The artist examines the changing Brownsville community


If Brownsville had a common imagery, how would you describe it?

Something where the people who live here would know at a glance, “Oh yeah, that’s from here, that’s from here.” Then what happens when that visual shorthand evolves into something that, like your reflection in a pleasure mirror, both familiar and unfamiliar?

For local Brownville painter Gabriel Trevino, this is the central theme of his new solo show Border to Mars, now on view at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art.

Trained by renowned artist Carlos Gomez at the University of Texas at Brownsville, Trevino has spent 20 years documenting life on the US-Mexico border through his own visual and often abstract language.

Following his previous series, which focused on the tortilla maker’s symbol, Trevino says the roots of this new series come from the changes in the community surrounding him as SpaceX moved to the region. The way the community responded and the differences he saw in the city sparked his interest as an artist in re-examining the familiar. As the city changes, he says, what happens to how we see and understand the culture around us?

“What would Brownsville look like in 10 to 30 years? Maybe the iconography we’re so comfortable with won’t exist anymore,” he said.

Through this large-scale series of 26 paintings, some spanning several contiguous panels, Trevino explores what this new future might look like visually. About this work, Trevino says it’s something he’s seen done by other local artists in recent years with the arrival of SpaceX and the prospect of reaching Mars.

“That’s where the title comes from, because our perception is shifting from being borderline to something universal and oriented toward a future that’s very unrecognizable to many of us,” he said.

In his work, the future is a vibrant mix of colors through media acrylics, oil pastels and acrylic spray paint, conveying a time neither good nor bad – just beyond the understanding of the ‘we’ contemplating it in the present moment.

Trevino says that part of creating the work for the exhibition involved a conscious decision to dissect the iconography that his audience might expect when seeing his work.

Tracks like “Border” best embody this new language. The painting comprises several 42″ by 35″ connected panels that present the viewer with a series of pictorial fragments, almost like a corrupted digital image file – broken and covered with vertical swaths of paint. There is no specific place for the viewer to land, leading to a constant search for the familiar that is ultimately futile outside of the viewer’s memory of Trevino’s earlier work.

“The removal of the culture that we understand and know is now what is missing in the artwork,” Trevino said of the exhibition’s overall theme.

Border to Mars is on view at the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art through November 4th. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held at the museum on Saturday 8 October at 12 noon.


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