Project proposal features the works of Ramiz Barquet, Oscar Zamarripa, and Jesus Llamas, a sample of what Gomez has planned for the project. Working with other artists, he explains, means they have to feature “a median” of themes. He’s open to suggestions from the artists and is visibly excited to work with creators from Mexico, and to blend cultures. Gomez has teamed up with Instituto Cultural de México director Gabriela Franco-Palafox to make the project a reality.

“We support his proposal,” says Franco-Palafox, but Instituto exhibits coordinator Isabel Rico stressed that the proper channels need to be followed for the project, stating that the Instituto “needs to check everything,” including the complete list of artists whose works may be featured. They will also consider the possibility of having an artist-exchange program. She reiterated that the City of San Antonio also needs to approve the project before sculptures are shipped.

“This is a very special project for the Instituto,” says Rico.

It may prove beneficial that next year Hemisfair Park will be celebrating its 40th anniversary and in commemoration of the historic event, the Instituto plans to feature artworks during the year-long celebration.

“It would be interesting to have Mexican artists to celebrate,” says Rico. “Gomez’s project would be fine with this event.”

The project’s name itself also holds significance. Xalli, according to Gomez has Aztec roots with a meaning similar to pumice, a volcanic rock form. He found that the texture of pumice was not unlike the grounds of the state of Jalisco, where he is originally from. In essence, what Gomez may bring to the Alamo city, if the proposal is approved, is a literal and figurative piece of Mexico. As he stated, if all goes according to plan, “Hemisfair Park will shine again.”

Due to events in honor of mid-September’s Mexican Independence Day, the Xalli Art Project talks were put on hold. But in recent days, Gomez and the Instituto have started to work on the project again. Gomez conversed of late with Guadalajara artist Alejandro Colunga, whose bronze sculpture pieces have been installed on the plazas of the Centro Historico in Guadalajara. Colunga’s sculptures feature fantastical creations depicted in the form of sofas or chairs.

Gomez said the Xalli Art Project’s proposed artist-exchange program would last a month and resemble Artpace’s critically recognized International Artist-in-Residence program. The artists-exchange program will build a conservatory of San Antonio artists to send to Guadalajara. Gomez hopes that the proposed artist exchange will create an educational and cultural resource for the community.

Gomez acknowledges that shepherding the proposal through the long process is time-consuming but he is confident that things will come together in the end — whenever that may be.

He recalls his mother telling him when he was a child that he “would try anything to get his goal.” Gomez is using his natural persuasive nature and steadfast determination to achieve his current dream.

“This is one of the biggest projects I’ve been trying to organize,” says Gomez.