SERGIO TAPIA (b. 1972, Santa Fe, New Mexico)
A native of Santa Fe, Sergio Tapia took to carving from the age of five and, at age eight, was the first child to show at Spanish Market. His works display a vigorous refinement, elegance of form, dexterity of execution, and trenchancy of expression that place him among the finest living santeros and most innovative contemporary artists. Tapia’s style reflects the varied assemblage of influences to which he was subjected in his early years—namely, his distinguished father, Luis Tapia; their travels around the country; and the motley concourse of Chicano artists with whom he became acquainted at his boyhood home. While working within the santero tradition, Tapia rejected the staid traditionalism of its modern iteration, following his father in challenging and extending its boundaries. Refusing to confine himself to purely religious representations, Tapia seeks through his art to give plastic expression to the “things [he’s] affected by on a daily basis,” resulting in incisive social critiques and inventive explorations of the past. Yet while his works are bold statements, they are never dogmatic—serving as conversation starters rather than stoppers.
Tapia’s artwork does not merely offer a view into his mind, it beckons the viewer to form his or her own experience: “Too many people want to push too hard for people to have the same experience that you had—what you’re supposed to be getting out of it—but I don’t think that’s right. Because we don't have the same life experiences.” Indeed, his approach to art is profoundly influenced by an early appreciation that “we are the same and we’re not the same.” And while his work is always in conversation with other artists, it is ultimately against himself that Tapia competes—always striving to bring his skills in line with the image in his head and experimenting with new techniques to best capture his present vision. He has also expanded into new artistic branches, above all furniture, which nourishes his “linear side.” Never content to abide by neat categories, Tapia works to subvert the traditional distinction between the “fine” and “decorative” arts by producing furniture that, though eminently functional, is conceived purely sculpturally. The striking furniture style that he has evolved—increasingly abstract and modern—has, in turn, fed back into his sculpture proper. Tapia’s work is found in numerous private and public collections, including the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Maxwell Museum Of Anthropology, New Mexico Museum of Art, and Museum of Spanish Colonial Art.