This Cinco de Mayo weekend, downtown art gallery 1Culture is celebrating another fifth: its fifth group exhibition, appropriately titled Cinco.
“Even though the Cinco de Mayo holiday is commercialized, we have an opportunity here to take it back, and understand and explore what our Latinx identity is,” says 1Culture’s resident historian and public art advocate, Lou Jimenez.
Founded by San Jose real estate broker Andrew Espino, 1Culture has done well for itself in its first year at the gallery on E. Santa Clara Street.
“We’re most proud of the fact that we’re holding the line for artists,” says Espino. “We’re converting the ‘show and tell’ to ‘show and sell,’ exposing our artists to new markets and allowing them to keep their fair share of every piece sold.”
Over the weekend, Espino and his team of artists and curators will debut a new expansion to their gallery, as well as unveil several new murals going up across the street from City Hall.
Espino is not an artist in the traditional sense of the word. The gallery owner has been a real estate broker in the Bay Area for over two decades.
“This entire concept started as a pop-up gallery,” he says.
Before 1Culture existed in a permanent space, it was simply that: a concept.
“I was integrating a lot of the pieces I was buying and staging them in a lot of the homes I was remodeling,” Espino says. “Doing pop-ups on the weekends, I began to get a feel for what it was like to create and sell art as an artist.”
Miguel Machuca, the gallery’s first official Resident Artist, will be showcasing various charcoal works at the show. Machuca attended 1Culture’s first show, Day Ones, and decided to lend a hand when he saw that Espino was doing everything on his own.
“After giving him a piece of mine I told him, ‘I have nothing else to do, would you like me to help out?’ He kept saying no, but I insisted. Since then I’ve been the lead installer for every show.”
Machuca believes in 1Culture’s mission and aims to open up a gallery of his own someday in San Jose. In the meantime, he continues to learn the backend of the art world and teach upcoming talent what he knows about the medium. There is much to share.
“Art, and graffiti especially, is a dialogue,” says Lou Jimenez. “Sociopolitical art is marking your existence. It has the power to break down barriers [between] communities and unite them.”
A survivor of cancer, Machuca came to San Jose from Guadalajara, Mexico, after his first brush with death, the passing of his father in a car accident. He leaned into art to convey his complicated feelings on mortality and death.
“Darkness is beauty in itself,” he says.
Since his first exhibition in 2007, Machuca has had a run of solo shows around the Bay Area, spanning galleries like the Triton Museum of Art and Anno Domini Gallery, to the expansive network of what he calls “phantom galleries” around San Jose and the greater Bay. Machuca’s work is visually stunning, featuring agave plants, swords and flowers and complex concepts that tell a story of campesinos and their sacrifices.
Though the gallery will primarily focus on Latinx art on May 6, 1Culture has planned a show featuring a wide range of styles, themes and techniques—from street art to charcoal and acrylics.
“There’s a social responsibility with art,” Jimenez says. “With 1Culture we’re not just trying to do something that’s cool. There is intention behind who we’re placing and why we’re placing them there. It takes a lot of introspect but I believe we’re in the right place and the right time to do it.”
Cinco features 28 artists from San Jose, Texas, Los Angeles, Portland and San Diego.
Local legend Chuy Gomez will be hosting and DJing the event. Gomez says nothing makes him happier than supporting 1Culture for their most exciting show to date.
“Chicano art often gets overlooked and I love that we’re showcasing and embracing it in San Jose,” he says. “It’s beautiful to see people gathering in person together again. People want to support each other, and we gotta support each other—we all we got.”
Sat, 2pm, Free
1Culture, San Jose