José Villalobos: Diseñando Masculinidades / Designing Masculinities

Jun 22—Sep 22, 2024

José Villalobos, who grew up on the US/Mexico border in El Paso, makes work that reflects the complex intersection of patriarchal ideology, conservative Mexican customs, American values, and religious beliefs that criticize and condemn queerness. For Diseñando Masculinidades/Designing Masculinity, Villalobos re-conceptualizes Western clothing and exposes its inherent paradoxes. These items, which exude masculinity, simultaneously showcase an ostentatious flair, paralleling fashion styles often associated with LGBTQ+ communities. Through his reanalysis, Villalobos challenges traditional gender roles while highlighting Western wear’s intricate beauty and craftsmanship, blending elements that question and enrich their cultural narrative.

Vaquero (cowboy) boots, initially crafted for ranchers and livestock workers, have evolved from practical footwear into iconic fashion statements. Their transformation from simple, utilitarian forms to richly embroidered symbols of style and tradition underscores their deep-rooted cultural significance. While the boots historically symbolize masculinity and power among Norteño (Northern Mexican) men, the elaborate embroidery contradicts these traditional views. Jose Villalobos’s exhibition highlights this contradiction by focusing on the ornate patterns adorning Western wear, particularly the boot shafts often concealed beneath pant legs, celebrating their flamboyant essence and significance as cultural markers.

Conceived during Villalobos’ residency at the Joan Mitchell Center in 2022 and carried out during his six week residency at ArtYard, this body of work explores his heritage and the identity challenges he faced. Artworks, family mementos, and video performances come together in this exhibition to create a space where materiality softens virility and opposes toxic assimilation. His practice delves into the performativity of these identities, often expressed through acts of endurance and indelible marks on his body, revealing the unseen trauma of those who exist beyond socially constructed norms.