Core Artists & Critics

2023–2024 Core Residents

larí garcía, Saúl Hernández-Vargas, Erin Holland, Yifan Jiang, Umico Niwa, Carlos Vielma

Valentin Diaconov, Max Tolleson


Valentin Diaconov


Valentin Diaconov, born in Moscow, Russia, received a PhD in culture studies from Russian State University for Humanities in 2009. He has written for a variety of Russian- and English-language publications. Diaconov curated Philosophy of Common Deed, a survey of Soviet art at the Perm State Art Gallery, in 2012; and Detective, a selection of work by young Russian artists at the Moscow Museum of Modern Art, in 2014. While serving as curator at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art in Moscow, he co-curated The Fabric of Felicity in 2018 and A Beautiful Night of All the People in 2020. Diaconov is interested in necropolitics; cultural history and geography; and art that opposes or works around the necromantic tendencies of today’s conservative movements worldwide.


larí garcía


larí garcía is an artist who combines historical research, spiritual reasoning, mediumship, and magical realism through a comparative and ethnographic approach. Their practice in assemblage sculpture, installation, writing, and listening is site-responsive, socially and physically engaging within narratives of death, ghosts, and mysticism. This process leads to a broader representation of change, instability, fragility, and disorder. garcía received a BFA from Columbus College of Art & Design (2017) and an MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University (2021). In 2022, garcía attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and in 2023 they participated in SOMA Summer, Tlaxco, México. Their work has been shown throughout the U.S., recently in a collaborative exhibition, Snowing, at D.D.D.D. in New York City, NY (2023). 


Saúl Hernández-Vargas


Saúl Hernández-Vargas is an interdisciplinary artist whose work invokes the specters haunting the cracks and fissures of the Nation-State’s official narratives. Recently, he has exhibited and performed in the Houston Climate Justice Museum and the Blaffer Art Museum (Houston). In 2021, he was an artist in residence at the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands (ASU). His work has been discussed in The Tyranny of Common Sense by Irmgard Emmelhainz (Sunny Press, 2021). In 2020, among other radio projects, he developed a series of radio-essays about the US-Mexico boundary titled Afilada Radio. His first book, Te preparé humo, was published in 2019 (UNAM, Mexico). He co-founded the publishing projects Sur+ and Yagular Magazine. Hernández-Vargas holds an MFA in Visual Arts from the University of California, San Diego, and an Interdisciplinary PhD from the University of Houston. Currently, he is a Core Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.


Erin Holland


Erin Holland is a filmmaker, artist, and writer based in Texas. She received her MFA in visual art from Columbia University in 2022. Holland creates relational offerings through photography, video, performance, and installation. Her practice weaves silence, touch, absence, and presence into deeply personal works, as seen in the short-film series Mother Mother, about the hardship and richness of long-term caregiving. Holland worked as an art director and producer for the Museum of Modern Art in New York while engaging in community projects led by MoMA Pop Rally, Creative Time, and Public Art Fund. Her work was been featured in New York at Lenfest Center for the Arts and the Jewish Museum.


Yifan Jiang


Yifan Jiang is a project-based artist working in painting, animation, sculpture, and performance. Taking an irreverent approach to epistemology, she explores the grey intersection between the scientific, the psychological, and the magical. Jiang received her MFA from Columbia University in New York, and her BFA from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, Canada. Solo exhibitions include Zero-sum game at Christian Andersen in Copenhagen and the two-part exhibition Medium-sized dry goods/Names for airy nothings at Meliksetian | Briggs in Los Angeles. Her work has also been featured at venues such as Today Art Museum in Beijing, China; the Roswell Museum in New Mexico; the Jewish Museum in New York; London International Animation Festival; and the New York Public Art Fund.


Umico Niwa


Umico Niwa received her MFA in Sculpture + Extended Media from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, in 2020. Rejecting Western notions of personhood, Niwa considers alternative modes of existence unbridled by bodily restrictions or gender constructs. Her creations speak to a state of being defined by perpetual movement - a flower, wilting; a fruit ripening. A seed vault, a genetic sequence, a sensorium, a somatic memory bank. A valley full of weeds, bursting with life.



Max Tolleson


Max Tolleson received a PhD in art history from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2023 and specializes in the history of modern and contemporary art. His dissertation, “The Museum after Minimalism: The Chinati Foundation, 1978–Present," explores the social world of the foundation’s permanent installations in Marfa, Texas. Tolleson has written for ASAP/J, Artnet News and Panorama, and is excited to engage with Houston’s art and culture as a Core critic-in-residence. He has worked for Dia Art Foundation, the Dream House, the Judd Foundation, the Chinati Foundation, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and was a 2022–2023 Helena Rubinstein Critical Studies Fellow at the Whitney Independent Study Program in New York.


Carlos Vielma


Graduated as an architect, Carlos Vielma works with painting, video, and installation, exploring subjects like longing, migration, and the Mexican-American border. He was awarded the FONCA scholarship for young creators and has been an artist-in-residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Casa Wabi, Mass MoCA, and The Banff Center among other residencies. His work has been included in Salon ACME and some biennials in Mexico and the United States. Recently, he was honored to be chosen as a member of the National System of Creators (SNCA).