Luis Jiménez, born El Paso, TX 1940-died Hondo, NM 2006
acrylic urethane, fiberglass, steel armature
199 x 114 x 67 in. (505.5 x 289.6 x 170.2 cm.)
modeled 1980/cast 1990
The Latino Art Collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum represents a deep and continuing commitment to building a great national collection reflecting the rich contributions of Latinos to the United States, from the colonial period to the present. These artworks present a picture of an evolving national culture that challenges expectations of what is meant by the words American and Latino.
The monumental sculpture Vaquero confronts popular stereotypes of the cowboy while connecting this classic symbol of America to its Mexican origins. Luis Jiménez is known for his reinterpretations of images associated with the American West and Mexican-American culture. In Vaquero, he wanted to update the traditional equestrian statue. In the composition, horse and rider are inseparable — extensions of a dramatic curve and countercurve. The sculpture is constructed of fiberglass, a material that Jiménez used frequently. The bright colors and glossy finish recall movie marquees, a reminder of how much movies have influence what we know about the American cowboy.
Smithsonian American Art Museum: Commemorative Guide. Nashville, TN: Beckon Books, 2015.
Luis Jiménez began making monumental sculptures in the midst of the Latino civil rights movement. He dedicated himself to contemporary subjects that represented a racially diverse and working class America. Vaquero, which means cowboy in Spanish, is one of his most celebrated works.
Jiménez’s Vaquero depicts an anonymous Mexican American cowboy in colorful and glossy fiberglass, a material more associated with low riders and hot rods. Jiménez intentionally titled his sculpture Vaquero to emphasize the Spanish and Mexican roots of this classic American icon. “Spaniards brought cattle and horses [to North America],” the artist once recalled, “and Mexicans developed the whole notion of being cowboys.” The artist thought it was especially fitting that Vaquero came to permanently reside in the nation’s capital, a city known for its abundant equestrian public sculpture.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Judith and Wilbur L. Ross, Jr., Anne and Ronald Abramson, and Thelma and Melvin Lenkin