With a jingle of his fiberglass spurs and a devilish snort out his red-eyed steed, El Vaquero rode out of the Sun City this afternoon.
The statue of this dark skinned, gun-wielding horseman clinging to the back of a wild-eyed horse, was created by the hands of Luis Jimenez. A second Vaquero statue sits outside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American Art.
Jimenez is also the man behind the recently disputed statue of the teeth gnashing Alligators in San Jacinto Plaza. These gators too lay in the muddied waters of debate and may be removed during the upcoming downtown renovations.
“Luis Jimenez is one of the best known artist of the area,” Michelle Villa, the art museums Registrar, said.
Jimenez was born in El Paso in 1940. His father owned an electric sign shop, where Jimenez was exposed to spray painting and welding. He studied in New York before returning to the South West to provoke the art world with his gigantic fiberglass creations “depicting Hispanic and Native American dancers, cowboys and barrio workers with contorted faces and neon-colored, spray-painted clothing (New York Times).”
Mr. Frank Ribelin, an art collector out of the Dallas area, owned El Vaquero.
“People didn’t understand that it didn’t belong to us,” Villa said. It was on loan to the art museum, which erected the sculpture at the foot of its doors.
“It’s been here since we opened and a lot of people will miss it,” Villa said.
The rider’s bright yellow shirt and rolled up sleeves were visible to downtown strollers in the area used for Al Fresco Fridays, those near the entrance of Camino Real Hotel or those walking by the museum towards the Civic Center.
Upon Ribelin’s death in early 2010, his estate (which included El Vaquero) went up for market. The El Paso Art Museum lost the bid for El Vaquero to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas.
Alice Walton, daughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, is the main organizer of Crystal Bridges.
And so, El Vaquero shot one last “Howdy” at the star on the mountain while workers fenced up his surroundings in bright red and yellow “caution” tape.
From 7:00am to about 2, they uprooted and separated the statue into three parts (vaquero, steed, base) then boxed them up for the new trails it’ll be blazing.
“Anytime you move any artwork it’s a little bit scary,” Villa said.
While moving a 32-foot-high sculpture of a mustang from his studio, Jimenez sustained injuries when a portion of the horse came loose and pinned him against a steel support. He was rushed to a hospital but was later pronounced dead. He was 65 years old.
His work though has lived on throughout the country. He lives on in Chicago. He lives on in New York. He lives on in Houston, Oklahoma and Washington DC.
He lives still, and as the sun sets into a burning red, Luis Jimenez lives on in El Chuco, Texas, too.