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Ash Studios Brings Its Collective Energy To SMU 14

Every day on Art&Seek, we’re talking to people who have tips on art in the time of social distancing. Share yours with us on Facebook, Instagram or @artandseek on Twitter. Click above to hear Fred Villanueva, co-founder of Ash Studios, share his tip with KERA’s Nilufer Arsala. 

From impressive underpass murals in Oak Cliff to distinguished art galleries, Ash Studios takes its collective energy everywhere. 

Visit the Collective exhibition at the Pollock Gallery, through Sept. 26. 

A few blocks from Fair Park, Ash Studios is a 22,000 square space that encourages interracial and intergenerational dialogue and collaborations between the community and artists. Its mission is to empower creatives to have a voice in public life through exhibitions, think tanks and classes.

In their latest project, co-founder Fred Villanueva and affiliate artist Juan Cruz bring Ash Studios to SMU’s Pollack Gallery. The exhibition features collaborative work that is nontraditional, conceptual art. 

“We’re trying to make an impact on our public surroundings as well,” Villanueva said. “Really I want to focus on the idea that the art that is made and conceived can also be used in sites around the city.”

The “Collective” exhibition at SMU’s Pollock Gallery is up until Sept. 19. Photo: Kevin Todora

The exhibition is called Collective, an ode to the unity Ash brings to the community and its artists. That spirit extends to the Pollock Gallery — organizers hung colored paper on the wall so visitors can experiment and create their own art.

“The idea, if you’re so inspired, is to get your idea on a piece of paper. You can do that and it’s offering an interactive function for the viewership,” Villanueva said.

In the gallery, there are 11 bodies of work from Villanueva and four paintings from Cruz. Villanueva’s works date back from 1999 to the present, with influences from conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim, with whom Villanueva apprenticed. Villanueva’s work in the Pollock follows landscape design and geography. 

Some of Villanueva’s works represent visual data of Indigenous archeological site maps to acknowledge his Indigenous Mexican roots and training in conceptual art. Photo: Kevin Todora

Born in Dallas, Cruz draws on personal experiences and responses to cultural and societal issues for his work. At Pollock, Cruz’s paintings in this exhibition are abstract landscapes of Dallas buildings. He works with multiple colors that symbolize his Mexican heritage.

Featured painting by Juan Cruz. Photo: Kevin Todora

“The Collective exhibition also acts as a working space where collective making is questioned and studied as a very primal instinct of building together,” said Sofia Bastidas Vivar, Pollock Gallery director and curator, in a statement. “It reflects on the possibilities embedded within the network of creatives who come in and out of the studio space as well as the gallery space, and what they can offer to the city around more scalable and long-term approaches to art.”

Villanueva’s and Cruz’s work side-by-side. Photo: Kevin Todora

The exhibition also displays two sculptures by Villanueva that are prototypes for public art projects and two paintings that accompany digital topographic prints on paper, which represent Indigenous archaeological sites before colonization.

The visual data of Indigenous archeological site maps acknowledge Villanueva’s Indigenous Mexican roots and training in conceptual art. He said he wants the exhibition to engage the public with dynamic forms of artwork.

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Collective is on view until Sept. 26. The Pollock is now located on the east campus of SMU because of the pandemic. The gallery is open by appointment only. Contact Sofia Bastidas Vivar to view the gallery at or Fred Villanueva at

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