Moises Salazar Tlatenchi
Moises Tlatenchi recalls going to EXPO Chicago for the first time when they were a teenager at Chi Arts High School. “It was my first time seeing contemporary art, and I remember being so amazed and grateful to have access to a space like that at that age,” Tlatenchi says. “Then at SAIC, we were able to go for free as well. Spaces like that aren’t always accessible to people where I’m from, and now I’m showcasing work there this year. I never thought that would be possible,” Tlatenchi says. Tlatenchi is a first-generation Mexican-American and most of their work interrogates this aspect of their identity and the politics, trauma, history and barriers that come with that identity.
Their signature style includes glitter-adorned artworks, embellished with faux fur and crocheted frames and flowers around faceless figures—many of them Tlatenchi themselves—in various positions, clad in clothing, cowboy hats and high heels, as a way to challenge notions of the male in sport, leisure, healing and gender conformity. This is a constant theme within their work, which they said they attribute to feeling the pressures of growing up in a traditionally gendered Mexican household. There is also a cheeky playfulness within their work outside of the materiality. The vibrant colors, pops of pink, and objects like toys, soccer balls and cleats, boxing gloves and gym equipment add more considerations of the underlying themes of gender and masculinity.
Tlatenchi is excited to show work at EXPO’s tenth iteration this year with Mindy Solomon Gallery, based out of Miami, Florida. They have been working with the gallery since 2021 for a solo exhibition, “Puto El Último,” which they describe as an “homage for the queer in last place,” because “as a developing queer I ran as fast as I could for the sake of my survival,” they say in their exhibition statement for the show.
For Tlatenchi working with the gallery has been transformative in accelerating their artistic career. “She kind of just took me under her wing and has been representing my work and projects and has access to spaces and collectors,” they say.
Since that inaugural solo, Tlatenchi has showcased work at NADA Fair in 2022, had a solo at SPRING/BREAK Art Show in 2021 (curated by Gabrielle Aruta of Filo Sofi Arts), a solo show at The Red Arrow Gallery in Nashville, and contributed a large-scale installation at Zoe Lukov and Abby Pucker’s traveling exhibition “Skin in the Game” during last year’s EXPO. This year In addition to EXPO, they are working toward a second exhibition with Mindy Solomon, featuring their textile tufted pieces which opens April 30. They also will be showcasing four new works with David Zwirner and Artsy’s PLATFORM, and currently have an exhibition at Sheboygan’s John Michael Kohler Arts Center, “A Quién le Importa,” which translates to “who cares,” that is up through September 17.
Tlatenchi says in the midst of all the business, they are trying to find the time and space to relax. Their recent experience at Fire Island Residency, the first LGBTQ residency in the world, left a lasting impact on how they hope to move forward in their work.
“While I was there, I experimented with performance, and want to do more of that,” they say. “It was also beneficial to build relationships with older LGBTQ people and be able to interact with people like that. Growing up I never had those types of representations,” Tlatenchi says.
It was also a nice break for them to shift their focus and slow down and not focus on deadlines, to be able to just make work while they were there. Right now, they are interested in just that. Making work, reading and researching to make their next body of work, which will focus on the untold stories of queer LatinX history, untold stories of American history and the colonial figures who were queer. Part of this work will be unveiled at EXPO, and will include lots of “red coats, heels and horses,” but will be part of a larger exhibition that will begin in Los Angeles and tour the country over the course of three years. “This is history that is uncomfortable and contested, but is a part of our history too,” they say. (Ciera McKissick)