Event's DetailsWHAT: ARTalk - Tom Lea, Manuel Acosta , Jose Cisneros
& Bill Rakocy
WHEN:Thursday, February 22, 5-7 pm
WHERE:Hal Marcus Gallery - 1308 N. Oregon
Manuel Acosta (1921-1989) - was born in Mexico in 1921, his family moved to El Paso when he was an infant. He lived in El Paso his entire life. Manuel studied under Octavia Maggoffin Glassgow at Bowie High. He became the protégé of the Spanish master sculptor Ubici Soler when he attended Texas Western College. Manuel collaborated with the famous New Mexican artist Peter Hurd on several murals. Acosta later received commissions for the Bank of Texas in Houston and the First National Bank of Las Cruces. He exhibited his paintings in many one-man shows across the U.S. and Mexico, also in the prestigious Chase Gallery in New York. Acosta is most well-known for his portrait of Cesar Chavez that appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 1969. That painting now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington D.C. Acosta’s beautiful paintings of the people and the Chicano lifestyle show his immense talent which was shorten by his premature death in 1989. There have been many exhibits here in El Paso, two since his death. In 2009 El Paso Museum of Art organized a major tribute exhibit and publication entitled ‘Manuel Gregorio Acosta “A Retrospective/ una retrospectiva”.
Jose Cisneros (1910 - 2009) The largely self-taught Cisneros was born in Villa Ocampo, Durango, Mexico, and grew up in a poor family during the Mexican Revolution. While still a youth, Cisneros moved with his family to Ciudad Juarez where he would cross the Rio Grande to attend school in El Paso. The artist moved permanently to El Paso in the 1930’s. Cisnero’s body of work consists of thousands of illustrations depicting the Spanish heritage of Mexico and the American Southwest, based on his close study of history. Known for his unique crosshatching technique, the artist described his romantic imagery and theatrical style as “Indian Boroque.” During his career
Cisneros illustrated over forty books and won many awards, including a National Arts and Humanities Medal and a
Hispanic Culture Foundation Award in 2002. In 1991 Cisneros was knighted by King Juan Carlos of Spain for his contributions to the understanding of Spanish history through his art, and in 2007 the El Paso Museum of Art presented a retrospective of the artist, Jose Cisneros: A Life in Art. The artist’s work is included in collections across the nation, including the Smithsonian Institution, the White House, the Texas State Capitol, and the Museum of the Palace of Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico . José Cisneros has been described as a leading historical illustrator of the Southwest. Although a painter, wood carver, writer and muralist, his primary focus was recording through his illustration the history of the Southwest border region.
TOM LEA (1907 – 2001) Tom Lea was born on July 11, 1907, in EI Paso, Texas, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. His father, a lawyer, served a term as mayor from 1915 to 1917 during the Mexican Revolution. Lea's high school teacher encouraged him to attend art school, and at age seventeen he enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago. Lea studied there from 1924 to 1926 and was strongly influenced by one of his esteemed professors, John W. Norton. Lea spent the next six years working for Norton on mural projects in the Chicago area. In 1927, he married a fellow student, Nancy Taylor. The couple traveled to Europe in 1930, where Lea was deeply moved by Italian Renaissance artists. He shared with them a number of stylistic traits, including close observation of nature and anatomy, meticulous brushwork, and classically inspired compositions. Although exposed to modernist styles, Lea was a traditionalist at heart and always remained connected to his native Southwest.
In 1933, the Leas moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the artistic center of the Southwest. Lea worked as a painter and illustrator and created art for the Public Works of Art Project (PW AP) and the Works Progress Administration (WP A), government agencies that employed artists during the Great Depression. In 1934, Nancy Lea developed a serious illness and died in 1936 following the couple's return to EI Paso. A few months later, Lea's grandmother passed away, followed closely by his mother. Grief-stricken, Lea chose to remain in his hometown. In 1936, Lea applied to the Treasury Department's Section of Fine Arts, which sponsored a series of competitions to design murals for government buildings around the country. He eventually won five projects, including the Pass of the North mural for the EI Paso federal courthouse. In 1938, Lea married Sarah Catherine Dighton and later adopted her young son, Jim. He also began illustrating books for Texas folklorist J. Frank Dobie, including two of his classics: Apache Gold and Yaqui Silver and The Longhorns.
In 1941, Life magazine asked Lea to become a war correspondent. He was first dispatched to the North Atlantic, where he was stationed as a civilian observer on destroyers patrolling the waters between Greenland and the Grand Banks. After the United States officially entered the war, Lea was sent to the Pacific and spent two months on board the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. He recorded his experiences in a series of studies and sketchbooks, which served as visual notes for the paintings he produced in his EI Paso studio for the pages of Life. It was from the Hornet that Lea witnessed the destruction of the aircraft carrier USS Wasp. In 1943, he embarked upon a lengthy trip through
England, North Africa, India, and China. In August 1944, Lea joined with a U.S. Marine division assigned to capture Peleliu, a small Pacific island occupied by some 13,000 Japanese troops. He documented this harrowing experience in dozens of drawings and paintings. Life later donated Lea's wartime imagery to the U.S. Army Center for Military History in Washington, D.C. After the war, Lea completed one last project for Life-a series of paintings on the history of beef cattle in America-which was never published. Back home in EI Paso, he began a life-size portrait of his wife, Sarah in the Summertime, 1947, and returned to painting images of the Southwest. Lea discovered that the art world had changed considerably during his absence. While he had been overseas, Abstract Expressionism had become the dominant style, displacing the figurative vernacular of Lea and other Regionalist artists. Lea decided to embark on a new career as a writer of fiction and history. He spent months researching the subject of bullfighting in Mexico, resulting in his 1949 novel The Brave Bulls. Lea created the pen-and-ink illustrations for the book, which became a bestseller and a 1951 film starring Mel Ferrer and Anthony Quinn. In 1952, Lea published his second illustrated novel, The Wonderful Country, which was likewise well received and adapted by Hollywood. The 1959 film starred Robert Mitchum and Julie London, with Lea making a cameo appearance as a barber. Among Lea's other major publications are The King Ranch, 1957, an illustrated history of the Kleberg family's south Texas farming and cattle operation; the illustrated novels The Primal Yoke, 1960, and The Hands of Cantu, 1964; his memoir A Picture Gallery, 1968; and In the Crucible of the Sun, 1974, a history of the King Ranch's Australian operation.
When not writing, Lea painted in his studio and continued to produce westem-themed works for a loyal circle of patrons and admirers. His remarkable accomplishments did not pass unnoticed in his home state of Texas. Major exhibitions of his work were presented at the Fort Worth Art Center (1961), EI Paso Museum of Art (1963, 1971, and 1994), and the Institute of Texan Cultures in San Antonio (1969). In 1976, Lea donated a collection of his work to the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which dedicated several rooms to the artist. Lea was further honored in 1998, when the EI Paso Museum of Art inaugurated a permanent gallery showcasing his work alongside that of other major American artists. Lea maintained a busy routine in his later years until his deteriorating eyesight gradually caused him to curtail his activities in the studio.
Lea died at the age of ninety-three on January 29, 2001. Shortly thereafter, the EI Paso Museum of Art loaned one of its prized Lea paintings, Rio Grande, 1954, to the White House, where it was installed in the Oval Office at the request of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.
BILL RAKOCY (1924-2016) Bill Rakocy was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1924. He went on to receive his Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Fine Arts from the Kansas City Art Institute.
He has worked as a stage designer, muralist, museum curator, and taught all levels of art instruction throughout the United States. He also received a Felician Travel Scholarship to study art in Italy. Rakocy paints the Southwest in his own impressionistic style. He has received top awards and had many one man shows throughout the United
States and Mexico. He has been a judge for many Southwestern museums and area art shows.
"Bill Rakocy is an American original -- artist, author, historian, and unabashed enthusiast of the great Southwest" - Christopher Forbes, Forbes Magazine. His publications include Pancho Villa Raids Columbus, Images of Paso del Norte, The Ghost Town of White Oaks, and The Kid and Trails of Ruidoso. Bill Rakocy has become a staple in the region's art community; living in El Paso for over 30 years.
ARTalk Speakers Include:
Lisa Pugh- the Board of Directors hired Lisa Pugh as the Tom Lea Institute’s first-ever Executive Director. With over twenty years of museum experience, she was the director of the Las Cruces Museum of Art for eight years and spent eleven years with the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs; first at the NM Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum in Las Cruces and later with the NM Historic Sites Division in Mesilla. During her time at the Tom Lea Institute, she along with several other staff members and numerous volunteers organized the 11th Annual Tom Lea Month; secured official recognition in the States of Texas and New Mexico; launched five curricula in El Paso area schools; and have given tours of historic downtown El Paso to thousands of students and life-long learners. Lisa holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Latin American Area Studies from Texas Tech University and a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from New Mexico State University, always with a research focus on the art, culture, and history of the fascinating borderland region.
Susannah Aquilina - Earned her PhD in Borderlands History in 2016 from the University of Texas at El Paso. For her doctoral dissertation she wrote a biography of the El Paso painter, Manuel Acosta. In it, she elicits his importance to the city's culture and situates him within the broader Southwest and Chicano/a art movements. Her research interests include twentieth-century social justice movements, the Chicano/a struggle for equality, the intersection of race and sexuality in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, and the role of art and culture making in resistance. She is currently a high school teacher of United States history.
Miguel Juarez- Will speak about Jose Cisneros. Miguel is a doctoral candidate and first-generation scholar, blogger, curator, activist and artist. He was born and raised in El Paso. He received a BA in Liberal Arts, and an MA in Border History, both from UTEP and an MLS degree from SUNY Buffalo. His dissertation is on how El Paso's highways were built and who was impacted by their creation. He has published two books, Colors on Desert Walls, the Murals of El Paso (1997, Texas Western Press) and co-edited (with Rebecca Hankins, Texas A&M) Where Are All the Librarians of Color: The Experiences of People of Color in Academia (2015, Library Juice Press). In 1997, he co-produced "Frontera Artists: Mexican and Chicano Artists of El Paso," a 19-part video series at EPCC-TV where he interviewed artists like the late José Cisneros (April 18, 1910--November 14, 2009)
Gloria Canterbury Rakocy - Wife and historian of Bill Rakocy was born in Kansas City, Missouri and she attended the Phoenix School of Design in New York City. In the late 40's she returned to Kansas City and enrolled in the Kansas City Art institute, where she met "The Rak." Gloria is an accomplished artist and was a designer for Hallmark greeting cards.
Event's LocationHal Marcus Studio & Gallery
1308 N Oregon St El Paso 79902, United States