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Catalogs - Ricky A. Armendariz

Ricky Armendariz, a native of El Paso, has traveled the highways and back roads of the American Southwest fascinated by the marvelous landscape. At every opportunity, Armendariz would photograph a sunset that crossed his path.   His fascination with the land, its mesas, and vegetation is captured in a striking series of paintings executed on birch plywood, a medium which gives them a two-dimensional effect. While the landscape of the American Southwest is his main focus, Armendariz explores the harmonious relationship between past events and present reality thus, the result shows the many ways to look at the varied terrain and vegetation of the borderlands. When a mountain can be placed in the backdrop of a glorious sky, there is a sense that nature has a superior position.

Armendariz shows a sense of continuity and change in his art, at times reflecting on the romantic past.  He readily admits that his work incorporates shades of romanticism in words and thoughts and draws us to it by powerful expression of contrasting color and interplay of natural light. The mesas of New Mexico are timeless and mysterious. Modern science cannot tell us their age, but a romantic can make them expressions of beauty.  The artist does not want you to be easily carried away by only the visual contrast, and he inserts a phrase from an Country and Western song, such as  “the road to mi corazon [my heart] is under construction” to remind you that you can appreciate art using different mediums.

The Armendariz images are derived from his past and demonstrate his connection to the rich culture and history of the Borderlands. His message is bilingual, the natural selection of English and Spanish in an area where it is common. Moreover, he captures the spatial distances of the West with their beauty and light. He takes us to some familiar thematic territories, but manages to establish a distinctive visual identity.

A western sunset can be a visual feast, an explosion of color that invigorates our senses.  What better way to explore our sensual instincts than a test of relationships between realism and naturalism? At one point, we are confronted with Pancho Villa, the legendary revolutionary general of Northern Mexico. Villa not only resisted the old dictatorship but challenged American intrusion in the economic development of Mexico’s northern states.  Villa is the type of borderland figure who inspired ballads and corridos.  From these ballads, we learn about heroic deeds, and the artist comes to terms with an icon of the past, a border hero who lived by popular adage or dictum of the common man.  Ricky Armendariz manages to bring together a variety of cultural, artistic, and historical perspectives - language, color, songs, heroes, and landscapes - into a framework that is as big as the Texas sky.

Dr. Ricardo Romo
The University of Texas at San Antonio

Confessions of a Singin’ Vaquero is an exhibition of warm landscape paintings on large birch plywood panels rendering vivid images of the flat landscape and vast open spaces signifying West Texas.  Ricky Armendariz’s intricate works, with text skillfully carved into the surface, relate Tejano-inspired dichos or familiar sayings.  The contrast of the light birch panels with the richly painted sunrises or sunsets that Ricky experienced while growing up reflects the strong influences of Texas’ border communities. 

Inspired by the mixing of Hispanic and Anglo cultures in the area, the dichos have strong influences from such contemporary musicians as Jesse Dayton, Dwight Yoakum, and Los Blazers, with classic influences inspired by Flaco Jimenez, Hank Williams, Freddie Fender and others.  The thought-provoking lyrics and visual components contained within each painting are reminiscent of the humor of popular Latino comedians Paul Rodriguez and George Lopez. 

Ricky’s work was influenced as much by the strength of family and love of the land as by the statements and works of artists such as Frederick Remington, Ed Paschke, and Carmen Lomas Garza.  Under the curatorial guidance of Arturo Almeida, Ricky’s works bring forth the vivid colors and vastness of this beautiful state and convey the intertwining of these cultures. 

Confessions is Armendariz’s first major solo exhibit in San Antonio.  Originally from El Paso, Armendariz is in his second year of teaching painting at the University of Texas at San Antonio after receiving his MFA from the University of Colorado at Boulder. 

Bill FitzGibbons
Executive Director
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center

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