Located in the heart of downtown San Antonio’s ’s Zona Cultural, Centro de Artes is a two-story exhibit space organized by the City’s Department of Arts and Culture and dedicated to telling the story of the Latino experience. The current exhibition “Alberto Mijangos: 159” is on display through November 11, 2018, and curated by Dr. Teresa Eckmann, Art History Associate Professor at the University of Texas San Antonio.
Mijangos was born in Mexico City in 1925 and died in San Antonio in 2007. He moved to San Antonio in the 1950s after having lived in several cities along the U.S.-Mexico border and in Chicago. In San Antonio, Mijangos built displays at Joske’s Department Store and set up a gallery at La Villita. In 1959, he served as Cultural Attaché and Gallery Director for the Mexican Consulate. Throughout this time, his contemporaries in Mexico were enjoying recognition and lauded exhibitions. In Texas, Chicano artists were selected for shows highlighting the political landscape of the time. Mijangos was neither present to participate in the Mexican shows nor considered part of the Chicano scene here, thus any worthy recognition escaped his grasp until now.
Instead, he committed himself to painting and teaching until his death. Videos of him and his students bring to life the quirky personality of a boundless artist with a deep desire to expand his mentees’ minds beyond the technical. More than an inspirational artist, Mijangos brought the Mexican art world to San Antonio and took San Antonio art to Mexico. It is this pioneering foresight that raised the level of artistic expectations for this cultural city that is heavily influenced by its Mexican roots.
Walking through the vast exhibition, the evolution of Mijangos’ thought-process and influences is clear from painful images of a crucified figure and his own self-portrait of depression to humorous studies of what lies beneath “chonies”. Visitors will quickly notice his work with texture and large-scale canvases. Beyond the usual imagery of mariachis and papel picado, Mijangos showed us that Mexican art and culture is deep and intriguing. He goes beyond the colorful explosions of piñatas to explore pain, pleasure, and whimsey in a cultural context.
Centro de Artes Gallery is located at 101 S. Santa Rosa at the Historic Market Square. Admission is free and open to the public Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
Photo by Fred Gonzales