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RISD Business: Sassy signs and sculptures by Alejandro Diaz opens at the RISD Museum
Alejandro Diaz, Happiness Is Expensive, 2008. © Alejandro Diaz. Courtesy of Dorfman Projects, NY. Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.

PROVIDENCE, RI.- The Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design announces an exhibition of new and recent works by artist Alejandro Diaz, RISD Business: Sassy Signs and Sculptures by Alejandro Diaz, on view Friday, November 16, 2012 through Sunday, June 9, 2013.

“We are delighted to present Alejandro Diaz’s work at the RISD Museum,” says Museum Director John W. Smith. “Within his highly accessible embrace of popular culture lies a deeper set of questions about the role that art and art-making plays in our daily lives. He blends humor with conceptualism to create new and compelling ways to engage a wide-range of audiences.”

Diaz’s paintings and sculptures have been described as fusing “Andy Warhol’s camp aesthetics, Truman Capote’s panache, Oscar Wilde’s irreverence, and Cesar Chavez’s tender hopefulness” ( Ranging from stereotypes of Mexican identity to current socio-economic and art world commentary, Diaz’s text-based works and installations use language as a form of cultural critique and resistance, reflecting upon both his Chicano roots and his work in the world of high art, fashion, and culture.

“Using an approach that is simultaneously campy and conceptual, light-hearted and profound, Alejandro Diaz plays many roles,” says Judith Tannenbaum, the RISD Museum’s Richard Brown Baker Curator of Contemporary Art. “He is an artist, curator, archaeologist, interior designer, publicist, consumer, and promoter. His goal is to engage the public, whether inside galleries and museums or outside on city streets—to enable us to think more deeply about the crazy, multifaceted world in which we live.”

RISD Business features many of the comical cardboard signs for which Diaz is best known—"Make Tacos Not War," for instance, or “Unhappy at Last"—which grew from a 2003 series of public performances (sometimes in Mexican Mariachi costume) in front of iconic and high-brow New York landmarks, including Tiffany’s on Fifth Avenue and the Plaza Hotel. His works are emblematic of his ongoing involvement with art as a form of entertainment, activism, public intervention, and free enterprise.

RISD Business also includes a number of works created specifically for the RISD Museum. They range from sculptures made with found- or off-the-shelf materials to a large architectural installation the artist calls the Diaz Art Foundation—a museum-within-a-museum displaying numerous objects from the artist’s own collection.

Tannenbaum says, “In the Diaz Art Foundation, created for this exhibition, artistic models like Andy Warhol and Jeff Koons—who elevate popular culture in Western society—coexist with unknown artists and craftspeople around the world who make remarkable objects out of whatever materials are at hand; and Diaz loves them equally.”

Based in New York City since 1999, Alejandro Diaz is originally from South Texas. In 1996, he founded Sala Diaz, an artists’ space in a Mexican-American neighborhood in San Antonio, which continues to present exhibitions funded and organized by the local community, ( Diaz was featured in Phantom Sightings, a critically-acclaimed Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) exhibition that traveled to Mexico City, San Antonio, New York, and Houston (2008-2010), as well as other group exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Dashanzi Art Festival in China, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art in Arizona, and the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, and elsewhere. He has had solo exhibitions at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum (Ridgefield, CT), Artpace (San Antonio, TX), The Fuller Craft Museum (Brockton, MA), and others. He was commissioned in 2005 to create large-scale outdoor sculptures for the Public Art Fund in New York City—now on display at the San Antonio International Airport as part of that city’s permanent public art collection. In 2003, he created a public art project for the Havana Biennial.

Diaz received a bachelor of fine arts from the University of Texas at Austin, and a master of arts from Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies. He received the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award for excellence in the visual arts in 2008.

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RISD Business: Sassy signs and sculptures by Alejandro Diaz opens at the RISD Museum

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