Originally from San Antonio, Alejandro Diaz is a New York-based multidisciplinary artist who primarily uses familiar and ordinary materials to craft works that utilize piercing humor to unravel themes of consumerism, pop culture, commodification of Mexican culture, and political engagement. Often dealing with signage and subversion of popular phrases and sayings, Diaz’s humor effectively disarms his audience and allows an engagement in civil conversation regarding topics such as identity politics, racial divides and classism in his native South Texas and Mexico, and more broadly in the United States.
Alejandro Diaz: Muebles (Hat Stand), 2015 Photo courtesy of the Linda Pace Foundation.
How would you describe your work in 3 words?
What do you listen to in the studio?
I seem to keep playing the same Mahler songs over and over – for the last four years or so. It’s moody, has a lot of quiet spaces, and is dark and introspective.
Alternatively, what’s your favorite object in the studio?
How do you find inspiration?
I look to other artists and their work. I read a lot about artists and their lives and about the context that were / are working in – their personal battles, their approaches to art making and how they view / viewed their place in the world.
Photo courtesy of the artist.
Alejandro Diaz; Installation, 2012; acrylic on cast resin; 13 x 18 in. each. Photo courtesy of David Shelton Gallery.
The idea of Ruby City came to Linda in a dream. Have your dreams ever influenced your art?
Yes, but mostly from daydreams rather than actual dreams.
What does a typical day look like?
I get up, take a bus from Queens to Manhattan where I work Monday through Friday in the corporate offices at Estée Lauder. Many times, I walk to the Museum of Modern Art during my lunch hour. After work, I stop at the Townhouse – a gay bar near my work where I meet friends for a drink before going home, eating dinner and watching Jeopardy and Antiques Road show. I then read and go to bed. On the weekends, I work in the studio all day.
What’s your advice for younger artists?
Work – no matter how terrible you think your work might be at times, keep working and never throw away anything you make, good or bad.
Have you been to San Antonio before?
I’m from San Antonio.
If so, what’s your favorite spot?
Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Studio.
Did you know Linda Pace?
I loved her. Kind, caring and gentle soul. She always checked in on artists from Texas and former ArtPace residents who were living in NY and would always take us out to a fun, fancy supper.
Can you describe your first meeting? Your relationship with Linda?
Our first meeting was way before Artpace and the Linda Pace Foundation. I was working as a waiter at Liberty Bar and the Bar asked me if I would go and cater a dinner for four at a private house. It turned out to be Linda’s. My first chat with her was in her kitchen as I was unpacking the food. I told her I was an artist and we got carried away in a lengthy and engrossing conversation about Texas art and artists. She wanted to know everything. About a year later, I was offered a residency in Nebraska and, out of the blue, I received a call from her office. Linda was inviting me back to her home – this time not as a caterer. She introduced me to her lovely mother, Margaret Pace Wilson, handed me a check for $1,500 and said “my Mom and I want wish good luck with your residency.” I was really moved.
Franco Mondini-Ruiz’s Studio formerly a tortilla factory. Photo by Alma E. Hernandez / For the San Antonio Express-News
Joan Mitchell; Flying Dutchman, 1961–1962, © Joan Mitchell Foundation, Linda Pace Foundation Collection, Ruby City San Antonio, Texas
Pick a work you like in our collection and tell us why it stands out to you.
I have to pick two: Laura Agular‘s Stillness Series. Such a courageous and profound artist who is not so well known. And Joan Mitchell’s “Flying Dutchman.” When it comes to Abstraction, it doesn’t get any better – it just doesn’t.
What are you most eager to see on the Ruby City campus?
Hopefully a lot of educational programming for and interaction with kids and adults from lower income communities in San Antonio.