(Oct. 16, 2013) -- The University of Texas at San Antonio presents the work of New York artist Manny Vega in a four-month exhibit exploring Puerto Rican and African-American culture and life. Vega's artwork will be on display through Feb. 1, 2014, at the UTSA Downtown Art Gallery in Durango Building Room 1.122 on the UTSA Downtown Campus.
Free and open to all, the exhibit opening reception will be 6-9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 17 at the gallery.
Born in New York's South Bronx in 1956, Vega studied at New York City's famed High School of Art and Design. He then studied with Taller Boricua (1979-1986) and under the tutelage of Robert Blackburn (1980-1990), a legendary Harlem printmaker.
Vega is perhaps best known for his public art, which includes a series of four mosaics at the 110th Street subway station in New York City, a restored four-story mural on a building at 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, a mosaic mural at the Pregones Theater in the Bronx and a mosaic mural of Puerto Rican poet Julia De Burgos in East Harlem. He derives his inspiration, in large part, from his experiences as a Puerto Rican and the "Afro Diaspora" present in neighborhoods such as East Harlem, the South Bronx, San Juan, Havana and Brazil's Salvador, Bahia.
"Who's going to define us, if not us?" asked Vega of Puerto Rican culture, when speaking to the New York Times in 2008. "I see us as a woven cloth, you know, that each cultura is a thread that brings this cloth together... But the trick for me as a public artist and an artist is to get the audience to recognize that commonality."
Vega is known for modern-day work that mixes urban themes and classic Byzantine mosaic fabrication, a style he calls "Byzantine Hip-Hop." His unique style is inspired by Eastern European mosaics, particularly spiritual mosaic heirlooms that are passed on from one generation to the next, and draws upon New York and Puerto Rican cultures. He describes his approach as a marriage between an "old-school art form" and modern times.
Additionally, Vega's portfolio includes paintings, illustrations, prints, beadwork, and costume and set designs. His body of work explores historical, cultural and religious aspects of life, demonstrating society's interconnectedness and modern day influences.
Throughout Vega's career, he has shared his love of art through teaching. He has taught at the Guggenheim, American Museum of Natural History, Art Connection, Caribbean Cultural Center and El Museo de Barrio. The latter, located in East Harlem, focuses on Puerto Rican art and art that depicts Manhattan's Puerto Rican community.
Vega's philosophy is to help students express ideas they are already cultivating in a way that empowers their heritage, creativity and purpose. Additionally, he emphasizes the importance of being morally responsible for the impact art may have on its audience.
"Manny Vega is an impassioned storyteller," said UTSA art specialist Arturo Infante Almeida, who curated UTSA's exhibit of Vega's work. "His work is inspired by heritage and consciousness in a global community. He exhibits intricately executed works on paper that depict a rich mix of customs, culture and history."
Free and open to the public, gallery hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday.
To learn more, contact Arturo Almeida at 210-458-4983 or Giselle Diaz at 210-458-6964.
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