The Texas Biennial is a geographically-led, independent survey of contemporary art in Texas. The 2021 Texas Biennial: A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon is the seventh iteration of the program, making the Texas Biennial the longest-running state biennial in the country. The program was founded in 2005 by Austin nonprofit Big Medium to provide an exhibition opportunity open to all artists living and working in the state. Since its inception, the Texas Biennial has brought the work of over 300 artists to new audiences, springboarding many artists' careers and underscoring the diversity of contemporary practice in Texas.
And in a major departure from previous biennial iterations, which typically focused on emerging or mid-career artists who live in Texas, this year's curators - Ryan N. Dennis and Evan Garza - have taken a much more expansive and inclusive approach.
Looking beyond the state's boundaries, they've broadened the scope to include what they call "Texpats," i.e. Texas natives and/or artists with deep connections to the Lone Star State but who live or work in any part of the world. That also that means that for the first time, the Texas Biennial will host international artists for whom Texas and its history are subject matter.
"Intentionally broad in its scope, the 2021 Texas Biennial is spread across San Antonio and Houston in order to realize a diversity of practices and explore a vast landscape of disciplines, themes, and historical events relevant to both Texas and contemporary global discourse," Garza said in press materials.
"Principal themes of the project - the mutable histories contained within objects and people, activism and issues of racial and social justice, and narratives unique to the history and land of Texas - are examined in multiple creative disciplines and across multiple sites."
Called "A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon" the biennial will be exhibited across five museums in San Antonio and Houston from September 2021, through January of 2022. Public art and program are also planned. San Antonio institutions include Artpace, the McNay Museum of Art, Ruby City and the San Antonio Museum of Art. In Houston, the biennial will collaborate on several projects with Fotofest, the annual photography festival. Organizers plan to produce a Texas Biennial app as well.
Garza and Dennis considered more than 850 artists and projects over the last 18 months. Originally scheduled for 2020, the coronavirus pandemic delayed the biennial, the seventh iteration organized by Big Medium.
Dennis is the chief curator and artistic director of the Center for Art & Public Exchange (CAPE) at the Mississippi Museum of Art. Garza is a Washington, DC-based curator, writer, and a 2021-2022 Fulbright U.S. Scholar at the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin. Both are natives of Houston.
Notable, too, is inclusion of significant artists like 84-year-old pioneering artist Melvin Edwards, who in 1970 became the first Black sculptor to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art. And there's 81-year-old Virginia Jaramillo, born in El Paso in 1939, and who is now finally getting her due with her first museum solo exhibition at the Menil Collection. Rick Lowe, founder of Houston's Project Row Houses, and a recipient of Macarthur Fellowship, aka 'genius grant,' is also a biennial artist.
Other highly recognized artists include Trenton Doyle Hancock, Annette Lawrence, Tomashi Jackson, Vincent Valdez and Donald Moffett.
Garza and Dennis further added to the mix by also choosing artists in other disciplines whose creative output is interdisciplinary and collaborative. Among them are composer and bandleader Graham Reynolds; filmmaker P.J. Raval; theater artist Paul Soileal who performs as Christeene; and the San Antonio-based vogueing/performance collective House of Kenzo.
"It is such an unprecedented time to be making work and having a specificity around Texas and the influence of this complex state," said Dennis in a statement. "My hope is that people explore with us, with our artists, the expansiveness of the constellation we are creating with some beautiful, brilliant minds."
The complete roster of the 2021 Texas Biennial:
- Regina Agu (Born 1981, Houston, lives in Chicago)
- Adrian Armstrong (Born 1990, Omaha, lives in Austin)
- Jarrod Beck (Born 1977, Albany, NY; lives in Terlingua and Los Angeles)
- Travis Boyer (Born 1979, Fort Worth, lives in Brooklyn)
- Ari Brielle (Born 1993, Dallas, lives in Dallas)
- Tay Butler (Born 1980, Milwaukee, WI Lives in Houston)
- Gregory Michael Carter B(orn 1979, Houston, TX Lives in Houston)
- JooYoung Choi (Born 1982, Seoul, Korea Lives in Houston)
- Adriana Corral (Born 1983, El Paso, TX Lives in Houston)
- Jamal Cyrus (Born 1973, Houston, lives in Houston)
- Colby Deal (Born 1988, Houston, lives in Houston)
- Melvin Edwards (Born 1937, Houston; Lives in Baltimore, New York, Plainfield, NJ; Accord, NY; and Dakar, Senegal)
- Filipinx Artists of Houston (Founded 2019)
- Ja'Tovia Gary (Born 1984, Dallas, ;ives in Dallas)
- John Gerrard (Born 1974, North Tipperary, Ireland, lives in Dublin, Ireland)
- Abhidnya Ghuge (Born 1967, Mumbai, India Lives in Tyler, TX)
- In Plain Sight (Cassils and Rafa Esparza) Born 1975, Toronto, Canada Lives in Los Angeles, CA Born 1981, Los Angeles, CA Lives in Los Angeles, CA)
- Ariel René Jackson (Born 1991, Monroe, LA; lives in Austin)
- Tomashi Jackson (Born 1980, Houston, lives in Cambridge, MA and New York, NY
- Virginia Jaramillo (Born 1939, El Paso, lives in New York)
- Ann Johnson (Born 1967, London, England, lives in Houston)
- Trenton Doyle Hancock (Born 1974, Oklahoma City, lives in Houston)
- Ryan Hawk (Born 1992, Houston, lives in Houston)
- House of Kenzo (Founded 2015, San Antonio)
- Baseera Khan (Born 1983, Denton, lives in Brooklyn, NY)
- Autumn Knight (Born 1980, (Houston, lives in New York)
- Annette Lawrence (Born 1965, Rockville Center, NY, lives in Denton, TX and Bennington, VT)
- Rick Lowe (Born 1961, (Eufaula, AL, lives in Houston)
- Matt Manalo (Born 1984, Manila, Philippines, lives in Houston)
- Lynne McCabe (Born 1975, Glasgow, Scotland, lives in Houston)
- Xavier McFarlin (Born 1994, Landstuhl, Germany, lives in Marfa)
- Donald Moffett (Born 1955, San Antonio, lives in Staten Island, NY and Barksdale, TX)
- Steve Parker (Born 1979, Downers Grove, IL, lives in Austin)
- Sondra Perry (Born 1986, Perth Amboy, NJ, lives in Newark)
- Phillip Pyle II (Born 1980, Houston, TX Lives in Houston)
- Stephanie Concepcion Ramirez (Born 1984, Glenarden, MD, lives in Pearland, TX)
- PJ Raval (Born 1974, Princeton, NJ, lives in Austin)
- Irene Antonia Diane Reece (Born 1993, Houston, lives in Houston)
- Graham Reynolds (Born 1971, Frankfurt, Germany, lives in Austin)
- Adam Marnie & Aura Rosenberg (Born 1977, Minneapolis, MN, lives in Houston. Born 1949, New York, lives in New York)
- Mich Stevenson (Born 1987, Houston, lives in Houston)
- Ronald Rael & Virginia San Fratello (Born 1971, La Florida, CO Lives in Oakland, CA Born 1971, Savannah, GA Lives in Oakland, CA)
- Xavier Schipani (Born 1984, Washington, DC, lives in Austin)
- Kaneem Smith (Born 1976, Buffalo, NY, lives in Houston)
- Paul Soileau (CHRISTEENE) (Born 1976, Lake Charles, LA, lives in Brooklyn, NY)
- Kara Springer (Born 1980, Bridgetown, Barbados, lives in Houston and Toronto)
- Lanecia Rouse Tinsley (Born 1978, Atlanta, lives in Houston)
- Vincent Valdez (Born 1977, San Antonio, lives in Houston and Los Angeles)
- José Villalobos (Born 1988, El Paso, lives in San Antonio)
- Alisha Wormsley (Born 1978, Sewickley, PA, lives in Pittsburgh)
- Jasmine Zelaya (Born 1983, Pasadena, TX, lives in Houston)