Sala Diaz presents Jive Town, an exhibition by artist, fashion designer and community activist Agosto Cuellar. For his first solo presentation at the gallery, Cuellar transforms the exhibition space into a functioning boutique, recreating his South Alamo shop, Jive Refried, which existed from 1999-2011.

Acting both as artist and co-curator, Cuellar’s six week exhibition will be punctuated by special events including works and happenings by other artists such as screenings of a web-based drama series conceived by Kimberly Suta, DJ Performances, a series of rotating featured artists including Eric Fonseca, Will Muñiz, Kristel Andrea Orta-Puente and S.T. Shimi; sewing circles, tableau vivant window displays, swap meets and much more.

In his own words, the artist states: 

Jive Refried, my store on South Alamo (1999-2011), was a labor of love that encompassed everything I find beautiful: contemporary art, vintage clothes, DIY creations, curios and home décor, new sounds streaming off satellite radio…I relished in reimagining the whimsical, the beaten-down and the undervalued. It was magical, scary, insightful and amazing experiment, with jolly/folly unfolding every time we opened the doors. Late night installs, early morning withdrawals, a new artist featured every month (156 First Friday openings)! This uncompromising melding of objects, experiences and events became a course of self-discovery that extended to everyone who contributed to the space through participation and patronage.

Boy, we were young. Everything was a gamble, and that was central to the challenge. Even the process of finding an object, cleaning it up and reworking it into something that might catch somebody's eye was an uncertainty. I’m not a clairvoyant but I had to be predictive in order to survive. It became more and more difficult to please the discriminating “shopper,” to keep everything fresh and edgy as the neighborhood around me began to gentrify. It was a thirteen-year chapter in my life that I affectionately call JIVE TOWN, and it was as unforgiving and exhausting as it was rewarding and revelatory. It literally became a reality show…then I left. Abruptly.

I am undertaking a new experiment in which visual art, fashion, music and performance collide in a nostalgic bohemian rhapsody. This time, however, I’m operating with a fixed start and end date: a linear approach to recreating the sights, sounds and soul of my original space. 


The mixing of art and fashion with community activism and social mobility is central to Cuellar’s practice.  A regional visual merchandiser at Goodwill Industries—a position created for him after he had been blogging and promoting the organization–Cuellar explains the role organizations such as Goodwill can have in transforming working-class communities. He comments, “As an artist, Goodwill was a place where I could find inexpensive raw materials that I could then turn into fashion, sculptures, etc.” Now on his 18th collection, many of Cuellar’s avant-garde, absurd, humorous and beautiful items such as a pair of red, white and green earrings made from crocheted pot holders for the “Mexican girl on the go” were made from repurposed, deconstructed and reconstructed clothing and knick-knacks he bought at Goodwill and sold at his shop. 

There is a sense of artistic freedom, individuality and social equality in the things he says when speaking about Goodwill that spills over into his personal views of the role of art and of life in general. “We get people here from all walks of life: struggling single parents, young fashionistas, ladies from King William and 09…I also love that you never find two of the same thing, it’s all one of a kind.”  


Alejandro Diaz is an artist living and working in Queens, New York. Originally from San Antonio, he is the founder of Sala Diaz, which he opened in 1995. His recent exhibitions include a solo show at the Linda Pace Foundation and a solo exhibition at Royale Projects, CA. In 2007, he was a recipient of a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and is included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, LACMA, The RISD Museum of Art and El Museo del Barrio, NYC. Diaz has lectured on his work at the Whitney Museum of American Art and has been reviewed in publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker and Artfourm. A book published by the Linda Pace Foundation on Diaz’s work is due to be released in February 2017. 



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