on view

What Art Can Do

Margarita Cabrera

The Collaborative Act of Making

Art League Houston 2019 Texas Artist of the Year

Exhibition Dates: September 7 – November 2, 2019

Opening Reception: 6 -9 PM Saturday, September 7, 2019

Artist Talk: 7:15 PM I Main Gallery

PRESS - Art League Houston Announces Exhibition by Artist of the Year Margarita Cabrera

PRESS - Show Up: Margarita Cabrera

PRESS - Art review: Texan Margarita Cabrera tackles thorny immigration issues in cactus art

Art League Houston (ALH) is proud to present the 2019 Texas Artist of the Year exhibition, What Art Can Do: Margarita Cabrera – The Collaborative Act of Making, featuring artwork by El Paso Artist Margarita Cabrera. A catalog focusing on Cabrera’s community based art projects is being published in conjunction with this exhibition, including an essay by Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression, with the Ford Foundation, New York, NY. Founded in 1983, ALH established the Texas Artist of the Year award as a dynamic project documenting contemporary Texas art history. The award recognizes artists who have demonstrated exceptional creativity and outstanding achievement, and whose work has had a significant and positive impact on contemporary visual art in Texas. Those who have been recognized have already produced a significant body of work and stand apart as leading figures and visionary talents within the field of contemporary art in Texas.

Margarita Cabrera is recognized for her sculpture and installations featuring a diverse range of media, including fabrics, steel, copper, wood and ceramics. Her most recent monumental, public art community sculpture was recently unveiled this year in San Antonio, TX: Árbol de la Vida: Memorias y Voces de la Tierra. The “Árbol” highlights a key component of Cabrera’s career – her desire for and the importance of community collaboration and engagement. Cabrera is an educator and instructor on historical Mexican handicraft methods, encouraging those around her to learn by giving them agency and opportunity through her collaborative projects. Cabrera’s artwork, from her soft-sculpture border plants depicting various species of cacti and desert flora, to her ceramic tractors and farm tools adorned with fragile butterflies, emphasize her concerns with social-political issues surrounding immigration, border politics, just work environments, and the importance of transforming the local community through art. She often engages with community members through her projects by including them in the act of creation, resulting in a collaborative, public work of art reflective of community energies and the surrounding environment. Her projects give a voice to local communities and artists, encouraging their personal growth, artistic education, and support of each other. Cabrera’s Texas Artist of the Year exhibition highlights her community based activism as well as her artistic creations over the years, exemplifying her devotion to historical Mexican craft traditions and the idea of art as a progressive vehicle for social and political change.

Cabrera states, “My work centers on social-political community issues including cultural identity, migration, violence, inclusivity, labor, and empowerment. I create sculptures made out of media ranging from steel, copper, wood, ceramics, and fabric. I have worked on a number of collaborative projects at the intersection of contemporary art practices, indigenous Mexican folk art and craft traditions, and US-Mexico relations. In addition to studying and preserving endangered cultural and craft traditions, these projects have served as active investigations into the creation of just working conditions and the protection of immigrant rights. My emphasis is on creating a social consciousness through my work, generating solutions to these problems through my art and empowering all members of highly diverse communities.

In recent years, I have especially focused on community art collaborations, producing work that has engaged international and local communities in transformative practices. With these works, we have created art pieces that serve as cultural and historical artifacts that value and document the experiences, struggles, and achievements of those who have found their way, often through migration and exceptional sacrifice, to new places where they now work to contribute meaningfully within their communities. This work is both individually and collectively inspiring to all participants and local populations.”

Major funding for the 2019 Texas Artist of the Year catalog and exhibition was provided by The Eleanor and Frank Freed Foundation and the Jacques Louis Vidal Charitable Fund. Further support was generously provided by Jay’s Frames, Houston, TX; Field of Study, Houston, TX; Hare & Hound Press, San Antonio, TX; Ruiz-Healy Art, San Antonio, TX; and Talley Dunn Gallery, Dallas, TX.


Margarita Cabrera is an assistant professor at the Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. She received her MFA from Hunter College in New York, NY. Recent exhibitions include: Margarita Cabrera: It is impossible to cover the sun with one finger, a solo exhibition at the Dallas Contemporary, Dallas, TX; Margarita Cabrera: Space in Between at the Wellin Museum of Art, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY; PERILOUS BODIES at the Ford Foundation Gallery, New York, NY; and Margarita Cabrera, presented by the Center of Southern Craft and Design at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans, LA. Cabrera was also an exhibiting artist at Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, New Orleans, LA. She exhibited in The U.S.-Mexico Border: Place, Imagination, and Possibility at the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, CA, and SITElines.2016: much wider than a line in Santa Fe, NM.

Cabrera’s work has been featured in numerous galleries including Ruiz-Healy Art, San Antonio, TX; Talley Dunn Gallery, Dallas, TX; 516 Arts, Albuquerque, NM; Sara Meltzer Gallery, New York, NY; Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and Snyderman-Works Gallery, Philadelphia, PA. Her work is represented in permanent collections across the nation, including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, TX; the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, TX; the Sweeney Art Center for Contemporary Art at the University of California, Riverside, CA; the Sun Valley Center for the Arts, Ketchum, ID; and El Museo del Barrio in New York, NY. In 2012, Cabrera received the Knight Artist in Residence award at the McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, NC. She is also a recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. Cabrera unveiled her monumental, public art community sculpture entitled Árbol de la Vida: Memorias y Voces de la Tierra in San Antonio, TX, in 2019.


Preetika Rajgariah

Exhibition Dates: September 7 – November 2, 2019

Opening Reception: 6 -9 PM Saturday, September 7, 2019

Artist Talk: 6:45 PM I Front Gallery

Art League Houston (ALH) is proud to present Entangled, an exhibition of recent work by interdisciplinary, Houston based Artist, Preetika Rajgariah. In this exhibition, Rajgariah visually examines the relationship between identity and global capitalism as seen in her studies of beauty standards and the socio-consumerist practices that are prevalent in this storied history.

Rajgariah states, “Nationwide, the ideal standard for acceptable or “good hair” most closely resembles that of caucasian people, i.e. it is manageable, straight, smooth, and non-kinky. My interests lie in the participation of these European beauty standards by people of color across the world. From Hollywood entertainers to the black community, women spend thousands of dollars on hair extensions and weave in order to achieve beauty and success. What is often not discussed is the fact that some of the highest quality hair comes from the South Asian region. Temples in southern India take hair donated as religious offering and sell it to the western world for the production of weave products. In turn, the American economy capitalizes off of all brown and black bodies involved. Capitalism erases the “human-ness” of the bodies, which is what I would like to stop and consider.” 

Rajgariah’s exhibition and installation directly examine these practices and entangled relationships. Through screen printing techniques, she has designed and created checkbook size boxes that also, through size and shape, resemble bricks of gold. These boxes are adorned with text that reads “Gold Standard,” “Beauty Supply,” and “Hair Supplement” – thus literally emphasizing the idea of beauty products and hair as consumerist currency. Each box is filled with a braided lock of human hair, reminding viewers of the history and individuals impacted by this practice. The installation will include hundreds of these boxes, as well as other recent works addressing the exhibition theme. 

“This is a difficult subject matter that presents questions of agency, value systems, and global capitalism. My hope is to create a platform for productive conversation surrounding this intertwined relationship that ties together eastern and western worlds,” states Rajgariah, “which in turn forces a relationship between black and brown bodies that is otherwise not encouraged.” 

ALH extends our gratitude to Michelle & Robert Raney and Robert Daniel & Julia O’Bryan Reynolds for their support of this exhibition.

ABOUT THE ARTIST               

Preetika Rajgariah is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Houston, Texas. Born in New Delhi, India, she received her MFA in Painting and Sculpture from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, IL (2018), and her BFA in Art from Trinity University in San Antonio, TX (2008). Rajgariah is a recipient of numerous awards, including residencies at Oxbow School of Art, Saugatuck, MI (2018); ACRE, Steuben, WI (2018), the Vermont Studio Center, Johnson, VT (2014); and the School of Visual Arts Painting Residency, New York, NY (2010). Her work was published in New American Paintings, no. 102, Western Issue (2012). Exhibitions include features at Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX (solo, 2019); Roots & Culture, Chicago, IL (two person, 2018); Western Exhibitions, Chicago, IL (group, 2017); Fort Gondo, St Louis, MO (group, 2016); and Art League Houston (solo Hallway Gallery exhibition, 2015). 


Charis Ammon

Exhibition Dates: September 7 – November 2, 2019

Opening Reception: 6 -9 PM Saturday, September 7, 2019

Artist Talk: 6:30 PM I Hallway Gallery

Art League Houston (ALH) is proud to present Maintenance, an exhibition of new paintings on canvas and paper by Brooklyn and Houston based Artist, Charis Ammon. Recognized for her thick, tactile and gestural application of paint, Ammon focuses on seemingly quotidian subject matter seen throughout our everyday lives. From disheveled construction scenes to barriers and maintenance sites, Ammon’s paintings create a visual record of our surroundings and instances we encounter daily that may otherwise go unnoticed. Ammon walks through the city collecting hundreds of photographs as source material for her work. The confidence and behavior of her marks and brushstrokes give these paintings a monumental quality, despite their small scale and commonplace imagery, presenting them as extraordinary visions of contemporary, urban life. The works in this exhibition feature city scenes in Houston and Brooklyn. Concurrently, Inman Gallery, Houston, TX, will feature a selection of recent, larger paintings by the artist.  

Ammon states, “I am interested in the rhythm and cadence of the city space and how interruptions impact that space. Construction sites build rerouting systems for pedestrians and cars. These temporary structures bordering construction sites and public space hold a curious authority. I find myself drawn to the boundaries, pits and heaps of construction sites, finding an entanglement of the physical and psychological world in these scenes. I am investigating these scenes of construction as a physical, social, and political material through painting. The sculpting of curbs and sidewalks, the scraping, smoothing and patting of wet concrete to form paths feels like a parallel to my brush on the canvas – the contact of the workers trowel on the wet concrete with quick, gestural motions and slow, measured marks. My brushstrokes reveal my doubt, my joy, and my curiosity. The construction workers are the menders of the city, the caretakers of our urban environment.”

There is a sense of intimacy to Ammon’s paintings of the construction and maintenance sites encountered on her walks. She asks us, as viewers, to take a closer look, both visually and intellectually to the scenes around us and the laborers that live out their lives in these compositions. In this sense, Ammon’s work brings to mind masters of the nineteenth century, such as Courbet and his iconic Stone Breakers, or the later Diego Rivera and his frescoes depicting labor and the working class of the twentieth century. Ammon is similarly interested in labor and concepts of social realism. These currents dominate her inquiries into the sites she paints, and her interest is not so much in our building of “new” infrastructure and buildings, but in the repairs and unending construction that surrounds us. We are forever in a state of demolition, re-construction and progress.

“I was born into the ubiquitous world of concrete, where remedial construction is the norm. I do not see many new roads being made; instead I see roads being patched and widened. The mending feels as though we are always behind on delivering necessity. The city is in a constant state of flux, which brings with it a lack of clarity on what is need and what is desire. So instead of this being a glory of construction,” states Ammon. “It is more of an inquiry into what this work reflects.” 

ALH extends our gratitude to Inman Gallery, Houston, TX, for their support of this exhibition.

ABOUT THE ARTIST                

Charis Ammon is an artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY, who also spends time in Houston, TX. Born in Dallas in 1992, Ammon is a recent graduate of The University of Houston where she completed her MFA in Painting in May 2018. Prior to her studies in Houston, Ammon graduated from Texas State University with a BFA in Painting in 2015. She is currently represented by Inman Gallery, Houston, TX. Ammon was featured in a solo exhibition, Still Hot in the Shade, at Inman Gallery, Houston, TX, in 2018; exhibited at the Project Gallery at the University of Houston in a solo show, Rhythm: Works on Paper, in 2018; and completed the Desert Unit of Speculative Territories (DUST) Residency Program in Marfa, TX, in 2017. She was a Hunting Art Prize Finalist in 2016, and her work is included in the permanent collection of The University of Houston.