Biographical / Historical
Joe Lopez (1945- ) is a painter and founder of the Gallista Gallery (1996-2016) in San Antonio, Texas.
Lopez grew up in El Barrio Escondido, a neighborhood in San Antonio. He was introduced to art through his Uncle Basilio, a folk artist. While a student at St. Anthony Shrine School, Lopez gained the attention of one of the nuns which led to a scholarship to attend the Witte Museum Art School. He also attended La Villita School of Art, the San Antonio School of Art, and was awarded a scholarship to McNay Art Museum school. Lopez trained with artists Warren Hunter, John Squire Adams, Finis Collins, and Jesus "Chista" Cantu. Because Lopez was born with one hand, artist Jesse Treviño was an inspiration to Lopez for his ability to paint with one hand.
Lopez's paintings often feature gallos, the Spanish word for roosters, because they symbolize strength and pride in Chicano and Mexican American culture. Lopez opened his own gallery in 1996 because he was having difficulty booking exhibitions at other galleries. The original name of the gallery was Puro Gallo, and he changed the name to Gallista Gallery in 1998. Gallista was coined by Lopez to describe those who supported him during a five year court battle with E and J Gallo Winery. The wine company initiated the lawsuit against Lopez over the use of the word "gallo." The gallery became a bedrock of the community, fostering the talents of local Latino artists long after the lawsuit ended.
Early in his career, Lopez worked in the art department for Dillard's and Centeno's supermarket before becoming employed in the graphics department at Fort Sam Houston, a U.S. Army post in San Antonio. He retired in 2007 from Fort Sam Houston after 22 years.
Lopez's work has been exhibited at the McNay Art Museum, Laguna Gloria Art Museum, and other museums throughout Texas. His paintings have been featured on posters and covers of music albums including Taquachito Nights: Conjunto Music from South Texas produced by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and Puro Gallo by Los Padrinos.