Various Small Fires proudly presents Part II of its inaugural exhibition at VSF Texas. Texan celebrates the rich contributions Texas-born artists offer to the contemporary art landscape and provides a homecoming for many of the exhibition's diasporic Texans. While claiming one’s Texan heritage can incite complicated feelings, the exhibition presents an opportunity for these artists to proclaim their ties to the state through a sense of expanded community. Texan: Part II brings together work by Diedrick Brackens, Xavier Cha, Hayden Dunham, Baseera Khan, Puppies Puppies (Jade Guanaro Kuriki-Olivo), and Sarah Zapata.
Conservative political and religious values coupled with an extensive border to Mexico have given rise to contentious issues in the state of Texas, including immigration, women's reproductive rights, and legislation impacting the lives of trans citizens. These matters have come to a height in recent months, garnering international attention and becoming increasingly relevant to those who have called Texas home. Like a tattoo that one might prefer to conceal in select contexts, being from Texas can be tricky. Texan, however, aims to reinstate a sense of pride and provide VSF’s global audience with an opportunity to reconsider its perception of the state.
Part I looked to a generation of artists who challenged the canon of modernism in disciplines of painting, sculpture, and video. The artists in Part II draw from socio-political topics and explore radical ideas through an intersectional lens. These artists depart from traditional mediums and processes, issuing expanded approaches to engage with complex issues.
Diedrick Brackens utilizes intricately woven tapestries to explore allegory, narrative, and broader themes of African American queer identity. In a new large-scale work, brotherhood is fragile, 2022, two figures grasp a chain from opposite ends, forging a tension in this depiction of male kinship. Xavier Cha incorporates video, installation, and performance to investigate modes of accessibility and hierarchies of space and perception. In Untitled (Caretaker), 2020, collaborator Stanley Gambucci wears a GoPro while moving alone in a dance studio, resulting in a disorienting relationship between performer and viewer. Drawn to the temporal and transformative capacity held within objects, Hayden Dunham uses materials like silicon, ash, charcoal, and metal. Created through ephemeral processes, her works nod to bodily experiences of impermanence, malleability, and transfiguration.
Baseera Khan works in performance and a wide range of mediums to express an identity informed by the intersection of Muslim and American culture. My Family Standing, 2019, features an archival family photo overlaid with a floor plan of the U.S. House of Representatives, suggested by hole punch cutouts, that depicts the small number of U.S. Representatives who are people of color. Through a series of three works, Puppies Puppies (Jade Guanaro Kuriki-Olivo) implements the visual language of Minimalism. She recontextualizes its austere forms to delve into deeply personal histories of growing up in Dallas as an indigenous trans woman. Sarah Zapata is a Peruvian-American fiber-based artist whose work addresses issues of labor, systems of power and control, Queerness, and the intersectionality of identity. In two latch-hooked rug works, Zapata references Peruvian artifacts and nods to a biblical text that initiates the stripe as a way to designate poor people and outcasts of society.
Texan: Part II exemplifies how Texan-born artists continue to advance international discourse within contemporary art. Presented together in the context of their home state, the relevance of these artists’ works remains especially profound.
Diedrick Brackens (b. 1989, Mexia, Texas, lives and works in Los Angeles, California) received a BFA from University of North Texas, Denton, Texas and an MFA in textiles from California College of the Arts, Oakland, CA. His work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; New Museum, New York; Various Small Fires, Los Angeles, California; Sewanee University Art Gallery, Tennessee; Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita, Kansas; and Johansson Projects, Oakland, California. Recent group exhibitions include MCA Chicago, Illinois; Made in L.A. 2018, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; California African American Museum, Los Angeles; Jewish Contemporary Art Museum, San Francisco, California; Dimensions Variable, Miami, Florida; Thomas Erben Gallery, New York; and Denny Dimin Gallery, New York. He is the recipient of the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Grant; Los Angeles Artadia Award; American Craft Council Emerging Artist Award; and the Wein Prize. Brackens is in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Museum of Fine Art, Houston, Texas; New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas; and the Oakland Museum of California.
Xavier Cha (b. 190, Los Angeles, California, currently lives and works in New York City) received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from University of California, Los Angeles. Cha has had solo exhibitions at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, California; Empty Gallery, Hong Kong; Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York; Renaissance Socciety, Chicago, Illinois; MOCA Cleveland, Ohio; and the New Museum, New York. They have been included in group exhibitions at USC Visions and Voices, an online performance event; The Gallery at Michael's, Santa Monica, California; High Line Art, New York; Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara, California.
Hayden Dunham (b. 1988, Austin, Texas, currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California, and New York City) is a visual artist, performance artist, and musician. Dunham is best known for their work with QT, a music project that they collaborated on with English producer A.G. Cook and Scottish producer Sophie. They have had solo exhibitions at Artist Curated Projects, Los Angeles, California; COMPANY, New York, New York; Artspace, Sydney, Australia; Times Square Space, New York; Club Pro Los Angeles, California; and Farewell, Austin, Texas. Dunham has completed four residencies: Artist Space Residency, Sydney, Australia; Times Square Space Residency, New York; Fountainhead Residency, Miami, Florida; and ESKFF Residency, Mana Contemporary, New Jersey.
Baseera Khan (b. 1980 Denton, Texas, lives and works in New York City) sublimates colonial histories through performance and sculpture in order to map geographies of the future. In 2005, she received a BFA in Visual Arts Design & Sociology from The University of North Texas, Denton. Khan received an MFA from the School of Architecture, Art, and Planning from Cornell University, New York in 2012. Select solo shows include the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; Simon Subal Gallery, New York; Jenkins Johnson Projects, Brooklyn, New York; Colorado Springs Fine Art Centers, Colorado; Moudy Gallery at Texas Christian University College of Fine Arts, Fort Worth; and Participant Inc. Gallery, New York. Recently she has been included in group shows at Wexner Center for Arts, Columbus, Ohio; Sapar Contemporary, New York; and New Orleans Museum of Art, Louisiana.
Puppies Puppies (Jade Guanaro Kuriki-Olivo) (b. 1989, Dallas, Texas lives and works in New York City) is a multidisciplinary artist. She received a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois, and an MFA from the Yale School of Art, New Haven, Connecticut. She has had solo exhibitions at Kunsthaus Glarus, Switzerland; Galerie Francesca Pia, Zürich, Germany; Halle für Kunst, Lüneberg, Germany; Remai Modern, Saskatoon, Canada; Galerie Balice Hertling, Paris, France; Queer Thoughts, New York; Quinn Harrelson/Current Projects, Miami, Florida; Barbara Weiss Galerie, Berlin, Germany; What Pipeline, Detroit, Michigan; XYZ Collective, Tokyo, Japan; Overuin & Co, Los Angeles, California; Oracle, Berlin, Germany; T293, Rome, Italy; Balice Hertling, Paris, France; BFA Boatos, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Goldie's Gallery, Queens, New York; Outpost, Norwich, England; Sculpture Center, New York; Carabic Residency, Athens, Greece; Courtney Blades, Chicago, Illinois; Evelyn Yard, London, England; Important Projects, Oakland, California; Autumn Space, Chicago, Illinois; Oliver Francis Gallery, Dallas, Texas; and Gerritt Rievald Academie, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Her 2017 work Liberté (Liberty) was the first performance work to be acquired by the Whitney Museum of American Art for its permanent collection.
Sarah Zapata (b. 1988 Corpus Christi, Texas, lives and works in Brooklyn, New York) is a Peruvian-American textile artist who delights in using a wide range of colors and materials. She received a BFA in studio art from the University of North Texas, Denton. She has had solo shows at the Museo MATE, Lima, Peru; Performance Space New York; Institute 193, Lexington, Kentucky; Deli Gallery, Brooklyn, New York; Museum of Arts and Design, New York; and El Museo Del Barrio, New York.