Celeb Fave Evita Tezeno, Just Cheered by ‘Vogue’, to Show Joyful Paintings at New Houston Show
THERE IS A lot of straight-up positivity and joy in the work of artist Evita Tezeno, which is another big reason why Evita Tezeno: Out of Many, which opens this Thursday, Apr. 27 at the Houston Museum for African American Culture, is one of the year’s must-see art exhibits. CityBook flagged the show in our spring Arts Issue, and then Vogue got the scoop with a feature on the 62-year-old, Dallas-based artist shortly after it was announced Tezeno and Houston-based artist Jamal Cyrus had each been awarded a 2023 Guggenheim Fellowship.
In one example of her work, you might see a familiar scene: five people, three women, and two men, some dressed for work, some dressed casually, all in colorful spring-like patterns, are patiently waiting for a bus, which is behind schedule. A young man stares into space while next to him, an older gentleman wearing a jacket, paisley tie, and an orange porkpie hat with a purple hatband, has one eyebrow raised as if to acknowledge the viewer.
The image is captured as an acrylic and mixed media collage by Tezeno, whose work is inspired by the in-between moments of everyday people, moments when you are smart enough to slow down, stop, and appreciate the here and now, even though you might be late for work.
Curated by HMAAC Chief Curator Christopher Blay, Out of Many is Tezeno’s first solo show in Houston, and it will be on view for closing festivities on Juneteenth and Father’s Day weekend, June 17.
Tezeno grew up in Port Arthur, Texas, close to the Louisiana border, and from a very early age aspired to make art and show in galleries and museums. But it’s only in recent years that Tezeno has received such widespread and well-deserved recognition for her work. In 2018, Denzel Washington purchased eight of Tezeno’s works from her New York gallery, and in 2020 one of her most famous Instagram followers, Samuel L. Jackson, gave his wife one of Tezeno’s paintings for their 40th wedding anniversary. And last year, a dream came true when the Dallas Art Museum acquired her painting, Joy, Compassion, Generosity, making it Tezeno’s first work to be owned by a museum.
“I hate to say, the stereotype is that Black people are depressed, sad, and exposed to a lot of racial prejudice and suppression,” she told the fashion mag. “But we have joy too — and I wanted to portray that happiness and togetherness I grew up with.”
Tezeno’s art has its antecedents in the art of Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett and Romare Bearden, as well as Picasso, who, like Bearden, experimented with collage techniques to great effect. But there’s also a very strong, very Southern, spiritual quality evident in all of her work. (Vogue notes that Tezeno was inspired to explore collage after an angel in a dream directed her to do so.)
In a time where we seem to be inundated with so much bad news and doom and gloom, it may be that the joy and light in Tezeno’s work are exactly what people are searching for.