Arts-gallery(jennifer)

Men with bloody faces combat in the ringwhile a soldier struggles to keep his composure. These are truly “America’sFinest.”

“America’s Finest” is Vincent Valdez’s secondsolo exhibition at the McNay Art Museum, which is an impressive feat sinceValdez is the youngest artist to do so in the museum’s history.

Valdez, a San Antonio native, graduated fromBurbank High School and earned his degree at Rhode Island School of Design.Currently, Valdez is teaching at the Southwest School of Art in San Antonio.

In “America’s Finest,” themes of nationality,strength, courage and manhood are depicted in each of Valdez’s paintings. Theexhibit explores the internal and physical struggles of men fighting for pride.The subject consists of male boxers and their struggles in the ring.

Battered men encompass the canvases with bruised faces andstrong egos. Set across a bright, white background, graphite and charcoal makea strong contrast to the infinite space where the subject is positioned.

One may assume that this was intended byValdez to create the illusion of a man’s frame of mind when fighting. Thestark-white background guides the viewer’s focus to the subject beingrepresented.

Filled with symbolism, each drawing sharesthe culture of the men being depicted. A man that is represenational of theNative American culture is struckwith arrows on his legs, arms and torso, yet he stands with a strong confidencethat radiates throughout the rest of Valdez’s work.

Valdez’s breathtaking compositions reveal ahidden meaning behind the men with the big leather gloves. With their minds seton victory and glory, the jabs at their spirits are left unscathed.

The subjects displayed in each of Valdez’spieces are literally fighting for the same thing—survival.

Valdez’s next body of work complements thepieces in “America’s Finest” by its internal themes of manhood, struggle andfreedom.

“Excerpts by John” is an accompanying exhibitto “America’s Finest” that chronicles the funeral prossession of John, alongtime friend of Valdez who served in the armed forces and suffered fromPost-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Valdez chose work that celebrates the life ofJohn with his honorable duty overseas and his role as a friend. In the exhibitguests are given a glimpse of John’s life and his experiences in war.

John’s fear radiates through the studiospace. In his portrait one sees a man shaken to his core by the traumas of war.The look of shock on his face translates well in the piece. The viewer is givenonly a view of John’s body with his gear in tow while bombs cascade in thebackground. John’s perspective isn’t shown, but one can only guess that thescene is grim.

A video titled “Home” shows John’s funeralprocession and is present in the background of the exhibit. A floating coffinis taken through his own neighborhood, his community and eventually his restingplace.

The heartbreaking visual serves as a reminderthat those who are in war have lives outside of the military and may besomeone’s son, daughter, brother or sister.

The San Antonio Express-News featured “America’s Finest” inits Best of 2012 Art segment. Valdez has successfully managed to combine thefeeling from various men into one brilliant installation.

For more information on “America’s Finest,”you can visit the McNay website at mcnayart.org. The exhibit will conclude itsstay at the McNay on Jan. 27.

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