Spaztek Test Flight # 2
The Guardian recently featured a piece by David Hockney in which he claims that the decline of the church is directly connected to the democratization of imagery. It’s true that religious institutions have a history of trying to control the kinds of images people create and see, and I’m sure their reasons for doing this have to do with maintaining their grip over people’s minds. But I think you could make virtually the same argument about the church’s control of music, sexuality, history, poetry, or any number of creative ventures (hmm… is history a creative venture?). And this is why Hockney gets it wrong when he says “the power is with images, not art.” The implication here is that power flows from the material truth of the camera, not from the spiritual truth of a work of art. In the past I have quoted Camus making the point that freedom is predicated on the creative act, not production, not representation. This is why churches have tried, and still try, to control creativity — and why their control of material wealth is ultimately secondary to their control of the spirit.
Blaffer Gallery Curator Claudia Schmuckli invited French filmmaker Chantal Akerman to show five works, including a new film/video installation project commissioned by the University of Houston. The show closes in four days so I wanted to highlight a clip from one of the pieces in “Moving Through Time and Space.” To read a thoughtful review of the show visit our neighbors.
Enjoy one of many beautiful stills from the show:
A Tibetan protester cries in pain as a policeman, unseen, pulls him back from the window of a bus, after being arrested in front of the Chinese Embassy during a demonstration against China’s crackdown in Lhasa, Tibet, in New Delhi, India,Tuesday, March 18, 2008. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)
Check in with Photoshop Disasters, a new blog documenting the travesties arising from careless use of the clone tool and other weapons in the photo “retouching” arsenal. Naturally, they mostly involve adding, removing, and distorting women’s body parts, as well as a few unruly hands. [hat tip]
Pretend today is hot potato news day, just snippets of incongruent information:
A little bird told Emvergeoning that Sterling Allen just won an Artpace Residency for the year 2009..Old friends from the San Francisco Noise Scene, Death Sentence Panda win the Best Use of a Flute at South by Southwest for 2008… Zane Lewis might be moving to a place called New York City this year…One of Texas’ star curators, Regine Basha, will be bringing the sound art of Steve Roden and Stephen Vitiello to Ballroom Marfa next year. There was a good article about their West Texas field recordings in the February issue of Modern Painters, only available in print version for now. Buy a copy and you will find a review of Michael Smith at the Blanton while Kate Green writes about Nathan Carter’s installation at her former place of curatorial business, better known as Artpace.
In other news, the SA Art League mildly mislead artists in thinking there was a lump sum award of $5,000 for their annual call for entries. And despite grumblings amongst local artists, Toby Kamps, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston confirmed with Emvergeoning that every piece in the upcoming show was cherry picked by himself, not the Art Leaguers. Apparently most of the award money has been divided between 20 or more artists from San Antonio [myself included]. No official list of artists has been released and the amount of each award is clandestine until the show opens April 6th. Still, I think it might be enough to make it rain.
Also, speaking of the CAM in Houston, recent Artpace Resident Allison Smith will be in a group show beginning in May called “The Old, Weird America.” Shouldn’t it be Ye Olde Weird[e] America? Emvergeoning minds want to know.
Thomas Glassford indulges in anodized aluminum, found objects and framed zippers at his latest solo show in Houston this month. The show, “Between Earth and Sky” at Sicardi Gallery, just closed on March 15th. Glassford strikes two different chords that balance pitch perfectly in the gallery. The giant, chandelier-like structure titled “Dark Eyes” piques visitors attention with an assortment of stacked dinnerware, ornaments, gourds, skeletal remains and fluffy clean sponges. Upon closer inspection, a lamp fixture lets viewers peek into a child’s private world with pint size lampshades covered in crude drawings of fatuous mazes, little round devils and poor penmanship. There’s something flawless about Glassford’s approach to anodized aluminum. His series of Paritituras seems to have found a new rhythm, with cerulean, grey and verdant aluminum panels arranged as shuffled piano keys in “Between Earth and Sky.” A tower of discarded broom handles in lovely weathered blues and greens seems to pay homage to invisible labor and the accumulation of time. In a small, framed mixed media piece, “Don’t touch Me,” the artist puts an elbow patch, a blue/gold zipper and some glitter flower appliques in an arrangement that seems separate but equal. Glassford pulls a mimetic line from the aluminum panels and into the small delicate frames with clean lines of mint condition zippers seemingly holding ground between celestial ideals and earthly delights.
Next: How Artist Draw at the Menil
The crowds in Alamo Plaza (photo by Justin Parr)
Houston Street (photo by Justin Parr)
Chuck Ramirez in front of Bill FitzGibbons‘ Alamo installation holding a Parr mylar sculpture (photo by Justin Parr)
The Mixing Chamber (Stuart Allen / Potter-Belmar Labs) at SAMA (photo by David S. Rubin)
I’m still collecting thoughts and reactions from Luminaria, but here’s my initial post-event take on how it all turned out. While a lot of my pre-Luminaria criticisms still stand, I think these problems need to be put into perspective. First of all, I think for most people who made it downtown (and there were a lot of folks out there), the organizational problems were not really apparent. The events flowed well, there was a lot of good energy and big crowds, but it was never difficult to get to where you wanted to be, and there seemed to be plenty of strategically located food and drink stands, port-o-potties, etc. The event planners and promoters did their job, and everyone I talked to seemed to really enjoy the night.
As expected, there was a pretty big range in both the style and the quality of art presented. As I pointed out earlier, I think Luminaria could benefit from more competitive funding opportunities. I’d like to see a process in place that would allow museum-quality artists to create new work specifically for Luminaria — site-specific installations, sculptures, projections, etc. There’s no way this will happen unless a bigger chunk of money is available to participating artists. But I also think Luminaria needs to keep the inclusive feel that was achieved last night. Things felt very open, with the symphony playing across the street from fire dancers and around the corner from an open-mic poetry reading, work by Chuck Ramirez and Katie Pell across the street from student art.
One criticism I made earlier was that the city didn’t try to build on existing, grassroots art events like First Friday or Contemporary Art Month. Last night I realized why this would have been a bad idea. Luminaria is really a different beast from these events, which mostly rely on independent venues to do their own thing, and have very little central organization. But at the same time, these existing art events have a lot of interested parties who would probably feel that the city was hijacking their event. Luminaria needed to start fresh, and put something together that isn’t identified with a singular community, but represents the diverse artistic talents that exist throughout San Antonio. And they also needed to be able to have a strong, central organizational structure that these other events, for the most part, lack.
Overall, I think Luminaria was clearly a successful event, with plenty of room for improvement. Many of San Antonio’s best artists were not represented, but I think people got a good sense of the diversity and energy that exists in San Antonio’s artistic communities. And the city spared no expense on capping it off with a great fireworks display off the roof of the Emily Morgan.
We’ll be posting some photos later this afternoon. Stay tuned…
San Antonio’s Luminaria arts night kicks off tomorrow, and the general sense of discontent in the contemporary arts community seems to be growing. I have talked to several artists who were promised funding, and then told at the last minute that their projects will not be funded, forcing them to drastically scale back their projects and/or scramble for private backing. Then there’s the little problem of scheduling the event during Austin’s SXSW, which tends to soak up a lot of attention. This has led San Antonio’s own newspapers to give Luminaria short shrift in favor of covering the star-studded music festival up I-35.
But the biggest problem is the perceived disconnect between the event planners and the actual artists who could make this festival meaningful. Rather than trying to build on existing, grassroots art events like First Friday, Contemporary Art Month, Art in the Hood, or SMART Fair, the city chose to reinvent the wheel. What’s worse, they don’t seem to be listening to the people who are deeply involved in the day-to-day work that has given San Antonio such a rich variety of artist-run spaces and events.
Naturally, part of the problem is money. Some (including myself) feel that at an event receiving a large chunk of city funding, as well as support from Bank of America, AT&T, Ford, and Valero, the artists themselves could hope for more than a $200 honorarium. If even $10,000 or $20,000 (a small fraction of the budget) was made available on a competitive basis, a number of successful local artists might have thrown their hat into the ring rather than sitting this one out. The talking points coming from City Hall point out that artists will be “paid in exposure” — but then, of course, all the established and semi-established artists who already show their work at good galleries in New York and other art centers have no incentive to participate. And so Luminaria has been engineered to showcase artists desperate for exposure, rather than those who have hit their stride and earned some level of national recognition. This approach sells everyone short, and implicitly sends the signal that Luminaria is not a venue for recognized artists. It also ignores the reality that a lot of art takes money to produce — artists have to invest more than just time and energy to realize an ambitious project.
However, despite all this, a number of talented artists are participating in Luminaria, and if the city can provide basic organizational support, the arts night could turn out to be a valuable venue. While some artists are distancing themselves from what seems more and more like a potential train wreck (from the artist’s perspective), others are throwing their talents into the mix to see what happens. And despite what I’m sure sounds like a pretty negative pre-judgment of Luminaria, I’m really interested to see what happens. I’m sure there will be some successful projects out there tomorrow, and I’m sure the city will provide the basic infrastructure necessary for this kind of event. I’m just worried that it will fall short of the potential, and that many artists will be alienated by the lack of respect for their achievements and the realities of their profession. Check back soon for post-Luminaria reactions.
Emvergeoning hit Houston this weekend, with stops at Sicardi Gallery, Blaffer Gallery, the Menil Collection, Lawndale Art Center and a couple of private collections. I’ll cover each destination individually…
Lawndale Art Center
We cracked open the notebook with the a Fotofest show at Lawndale Art Center, featuring Hana Hillerova, Austin-based photographer, Adam Schreiber and Houston-based photographer Chuy Benitez. Though it was meant to be a photocentric installation, Hillerova pulled photos into crystal visions that stemmed from her diamond piece de resistance at Sala Diaz just last year. The photo collage [pictured above] was one of two small pieces that seemed dwarfed by the scintillating, mirrored glass sculptures that stretched nearly 20 feet high.
Benitez captured some absurd Mexican American cultural moments like the starstruck looks of an audience viewing Our Lady of the Baking Pan or a group of young, well groomed mariachis serenading customers at a check out stand in a Fiesta Supermarket. He took a series of portraits of artists and activists in Houston’s thriving Mexican American community. The diptychs bulge at the sides with an unflattering fish eye lens approach. They almost need a timpanist accompaniment for the full, comedic effect.
Adam Schreiber captured the sterility and seeming hyper reality of clean rooms, presidential toothbrushes and filthy, forgotten corners of dormant military compounds. Here’s an example of a star system covered carpet infiltrated by the artist’s sensible walking shoes.
In the project space on the top floor of the Lawndale, William Stewart made a meta photo out of smaller photos of the 3rd Ward in Houston. Prima facie, all the photos seem to come from an eye attracted to hand painted signs and dilapidated structures. With places called “Scientific Cleaners” and “Ardream Restaurant,” Stewart’s photos are simple and sincere in their dual function of documentation and admiration for all things overlooked.
Next stop: Thomas Glassford at Sicardi Gallery.
The new issue of Art Lies should be hitting your favorite news stand soon; but they already posted it online, including my review of the
Triangle Project Space tps show Standing on one foot, and an interesting conversation between San Antonio’s Potter-Belmar Labs (Leslie Raymond and Jason Jay Stevens) and Oakland’s Double Archive (Chris Kubick and Anne Walsh). Enjoy!