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Big Medium Unveils New Austin Gallery Space with Exhibition ‘Fuertes y Firmes’

Artist José Villalobos deconstructs his identity to build breathtaking works of art

Big Medium Presents José Villalobos
Work from "Fuertes Y Firmes" by José Villalobos.

Change is inevitable in Austin, but that’s not always a bad thing. After 10 years of hosting groundbreaking programs and artists in their eastside Canopy studio, nonprofit Big Medium has moved to a temporary location in South Austin as they await the completion of their future permanent home. To commemorate the relaunch and new chapter, they’re opening their doors with a captivating solo exhibition by Texas-based artist, José Villalobos.

Since earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Villalobos has received well-deserved recognition for his work, including multiple grants, awards and residencies. “Fuertes Y Firmes” is the next chapter to his previous series, “De Los Otros,” which offers an intimate look into his world view, personal history and confrontation with identity.

Growing up in a conservative and religious household in the border town of El Paso, the multimedia artist combines performance and sculpture with traditional objects to explore the impact of toxic masculinity and break down societal expectations that contribute to generational repression, specifically within the norteño and bracero communities.

Jose Villalobos 2
Work from “Fuertes Y Firmes” by José Villalobos.

Braceros were legally approved guest workers from Mexico that took manual labor jobs in the U.S., often in agriculture. Demanding by nature, these positions can have harsh conditions, leaving livelihoods vulnerable and inviting outward expressions of machismo in order to obtain security, both professionally and socially. Through his latest installation, which translates to “Powerful and Firm,” Villalobos sheds preconceptions and shares an expanded view of what’s possible within these structures. Removing the mask of aggression and self-preservation, he reveals underneath a universal softness and desire to be accepted, in doing so providing visibility to the rich and often underrepresented Queer bracero experience.

As a descendent of bracero workers, Villalobos has a strong connection to his culture, but has also been personally exposed to hateful rhetoric and homophobia. By turning his self examination of conflicting identities into thought-provoking and beautiful works of art, Villalobos has sparked conversations in galleries across the country, creating a space where it’s acceptable to have both immense pride in your heritage and its ability to thrive against all odds, while also highlighting the ways it has perpetuated assimilation and rigid expectations within family dynamics.

Big Medium’s new spacious studio in South Austin.

The exhibition will be on display from October 19 trough December 2, with a free opening reception on October 19 from 8 – 10 p.m. Stop by the temporary gallery space at 4201 South Congress Ave. #323 and visit Big Medium’s website for more information on future events, including the upcoming city-wide Austin Studio Tour.