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Southside/Westside connection 

As Sexto Sol played in the background, serving as the unofficial soundtrack of the highly anticipated Vincent Valdez and Alex Rubio show San Anto: Pride of the Southside/En El Mero Hueso, a crowd of nearly 800 people anxiously awaited the unveiling of an artistic trek.

The opening drew a range of people: NESA students, professionals just getting out of work, local artists, and a few downtown sight-seers. Alameda chairman Henry Muñoz told the assembled it’s “important this exhibition be seen,” while acting director Carol Wyrick said that Valdez and Rubio’s works would help put the newly opened Latino-culture museum on the map. All the hype added to the excitement once the ribbon was cut and patrons were allowed in to view the show.

Although the grand and expertly crafted collaboration “La Virgen de Guadalupe” (what better way to honor La Virgen on her feast day?) welcomes patrons into the space, Valdez’s “4 Points (Where U From?)” is the first piece patrons see before entering the 20-plus collection of works. The four-part neon linear drawing of hands, looking like gang signs, is the ideal piece to open the exhibition — it captures not only the electricity both artists bring to the show but the truth of living in a locale divided by race, culture, and income.

Valdez and Rubio’s works delve into the problems that the historically poor South and West sides encounter — drugs, violence, and a desire to grow beyond these issues. Both artists bring their unique take to their subject matter. Rubio, who is heavily influenced by the works of Salvador Dalí and Pop Art, uses bold colors to capture some of the most dramatic events of his life. Valdez opts for a limited color palette with his new works — allowing him to show a more dramatic side represented beautifully in “It Wuz the End of the Southside As I Knew It,” in which a large asteroid hovers over an unsuspecting Southside. From Rubio’s “Street Altar (El Quarto, La Vela, El Duro)” to Valdez’s “Head Fo’ Tha Southside, Let’s Ride,” our city’s deeply religious heritage is interwoven (evident in Valdez’ “Pride of the Southside,” which shows his brother in a boxing pose donning the face of Jesus Christ on a necklace, and Rubio’s “La Vela,” part of the “Street Altar” set where Juan Diego is displayed in the front of the candle) in an already complex collection of personal works from both established artists.

After leaving the exhibit I was reminded of Wyrick’s words at the opening. She declared that Rubio and Valdez are breaking down the stereotypes of Latino art — I have to agree. Both artists use their past as their inspiration but they bring so much more to their work than their culture; each individually brings a back story and a message that transcends cultural barriers. San Anto: Pride of the Southside/En El Mero Hueso is about the familia, cultura, and the trials and tribulations that come along with our city.

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July 14, 2021

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