Local artist Rudy Herrera traces his ancestry in The boy, and residency alumnus Lordy Rodriguez offers political commentary in Since Last We Met, two spring exhibitions on view at Artpace San Antonio through April 30.

Herrera explores his ancestry and patriarchal legacy in cartoonish acrylic, spray paint, wood, foam and aluminum scenes. The characters represent the artist and his young son, as well as the male ancestors whose bloodlines inevitably shape and inform Herrera’s character.

As a Native American, the artist said he has had to contend with a culture of erasure, and his subjects are amalgams formed from the fragmented stories about those who came before him. 

“The stories about the men in my family are usually anecdotal, flat and two-dimensional — and it’s like that for many of us,” said Herrera. “But it is our turn to lead by example, and to acknowledge who and where we come from, to acknowledge the good and the bad in each of our forefathers and how these things manifest in us.”

Herrera said the exhibition is geared toward his peers: fathers raising young men. “We all need to ask ourselves who we are, what drives us and what we are going to pass on.”

He acknowledged the subject of his work might be heavy for some and said, to make it more approachable, he interpreted it through a “cartoony, colorful” lens.

That same style can be seen in Herrera’s mural The Last Parade, located on East Houston Street between Navarro and Jefferson streets. Measuring 50 feet wide and nearly 100 feet tall, the vivid mural is also a nod to Herrera’s indigenous roots, depicting a young girl on a blue stag, a figure of Coahuiltecan origin stories.

During Rodriguez’s Artpace residency in 2001, the artist, who was born in the Philippines and currently lives in Hayward, California, exhibited a piece featuring a large drawing in the shape of an “X,” an electromechanical system tracing a route from San Antonio in the four cardinal directions, and four videos chronicling the routes.

Riley Robinson, executive director at Artpace, said the piece was about “place, home, and family.”

Robinson was studio manager at the time of Rodriguez’s residency and said it’s important to revisit Artpace’s alumni artists and their work.

Working with ink on paper, Rodriguez’s drawings have grown bolder and more chaotic over the years, signifying a shift in the artist’s underlying impetus.

“Lordy’s art has evolved into social and political commentary, but the work still utilizes the form of a map to guide the viewer to the content and maintains a stylistic consistency with the artwork made during his residency,” said Robinson. “The exhibition includes a map of Texas Congressional District 35, showing the gerrymandered nature of our democracy.”

Entry to Artpace, located at 445 N. Main Ave., is free, with both exhibitions open to the public through April 30. 

Anjali Gupta

Anjali Gupta is a curator, editor and writer based in Southtown.