John L Warfield Center

Historical Present

Fri, January 3, 2014
Historical Present


Historical Present surveys photographs and mixed media works by Capistran and Yanas. Capistran’s photographs include painted tools of political dissent common during the civil rights and liberation movements of the 1950s to 1970s. Objects include a Molotov cocktail and protest sign painted white and photographed against white backgrounds. The associations of the color with ideas such as surrender, white-wash, and rebirth interest the artist. Indeed, he urges viewers to consider the various metaphorical implications of the whitened objects.

Yanas draws from the archives of the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the Austin History Center, among other places for Historical Present. His photographs depict flyers, newsletters, and other ephemera made by activists from across the nation and especially those from the Austin community. Thus the artist encourages viewers to consider local activist histories alongside better-known narratives of political resistance.


Both artists have a particular interest in minimalism, a trend in sculpture and painting that arose in the 1950s and is characterized by the use of simple, minimal, forms that are often repeated in sequence. They find the rise of the stripped down, structured style of art striking, especially against the tumultuous context of civil rights histories. Within the works of Capistran and Yanas, a fascinating interplay between the two disparate, overlapping movements occur. The reductive single-color or monochromatic art of Capistran and serial grid works of Yanas are at once private meditations on the political relevance of art and public appeals for reawakened political consciousness


Juan Capistran (b. 1976, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico) is a Los Angeles-based artist whose mixed media works were prominently featured inPhantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement, the pioneering exhibition of Mexican American contemporary art that debuted at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2007. A graduate of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles and the University of California, Irvine, Capistran has exhibited his art internationally at the 12th Istanbul Biennial in Turkey, the New Museum in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, and the 2nd Triennial Poli-Grafica in San Juan, Puerto Rico among many others. His photographs and mixed media works will also be featured in What We Want, What We Believe: Toward a Higher Fidelity, a solo exhibition at the Visual Art Center at UT Austin that opens on January 31, 2014 at 6pm. 


Ricky Yanas (b. 1984, San Antonio, Texas) is an Austin-based artist and photography lecturer at the Texas State University, San Marcos. Since graduating from the MFA program in photography at UT Austin in 2011, Yanas’s work has been featured in exhibitions at Mexic-Arte Museum and Up Collective in Austin. In 2012, he was a co-recipient of the prestigious Idea Fund Grant and a guest editor and featured artist inPastelegram, an Austin-based print and online art magazine.

Historical Present is curated by Rose G. Salseda, Ph.D. candidate in Art History at UT Austin. She will lead a talk with Capistran and Yanas at the opening of the exhibition.


The ISESE Gallery is located in the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, 201 East 21st, Jester Center A230. Gallery hours vary. For more information or to schedule an appointment call (512) 471-1784.

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  • John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies

    The University of Texas at Austin
    210 W 24th St.
    Mailcode D7200
    Austin, Texas, 78705