September 16, 2021

The 2021 Texas Biennial to feature 51 artists

Exhibitions will span across five museums in San Antonio and Houston. And in a first, Texas natives living elsewhere and artists with deep connections to the Lone Star State are included

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Some 51 artists have been selected for the next Texas Biennial, the statewide survey presented by Austin non-profit Big Medium.

And in a major departure from previous biennial iterations, which typically focused on emerging or mid-career artists who live in Texas, this year’s curators — Ryan N. Dennis and Evan Garza — have taken a much more expansive and inclusive approach.

Looking beyond the state’s boundaries, they’ve broadened the scope to include what they call “Texpats,” i.e. Texas natives and/or artists with deep connections to the Lone Star State but who live or work in any part of the world. That also that means that for the first time, the Texas Biennial will host international artists for whom Texas and its history are subject matter.

“Intentionally broad in its scope, the 2021 Texas Biennial is spread across San Antonio and Houston in order to realize a diversity of practices and explore a vast landscape of disciplines, themes, and historical events relevant to both Texas and contemporary global discourse,” Garza said in press materials.

“Principal themes of the project — the mutable histories contained within objects and people, activism and issues of racial and social justice, and narratives unique to the history and land of Texas — are examined in multiple creative disciplines and across multiple sites.”



Evan Garza (left) and Ryan N. Dennis are the curators of the 2021 Texas Biennial.
Evan Garza (left) and Ryan N. Dennis are the curators of the 2021 Texas Biennial.

Called “A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon” the biennial will be exhibited across five museums in San Antonio and Houston from September 2021, through January of 2022. Public art and program are also planned. San Antonio institutions include Artpace, the McNay Museum of Art, Ruby City and the San Antonio Museum of Art. In Houston, the biennial will collaborate on several projects with Fotofest, the annual photography festival. Organizers plan to produce a Texas Biennial app as well.

Garza and Dennis considered more than 850 artists and projects over the last 18 months. Originally scheduled for 2020, the coronavirus pandemic delayed the biennial, the seventh iteration organized by Big Medium.

Dennis is the chief curator and artistic director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange (CAPE) at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Garza is a Washington, DC-based curator, writer, and a 2021–2022 Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Both are natives of Houston.

Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) 2017 depicts the site of the 'Lucas Gusher' - the world's first major oil find - in Spindletop, Texas in 1901, now barren and exhausted. The site is recreated as a digital simulation and placed at its centre a flagpole bearing a flag of perpetually-renewing pressurised black smoke.
Included in the 2021 Texas Biennial is Irish artist John Gerard, who engages with the history and landscape of Texas and the American West. His “Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas),” 2017 depicts the site of the ‘Lucas Gusher’ — the world’s first major oil find — in Spindletop, Texas in 1901, now barren and exhausted. The site is recreated as a digital simulation and placed at its centre a flagpole bearing a flag of perpetually-renewing pressurized black smoke.

Notable, too, is inclusion of significant artists like 84-year-old pioneering artist Melvin Edwards, who in 1970 became the first Black sculptor to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. And there’s 81-year-old Virginia Jaramillo, born in El Paso in 1939, and who is now finally getting her due with her first museum solo exhibition at the Menil Collection. Rick Lowe, founder of Houston’s Project Row Houses, and a recipient of Macarthur Fellowship, aka ‘genius grant,’ is also a biennial artist.

Other highly recognized artists include Trenton Doyle Hancock, Annette Lawrence, Tomashi Jackson, Vincent Valdez and Donald Moffett.

Garza and Dennis further added to the mix by also choosing artists in other disciplines whose creative output is interdisciplinary and collaborative. Among them are composer and bandleader Graham Reynolds; filmmaker P.J. Raval; theater artist Paul Soileal who performs as Christeene; and the San Antonio-based vogueing/performance collective House of Kenzo.

“It is such an unprecedented time to be making work and having a specificity around Texas and the influence of this complex state,” said Dennis in a statement. “My hope is that people explore with us, with our artists, the expansiveness of the constellation we are creating with some beautiful, brilliant minds.”

The complete roster of the 2021 Texas Biennial:


Jeanne Claire van Ryzinhttps://sightlinesmag.org
An award-winning arts journalist, Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the founder and editor-in-chief of Sightlines.

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