Mysteries of San Antonio Street Art : Bikes?

Posted by on May 31, 1:31 am | Category: acquisitions, adventure day, announcements, art + bikes, art paparazzi, borders, opportunities, possibilities

*update (june 08, 09) I ran into Daniel again and he is now claiming that the bikes will be temporarily displayed throughout the city, and locked in place.  He will be showing them soon as an entire group.

Be on the lookout, local artist Daniel Saldana, known most prominently in our community for his unfathomably plated metal objects, has taken to turning his excess metal into art bicycles, and leaving them about town.  I’ve seen them left up at SAMA, and Blue Star now, both times without a camera on my person.  I caught him at Red Dot with his newest creation, this time, chained to the pole outside.  Previous bikes were left to be picked up by lucky takers, and ostensibly this new one, I was told was “not finished,” and would be given a similar fate after completion.  If you have other images of these art bikes in their native habitat, give em up, via our contact form.

Daniel Saldana Art Bike outside of Red Dot event at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center in San Antonio Texas

On Kawara is not On Twitter

Posted by on May 27, 11:40 am | Category: conceptual art, net.art

I noticed today (via AFC) that there’s an On Kawara Twitter account which announces “I AM STILL ALIVE #art” every day. Then I noticed that the announcement is made every day at 11:55 AM, and that it is posted via a Perl script (Perl Net::Twitter). As it happens, last night I was flipping through Lucy Lippard’s Six Years, and I came across On Kawara’s postcard project, in which he sent the time he woke up each day stamped on postcards (this went on for 4 months):

Nov – 1 1969 I got up at 4.28 P.M.
Nov – 2 1969 I got up at 3.13 P.M.
Nov – 3 1969 I got up at 1.15 P.M.

Given the personal nature of this work, I figured either this isn’t On Kawara’s Twitter account or he is seriously changing up his working methods. A Google search later, I find the confession:

The conceptual artist On Kawara has 101 followers on twitter at the time of this writing. I have only 20-something. But I am On Kawara on twitter. Or rather, On Kawara on twitter is a Perl script that gets automatically run once a day on a server in a cabinet in my living room. I haven’t done anything to publicize his activities on twitter. All he does is announce, “I AM STILL ALIVE” once a day. He doesn’t follow anyone. Yet, somehow, it seeped out into the twitter community. The “Perl Net::Twitter” client name should be a dead give away.

The interesting thing about this (and my original reason for launching it) is that it blatantly negates the whole idea behind On Kawara’s “I AM STILL ALIVE” messages. Whereas those did indeed confirm that he was still alive, this doesn’t. It’s an automated process that he doesn’t even control. Were he to die, he would continue to announce “I AM STILL ALIVE”, everday, on twitter. So it really does two things; by falsely confirming that he is alive, it casts doubt on the issue but it also keeps the notion of him actively announcing that he is alive, alive.

Contemporary Art Month

Posted by on May 25, 7:17 pm | Category: uncategorized

This is a quick reminder to all San Antonio galleries to submit your Contemporary Art Month events to the website this week. Any events submitted after this week will not be included in the print version of the calendar.

River Reach sneak peek

Posted by on May 22, 4:55 pm | Category: art paparazzi, possibilities, public art

A little collection of photos from our upcoming river reach expansion project here in San Antonio.  I was lucky to be able to go on the official tour with Ben a few weeks back and get a first-hand view of the unfinished project.  There has already been a lot of local press covering the new reach and a blog dedicated to it exclusively on Mysa.com, so we had been notably lax in trying to get our images up online.  We’ll start with the under bridge panel installation by Stuart Allen.  Built of tightly woven metal strips painted in various colors, these panels slightly shimmer and change colors as the viewer walks past them, or floats underneath them by river barge.

Stuart Allen River Expansion Project San Antonio Texas

Continue Reading »

Rew-Shay Head Project

Posted by on May 22, 1:29 pm | Category: adventure day, art paparazzi, performance art, possibilities

Nate Cassie gives Jonathan Monk a haircut, prior to the opening of “Rew-Shay Hood Project Part II,” at Artpace.

(photo by Justin Parr)

Nate Cassie gives Jonathan Monk a haircut in the Hudson Showroom

Easy Rider

Posted by on May 13, 11:14 am | Category: arts organizations, interviews

Potter-Belmar Labs interviews Matthew Drutt

April 21, 2009, San Antonio TX

Matthew Drutt rides through cycles of change.  That’s really what he does. He served at the Guggenheim during that institution’s unprecedented decade of expansion, branding, and acquisition, including the new locations in Bilbao, Berlin and Las Vegas.  (He was also one of the main people responsible for the controversial and wildly popular Art of the Motorcycle exhibition, there.)  He then became curator at the Menil Collection in Houston during the difficult years that followed the death of legendary founder, Dominique de Ménil.  In 2006, he came to San Antonio as the Executive Director of ArtPace, and a year later, founder, Linda Pace, passed away.  Matthew has been leading ArtPace ever since, through unprecedented times, with deftness, and a sense of purpose both cool and passionate.

We began by talking about those Guggenheim boom years.

Matthew Drutt: I was part of a very small crew at the Guggenheim that planned these sort of satellite museums.  I was brought in almost immediately to work on Bilbao, which was just beginning to evolve from a drawing on a napkin to a set of plans for a real building.  The way [then-Director of the Guggenheim] Tom Krens worked tended to be in a very mentoring capacity, but with a very small group of people.  There was this crew of five to eight people at the beginning, that of course grew as the project started to come on line, but the cast of characters who worked on proposals to build Guggenheims around the world was quite small.

That was a very exciting time to be there, especially in the beginning when we hadn’t built anything yet, and it seemed like anything was possible.  At a certain point there were proposals coming in from all over the planet from people who wanted a Guggenheim Museum, especially after October of ’97 when Bilbao opened.  In the months that ensued, it was like we had invented the paper clip, and everybody wanted one.  And so, I was literally churning out proposals to build Guggenheim in Lima, Guggenheim in Seoul.  It was just amazing.

Emvergeoning: And there were moments when such a vast empire seemed possible?

All of those moments seemed possible because Tom– he kept a lot of balls in the air, and he’d get these people to the table.  You had meetings with the head of Sony and the head of Samsung, the CEO of Deutsche Bank.  Some of them happened.  Deutsche Bank happened, there’s the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin.  Bilbao opened and became this huge success that was kind of our calling card.  We had a lot of leverage at that time because we had done it, and everybody, as we were going towards the opening, was doubting it, poo-pooing it, calling Krens a megalomaniac.

There was a lot of nastiness in the way that the Guggenheim was perceived as a wanna-be, and then we did it. We opened Berlin.  And then we had plans for a Gehry building in New York, and we had heads of state coming to open our exhibitions, and partnerships with the Hermitage and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, and the Louvre.  Suddenly people started to… not be silenced by this, but the wind went out of the sails in terms of what a dumb idea all this was because it was working, and the money was flowing.

But what can I say?  It was the ‘Ninties.  So it was kind of like the mortgage business.  It was booming.  And it really didn’t blow up until Las Vegas opened on the heels of 9-11.  And that’s what really undermined the whole thing because the Las Vegas project was based on a very sound business model regarding tourism in Las Vegas, and what people were looking for.  9-11 killed Las Vegas tourism, and casinos closed.  So if casinos are closing, a museum doesn’t have a whole lot of… juice.

But those were the days when I would get a call at 4 o’clock in the afternoon telling me I had to take a trip to Germany, and I’d say “That’s cool, when?”  “Tonight.”

(laughter)

“Go home, grab some things, and be at the airport by 7 o’clock.  You’re going to Karlsruhe to do a presentation, and you’re coming home tomorrow night.”  I would keep a bag packed for little overnight trips.  So that was a very exciting time to be there.

Emvergeoning: Has it ever helped an artist to be from Texas?

Continue Reading »

Appropriation of My Demon Brother

Posted by on May 2, 4:03 pm | Category: arts organizations, photography, possibilities, responses/reviews

Just back from New York, and I must say I agree with Holland Cotter that it’s enlightening to see the Met’s “The Pictures Generation” show alongside the New Museum’s “The Generational: Younger than Jesus.” I also agree with him that the former is a much stronger and more carefully curated group of work than the latter. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s quite right to say that the “generational parallels are so many as to be worrisome. Has new art come no further than this? Is it still tilling fields all but farmed out in the past?”

Paul McMahon - Untitled (Nixon)

One reason to question this reductive view of current appropriation-driven art is articulated well in an article by Jan Verwoert published a couple of years ago in Art & Research. In it, Verwoert makes a distinction between the appropriation art that was produced in the 1970s and ’80s (see “Untitled (Nixon)” by Paul McMahon above), and another kind of work that emerged in the 1990s. The younger group of artists employ similar strategies as their predecessors, but with different implications. The basic premise is that during the Cold War history had frozen due to a superpower stalemate, and artists such as Robert Longo and Cindy Sherman analyzed culture through the lense of a detachment from history. In the ’90s the movement of history sprang to life again, and the act of appropriation became something more like the act of invocation: “To utter words for the sake of analysis already means to put these words to work. You cannot test a spell. To utter it is to put it into effect.” Artists had to wrestle with the ghosts of the past (a “multiplicity of histories”) as well as the life of the moment, as they dealt with a quickly evolving relationship to history and its connections to the present.

It seems to me that since 2001, this sense of living in a web of histories has only accelerated: from September 11 to Obama, China’s waxing cultural influence to the perpetually imminent collapse of Pakistan, commentators are stumbling over themselves to declare the dawn of new era after new era. It has the urgency of the 1960s, even if the cultural shifts are of a different nature. The ’60s produced a large body of art — both Pop and Conceptual — which resisted metaphor and was later synthesized by the ’70s “pictures generation” artists. But at the same time that this work resisted metaphor, it simultaneously helped open up space for a reinvigoration of metaphor and symbolism, a space that was filled by artists from Kenneth Anger to Martin Luther King (see “Invocation of My Demon Brother” and “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop“). Our moment now is different from the ’60s in many ways, but I think we are seeing a similar opening for a resurgence of the poetic, largely lacking from the artwork of “the pictures generation.”

Cao Fei - Deep Breathing

So while I found the pieces at the New Museum generally stale and incoherent (see “Deep Breathing” by Cao Fei above), it’s not because the artists are simply rehashing  Barbara Kruger or Jack Goldstein. It’s because the artists in the show generally don’t meet the poetic demands of the moment. They’re caught, unable to take the extra-historical viewpoint of their ’70s counterparts, but unwilling to make the poetic commitments of earlier artists. That’s not to say that other young artists aren’t invoking the past with an incantatory symbolization: it’s just not apparent in the vast majority of the pieces in “Younger than Jesus.”

Aaron Curry - Cosmic Knot #2

Aaron Curry’s sculptures and prints (see “Cosmic Knot #2″ above) at Michael Werner wove found material and invocation of modernist artworks together in a way that revealed, in the words of Bruce Hainley, “an artist who wishes to make thrilling rather than pernicious the attempt to wrest from the global barrage something inappropriable, irreducible, and questioning, which acknowledges what comes before it, culturally, and from where it arrives without merely desecrating it.” I sense in Hainley’s words (which come from the catalog for the show) a suggestion of the kind of invocation Verwoert proposes. Curry’s show is a thriller, raising the spectre of modernism dwelling somewhere in the water of our reservoirs — not as a chilling memory, but as a living ghost prepared to inhabit our fields, our livestock, our bodies.

UPDATE: This interview with Bruce High Quality Foundation in Art in America seems too pertinent not to add here. From the discussion of Sept 11 as their “creation myth” to the invocation of multiple histories, there are a lot of parallels between this post and the interview. Although I visited the Bruce High Quality studio during my trip, their recent show had just come down, so I missed their new work both in the gallery and in the studio — otherwise they may have made it into the original post.

“Six Years Later”

Posted by on April 27, 8:49 pm | Category: essays, links, responses/reviews

My review of the current Unit B show has been posted over at Glasstire:

While [Matt] Hanner tells us exactly what he means to convey with his symbol (which he refers to as “the 8th element”), [Stephen] Lapthisophon lets us gather meaning from his free-form visual associations. One potato lies in a nest, conjuring the idea of a particularly large and lumpy egg; others are scattered around as if they were stones gathered by Robert Smithson for one of his non-sites. Hanner’s symbol, rendered in three sculptures using neon, coiled metal wire and burnt incense sticks respectively, asks how materials influence meaning. We are asked on the one hand to synthesize meaning from the repetition of a simple object in various contexts, and on the other to analyze shifting signification as an abstract concept is made material.

And the award for funniest Twitter feed goes to…

Posted by on April 21, 7:07 pm | Category: silliness

@trelvix seems to be one of the few people to really grok the medium. (This is apparently the guy behind the hilarous Chris Walken Twitter feed).

Translating Loss

Posted by on April 20, 11:46 am | Category: architecture, arts organizations, celebrations, performance art, public art, r.i.p., video/film

When I was working on my first art review back in 2006, I saw a version of Edgar Arceneaux’s video “Old Man Hill” at the Artpace potluck that launched his residency there. The residency project (which later wound up in the Whitney Biennial) wasn’t as impressive as this simple homage to a man he never met: his father’s father. Arceneaux spelled out the only thing he ever knew about this man — that he was called “Old Man Hill” — in silver balloons, which hovered over the war-torn hills of Sarajevo. One by one the balloons released and twisted toward the sky. The cameras followed the balloons wistfully, clinging to these insubstantial forms seeking oblivion. Occasionally the cameras cut to people going about their lives in the city below, people looking away from these hills with their burned out buildings and piles of rubble.

Edgar Arceneaux: Old Man Hill

Linda Pace, who had not yet embarked on her battle with cancer, purchased this piece for her collection. Other than that potluck, the video had never been shown publicly; but before she died, Linda asked that it be screened at a special time, with the artist present. The Linda Pace Foundation arranged to screen the final version of this video for Linda’s birthday, last Thursday. Arceneaux was flown in to stage a performance along with the screening. The site selected for the project was the Mission Drive-In, a once-popular drive-in theater now dilapidated, graffiti-strewn, and slated for destruction. (It will be replaced with a new public library).

The evening of the event was overcast, windy, threatening rain. We got there early, and wandered around the old drive-in, its pavement giving way to grass, but its screens still fully intact. One by one, silver balloons were filled up and placed in front of the main screen, spelling out words that were unfamiliar to us, apparently a translation of “Old Man Hill” into Serbian Bosnian.

The translation of words hinted at another translation: the bombed-out hills of Sarajevo where snipers once found cover were translated into a theater in San Antonio, equally desolate, undergoing a wholly other kind of violence. This isn’t to equate the devestation of war to the disappearance of a drive-in, but to translate loss between cultures. Nearby the old theater, the Mission San Jose holds memories of a violence closer to that of Sarajevo: genocide, slavery, subjugation. But to most of us living in San Antonio today, the loss of place is felt more fully than the tragic, large-scale loss of life experienced by those who lived in Sarajevo in the 1990s or San Antonio in the 1700s. The slow erosion of the identities of our cities happens to be the kind of loss we are stuggling with now, the loss that we still don’t quite know how to grapple with.
Edgar Arceneaux looks over the performance / screening of Old Man Hill

Eventually, as it grew dark, Arceneaux introduced the video, speaking of his search to learn something of his grandfather, a man neither he nor his father ever knew. This was a search to connect his identity to something larger, something more historically rooted. He spoke of his brief relationship with Linda Pace, who worked to create places in San Antonio that connect to what came before them: an old car dealership downtown becomes an artist residency space. This is the act of translating place — it doesn’t make sense to have car dealerships downtown anymore, but these spaces can be translated into something that is meaningful today, that turns loss and emptiness into another kind of value.

The video started, and as we watched Old Man Hill float away into the hills of Sarajevo, we also watched indecipherable words from another place float away into the San Antonio night, sometimes brushing slightly against the aging screen. And even as they disappeared from view, these words became embued with meaning. This was the final screening at the Mission Drive-In.

Edgar Arceneaux's video and performance "Old Man Hill"

(Photos by Justin Parr, courtesy Linda Pace Foundation)

UPDATE: I’m honored to have Devin King respond to this in the second post on his new blog, Dancing Young Men From High Windows. Hopefully I’ll have time to respond to his post soon, but in the meantime I’ll point yall that way for an interesting reaction.

“Distinctively Japanese”

Posted by on April 10, 11:36 pm | Category: uncategorized

There are other reasons to be cautious about explaining Japanese artistic practices as direct continuations of time-honored customs. The artistic concepts purportedly shaping all Japanese art (wabi, yugen, iki, mono no aware) often turn out to have complex and ambivalent histories, during which they were redefined for various purposes. More generally, a great many “distinctively Japanese” traditions, from emperor worship to the rules of sumo, were devised in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries by elite factions forging new national identities for a modernizing society. We are not in the habit of explaining contemporary Hollywood style by reference to northern European Renaissance painting, so why should ancient aesthetic traditions be relevant to twentieth-century Japanese film? Someone may respond that whereas we have lost touch with premodern customs and ways of thinking, the Japanese have retained a living relation to theirs. Yet this idea itself is no less an invented tradition, with sources in twentieth-century Japanese ethnology and cultural theory.

— David Bordwell, Figures Traced in Light

Mayoral Candidates Discuss the Arts

Posted by on April 1, 8:40 am | Category: uncategorized

Yesterday, this Mayoral debate got ridiculous at moments but, overall, was a nice forum by the Westside Arts Coalition to get a future Mayor to make some type of commitment to the arts. Anyways, a section of the discussion can be seen webcasted at SA4mayor.com

The Obama Art Scorecard

Posted by on March 25, 9:40 am | Category: arts organizations, politics

The New York Times has a good overview of changes in arts policy and funding in the new Obama administration. This is the first I’d heard of the new White House arts adviser position, which seems similar to an idea Tyler Green proposed just after the inauguration. The arts adviser may have a bit less scope than Green envisioned, however. From the Times:

Mr. Ivey, who led the transition team devoted to the arts and recently met with Mr. Dale, said he expected the White House position to involve coordinating the work of the [National Endowment for the Arts], the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Now here’s just one paragraph from Green’s intelligent discussion of the arts adviser he hoped for:

For example, in the wake of the No Child Left Behind law, arts education in America’s public schools has become a federal issue. There are internationally important arts treasures on government land, including Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in Utah and Mount Rushmore, in South Dakota. Both face conservation issues. American museum directors increasingly run into thorny diplomatic issues while negotiating the potential return of antiquities to their countries of origin, but they have no place in the federal government with which to consult even though there are diplomatic implications to their decisions.

This would take someone with quite a bit more authority than just coordinating NEA, NEH, and IMLS. But we can hope that with time this adviser could become responsible for helping non-arts-specific agencies such as the Dept of Education, Pentagon and the National Park Service deal with tricky art-related issues that fall into their laps.

Much of the rest of the article deals with funding, pointing out that although Obama and the Democrats found $50 million for the NEA in the stimulus bill, and another $10 million in the omnibus spending bill, its funding is still lower than it was in 1992 (when it received $172 million).

There’s also the issue of not having appointed a chairman to the NEA, but this is a problem that is hardly specific to that agency; the Obama administration has been plagued with empty desks throughout numerous agencies, most troublingly the Treasury.

One thing not mentioned in the article is the immense quantity of bad art Obama is inspiring.

Channeling FitzGibbons

Posted by on March 24, 2:31 pm | Category: architecture, design, intellectual property, public art

UPDATE: I just talked to Bill FitzGibbons about an error and some clarifications that need to be made in this post. First off, FitzGibbons is being sued by the City of McAllen. FitzGibbons’ lawyers had drafted a letter to the city to discuss the apparent infringement of his rights, and the city responded by suing in federal court, requesting a ruling affirming their legal right to install this piece.

Apart from that glaring error, FitzGibbons pointed out compositional and conceptual similarities between the pieces. I have only seen two photos of the underpass in McAllen, so I’m just passing on FitzGibbons’ description. Compositionally, the McAllen piece is apparently very similar to Light Channels, in terms of the colors it uses and their sequencing. (In the Current article, McAllen officials are quoted as saying it is different because they did not employ the “chasing” effect that can be seen in Light Channels). Conceptually, Light Channels was designed to connect downtown San Antonio to the near east side, which is cut off by a highway. Highways create psychological barriers, the underpasses mostly being associated with vagrants, but Light Channels turns this into a safe, welcoming passageway. Similarly, highway 83 cuts through McAllen, dividing downtown from the mall, the country club, the airport, and, just a little further south, from the border with Mexico. The underpass lighting in McAllen is at the intersection of 83 and S 10th St, a major street that leads the attractions listed above. FitzGibbons’ argument, then, is that conceptually as well as formally, this work mimicks Light Channels. Architectural lighting has been used on underpasses in a number cities; it is the form and purpose of the lighting that this case is dealing with, not the use of lights.

The original post is below:

The Current did some research into Bill FitzGibbons’ lawsuit against the city of McAllen, Texas for apparently ripping off his “Light Channels” piece in downtown San Antonio. From what I can tell, it’s pretty clear that McAllen’s new installation is at the very least extremely derivative of FitzGibbon’s work, and the city officials really ought to be ashamed for so blatantly ripping him off.

But at the same time, I’m not so sure about how successful this lawsuit will be. The lighting system FitzGibbons uses was developed by Philips, and is used for architectural lighting all over the world. If FitzGibbons can sue McAllen for sticking the lights in a highway underpass, whats to stop Fisher Marantz Stone (designers of the lighting on Brooklyn Borough Hall) from suing FitzGibbons himself for a similar use of Color Kinetics on the Alamo? This highlights the differences between designers’ and artists’ attitudes towards intellectual property. While a designer may regard a cheap imitation of her work with contempt, she’s generally not going to sue the offending party unless it’s an exact replica. Artists, I think, tend to feel a stronger sense of ownership over their work and even their concepts.

This may prove to be an interesting legal battle, as it seems it will be fought in something of a legal gray area. Of course, I’m not a copyright lawyer, and the case could be a lot more clear cut than I assume.

Mrs Eaves XL

Posted by on March 24, 1:55 pm | Category: design, essays, typography

Emigre expands one of my favorite font families with some new faces that are better suited to longer texts:

One area where Mrs Eaves seems less comfortable is in the setting of long texts, particularly in environments such as the interiors of books, magazines, and newspapers. It seems to handle long texts well only if there is ample space. A good example is the book / CD / DVD release The Band: A Musical History published by Capitol Records. Here, Mrs Eaves was given appropriate set width and generous line spacing. In such cases its wide proportions provide a luxurious feel which invites reading. Economy of space was not one of the goals behind the original Mrs Eaves design. With the introduction of Mrs Eaves XL, Licko addresses this issue.

Read the whole thing for an interesting discussion of the development and refinement of this Baskerville revival. Baskerville himself is an interesting character, a master typographer / printer / binder / paper maker whose greatest work was the Baskerville Bible, despite the fact that he was an atheist who saw himself as advancing the cause of rationalism through his type designs.

Tales from Luminaria Weekend

Posted by on March 16, 10:25 pm | Category: adventure day, art paparazzi, arts organizations, in yo face, party photos, performance art, possibilities, public art, rock!, silliness

Well, after a good deal of rain, some unexpected cold, and a little bit of worry, Luminaria 2009 turned out to be a really nice night in San Antonio.  Aside from my experience with the overbearing police force (who wanted to tackle me for riding my bike down an empty LONG stretch of closed off road) I found this Luminaria to be much better organized and more satisfying to take part in.  I carried my camera and photographed the projects I was able to come into personal contact with.  Heres a selection of those photos, with my garbled commentary.

Vaago Weiland & Laura Varela on the Alamo, Luminaria 2009

Laura Varela & Vaago Weiland collaborated on the Alamo this year.  Vaago (from Mönchengladbach, Germany) said, in doing research on the Alamo, he kept coming across these photos with tents in the surrounding area.  He was determined to surround the old Mission with 200 tents, however, upon closer inspection of the site was only able to squeeze in 54.  Lauras video projection played alongside Vaagos sculpture, within the top of the Alamo.

Hyperbubble at Luminaria 2009

Hyperbubble was the only real music I stood still and watched an entire set from.  Not for lack of interesting options, but more in awe of the reaction of the crowd to their music.  I heard more than several proclamations of “WHAT IS THIS?” and “THIS is the best band EVER!!” loudly from behind.  I couldn’t have been happier.

Justin Parr Projection at Luminaria 2009

My own piece (shamelessplug) was projected onto this old building(I was told it might have been called the Turner Magika Theatre?) facing out into the Hemisphere park, I showed the current version of my “Portrait of the Artist as a City,” a project I took up as a result of receiving a grant from the Artist Foundation.  The video is made up of a constantly shifting set of over 9000 still photos, and encompasses more little parts of my life than I can begin to explain before losing your attention.

Ansen Seale 100 ft Photograph River

This year, the real showstopper for me was Ansen Seales 100 ft photograph of the San Antonio River.  Contained inside the San Antonio Convention Center, It set the tone for the more conventional “walled,” section of the show.  After talking to Ansen for a few minutes I was able to extract from him that this image was composed of 86,400 individual “slitscans,” made by his own homebuilt digital camera, and weighed in at a whopping 1.2 gigs for the file itself…and I thought trying to get my computer to juggle 9000 still photos at one time was tricky.

Rebecca Dietz seen performing in the Luminaria GOBO

This fantastic ghost image of a dancer is local artist/instructor Rebecca Dietz.  She was one of the roving performance artists, and a recent FL!GHT Gallery featured artist.  I nearly missed her moving by me, and was glad I noticed who it was at the last minute.

John Mata room at Luminaria 2009

John Mata, part of Leslie Raymonds New Media program at UTSA, built a cardboard room and filled it with books and media discussing…New Media.

Judith Cottrell & Gary Smith Luminaria 2009

Judith Cottrell & Gary Smith built this human like glowing form, and scared children for the duration of the night.  I enjoyed watching.

Holly & Bryson Brooks Married with Paintings Luminaria 2009

Holly & Bryson Brooks decided it was best to be “Married with Paintings.” So they walked in at 6 on the dot, started working inside their makeshift studio(replete with audience the entire time), and by the time I rolled around with my camera, they were already at this point within each of their portraits of the other.

Ethel Shipton inside the Dillards Windows Luminaria 2009

Back out on Alamo Street, Ethel Shipton had filled these two store front windows with her characteristic puffed objects, this time being birdhouses.

Kelly O'Connor Luminaria 2009

Kelly O’Connor was just a few windows down.  My camera was having trouble not blowing out the detail in this one.

Victor & Susan Pagona

I stumbled upon this projection by Victor Pagona & his wife Sarah Susan, an artist I’ve heard of for years, but never met in San Antonio.

Leigh Anne Lester window Luminaria 2009

Sadly, I could only get this much of the smaller Leigh Anne Lester window displays without the detail of the sculptures being blown out by the harsh jewelry store lighting.  These window displays will be available for all to see for the next month along Alamo Street.

Michele Monseau across from the Alamo Luminaria 2009

I stumbled over this Michele Monseau projection right across the street from the Alamo, hidden on a side wall.

Just some general Luminaria 2009 Madness

These patterns & lights can give you a general idea of what everything else looked like, that was not affected in some way by an individual artist or group of artists.

Thomas Cummins lightboxes

These two large scale Thomas Cummins Lightboxes, while difficult to do justice with a photograph, were mindblowingly detailed in person.

General Luminaria Madness

Another fine example of the general lighting scheme found that night.  Its almost like that time I had to shoot photos at a certain laser light show..

Jenny Browne Gives away BOOKS

Jenny Browne gave away 4 shopping cartloads and a truck bed full of books, for FREE, as her piece.  It was awesome to see people swarming the truck and carts, trying to get at free books, while Jenny sat on the roof watching & laughing.

Tom Otterness makes an appearance in San Antonio

..and finally to end the weekend, Tom Otterness made an appearance with his newly unveiled(in our locale at least) public art piece, “Makin Hay’,” mentioned a few weeks back here at Emvergeoning.  Some things I’m sorry to say I don’t have good photos of, the first being the EXCELLENT Contemporary Art Month installation by Randy Wallace in the basement of the old Beauty College building on Travis Street.  I shot many photos of it, but none of them quite did it justice.  I was also sad to miss crazy Mel Feldman and his cultural arts Kaleidoscope.  Somehow 1000 artists all in one place on one night is just a LITTLE hard to keep track of.

Texas Biennial

Posted by on March 11, 6:21 pm | Category: adventure day, art paparazzi, arts organizations, graffiti, responses/reviews, sound art

Justin and I made it up to the third Texas Biennial last weekend, and managed to catch everything except Buster Graybill’s giant catfish, which was buried in some kind of enormous boating competition. The big picture take-away is that the Texas Biennial is committing itself to a more unified curatorial vision than in previous years, and to that end brought in writer / curator Michael Duncan from LA to curate the two group and four solo shows. The group shows were, however, not very unified, and I’ve found it difficult to tease overarching themes out of the scattered media, aesthetics, and ideas represented. One theme that did emerge for me is that much of the work expresses a kind of personal mythology, and hews away from overtly political statements. We also saw a lot of the more “traditional” media on display: well-crafted paintings, drawings, and sculptures were everywhere, and few installations or “post-media” sculpture-collages to be found. By my count, there were five videos, one sound sculpture, and one PowerPoint presentation out of hundreds of works. I haven’t quite figured out if this springs from the tastes of Michael Duncan or is supposed to be a reflection of the state of Texas art (although one catalog essay hints at the former: “This is not your average Whitney Program/Cal Arts/Artpace project” says the curator in reference to Lee Baxter Davis’ solo show) [UPDATE: This brief interview with Michael Duncan explains his approach to curating the Texas Biennial].

Here’s the run-down, with photos by Justin Parr:

Texas Biennial group show at MACC

The group show at the Mexican American Cultural Center (run by Marfa Ballroom alum Simon Orta) was spacious and well-lit, with a lot of paintings, but also a nice sound sculpture by Justin Boyd outside the entrance:

Sound sculpture at entrance to MACC (Texas Biennial)

This sound sculpture plays recordings from the nearby river and powerlines to represent the flows of energy around the building — the physical sculpture references the architecture of the MACC itself. We didn’t get any photos from the opening of the group show at Women and Their Work because it was insanely crowded (and, searching on Flickr for “texas biennial 2009″, I get a bunch of photos… from the MACC, so maybe this wasn’t just a problem for us). Check out this slideshow at Women and Their Work’s website for some pics of the art.

The solo shows certainly felt more focused, and for the most part fit together better as a group than the group shows did. I’ll start with Jayne Lawrence, San Antonio artist and co-director of the Cactus Bra gallery, who represented the east (?) south* with a beautiful exhibit at MASS Gallery:

Jayne Lawrence sculpture at MASS Gallery (Texas Biennial)

This is a huntress, although if you look closely you’ll see a large phallus between her legs — although Lawrence refers to all these creatures in the feminine, they are transgendered. This show consists of three human-size sculptures and a number of smaller drawings playing with ideas of mutation, a sort of biological collage across genders and species. Hunting and sexuality play big roles in these pieces as well, generating some really striking sex-and-death imagery. Here we have a creature who has been bitten in half by her lover, praying-mantis style:

Jayne Lawrence sculpture at MASS Gallery (Texas Biennial)

Lawrence combines textile, ceramic, plastic, papier mache, and other media in these highly textural and disorienting creatures. The drawings play with very similar organic themes, although some include architectural elements, hinting at a twisted Maker behind the scenes.

Lee Baxter Davis’ solo show at Pump Project consists of larger watercolors, embodying a mythology as dark as Lawrence’s, although of a somewhat less fantastical and more historicized nature:

Lee Baxter Davis at Pump Project (Texas Biennial)

Strange narratives slip through the viewer’s fingers in this dense, magical-realist universe. It isn’t clear to me whether Davis is fictionalizing historical vignettes like Walton Ford, or spinning fresh tales out of a broad cultural experience. In any case, these works carry the tragic weight of a civilazation cutting into the wilderness, and fighting to stake out a stable place in the midst of chaos.

Lee Baxter Davis at Pump Project (Texas Biennial)

Moving on down to Big Medium, we encounter some large paintings that don’t have as much of the mythological or fantastical feel of Lawrence’s or Davis’ shows, but do play with the sexuality, violence and moral ambiguities contained there:

Kelli Vance at Big Medium (Texas Biennial)

Representing the south east*, Vance’s beautifully rendered paintings from photographs depict psycho-sexual lesbian encounters, which, as Duncan points out in the catalog, are fraught with ambiguity. Themes of violence and humiliation are played against expressions of pleasure in ways that resist moral judgment. Vance is opening up private spaces that feel pure in their honesty, more direct than Lawrence’s fantasies or Davis’ narrative mazes. These scenes are radically intimate, without the weight of history or the complications of the world to get in the way of the pure relation.

Kelli Vance at Big Medium (Texas Biennial)

Finally we come to the West Texas show, Will Cannings at Okay Mountain. And here’s where the thematic development falls apart for me:

William Cannings at Okay Mountain (Texas Biennial)

This is a steel sculpture inflated like plastic, or rather, over-inflated in this case, and burst along the inner seam. Personally, I couldn’t help thinking of Jeff Koons’ metal inflatable sculptures, although Michael Duncan was careful not mention those in the literature. It is largely a Pop affair, and it’s difficult to see how this show fits into the larger Biennial. The craftsmanship, though, is very tight, and Cannings put together a strong group that bridges the divide between Pop and Minimalism to some extent (one piece even directly references Brancusi):

William Cannings at Okay Mountain (Texas Biennial)

This post is getting pretty long, and I’ve got some other obligations this evening, so I’m going to save the outdoor pieces for another post. But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with some nice graffiti we stumbled on when we took a wrong turn on Shady Lane:

Rakun on Shady Lane (Texas Biennial)

Bacato on Shady Lane (Texas Biennial)

* Corrected thanks to commenter Salvador. That’s what I get for trusting the catalog…

artpace Internship

Posted by on March 10, 11:01 pm | Category: opportunities

Summer 2009 Undergraduate Internship Applications Due
Artpace seeks college and university students to participate in internships for academic credit. Summer internships are unpaid and run for 8 weeks with a minimum commitment of 10 hours per week during office hours (Monday-Friday, 9-5pm). Internship opportunities are available in the following departments: Archives, Studio/Exhibition, Director’s Office, Curatorial, Education/Public Programs, and External Affairs.

Summer 2009 Graduate Internship Applications Due
Artpace San Antonio seeks two motivated graduate students studying in fields related to art history, museum studies, or art education. A $2,500 stipend will be offered to each student for the two-month, full-time internship (June/July 2009).

Please email publicprograms@artpace.org for more information about the program and how to apply by March 16, 2009 at 5 p.m.

The Eyes of March

Posted by on March 10, 5:44 pm | Category: adventure day, coverage, responses/reviews

I’ve spent the last two weekends in Austin for the No Idea Festival and then the Texas Biennial (I hope to have impressions from those up this week, so stay tuned). This weekend San Antonio takes the stage with with some massive events: LACMA’s Phantom Sightings (featuring San Antonio artists Alejandro Diaz and Cruz Ortiz) travels to the Alameda on Friday alongside Caras Vemos, Corazones No Sabemos, the same day SAMA opens a Ry Cooder-commissioned piece by Vincent Valdez and an installation by John Hernandez. Saturday brings the second annual Luminaria arts night, which seems to be more expansive and better-organized than the first.

For background on the well-received Phantom Sightings, see Christopher Knight’s review in the LA Times, and some photos on Flickr.

We’ll do our best to post reactions and reviews in a timely manner, but we’re getting blasted with art from every direction down here in South Texas…

San Antonio Film Festival

Posted by on March 9, 4:42 pm | Category: opportunities, video/film

I don’t know what you win but there’s a San Antonio contest for film makers at safilm.com.

Saving Dan Goddard

Posted by on March 6, 12:21 pm | Category: art paparazzi, coverage

The Current reports on Blue Star director Bill FitzGibbons‘ attempt to rally community support for saving Dan Goddard’s job as art editor at the Express-News. Goddard had been at the Express-News for over two decades before he was swept away in a massive round of layoffs at the Hearst-owned daily (according to this the paper eliminated 165 positions, including 75 from the newsroom — word on the street is that they are merging operations with the Houston Chronicle). During the time that I’ve been paying attention, he’s generally been considered a reasonably well-informed, but unambitious art journalist. In conversation, he hinted that his desire to cover smaller grassroots art spaces taking risks was discouraged by his bosses, who wanted mostly safe, factual reviews of museum shows. Since the layoffs, Elda Silva seems to be covering the visual arts, with brilliant, insightful posts like this (the first post covering visual art in almost 2 weeks — astute readers may notice we’ve removed Art Beat from our blogroll).

It is disconcerting to have the only daily paper in San Antonio all but abandon visual art coverage. But at the same time, it’s pretty clear that the Express-News never saw critical arts coverage as an important part of its mission, and that Goddard didn’t have the will or the leverage to change that. I agree that art awareness in San Antonio will suffer due to the loss of Goddard at Express-News, but I’m hopeful that this gap will inspire fresh blood and new critical perspectives to enter the arena.

SNEAK PREVIEW – Tom Otterness “Makin’ Hay” in San Antonio

Posted by on March 2, 3:22 pm | Category: adventure day, art paparazzi, opportunities, public art, rumors

After going through my old emails last night, Ed Saavedra and I realized that one of the press releases that had somehow slipped through the cracks was for a 2 year San Antonio exhibition by Tom Otterness (known to me because of his hard-to-miss 14th St Subway installation in NYC.)  “MakinHay” is down on the Southside in one of my favorite empty fields next to the San Antonio River/Mission Trail, and near Mission San Juan.  The release states that the piece will be unveiled on March 15, 2009.  I called up a few folks this morning and heard that he had already been in town and that it was close to, if not fully, installed.  Here are a few photos of what I saw when I got down there:

Tom Otterness Makin' Hay in San Antonio, TX

Tom Otterness Makin' Hay in San Antonio, TX

Tom Otterness Makin' Hay in San Antonio, TX

Tom Otterness Makin' Hay in San Antonio, TX

Wrestling 4 Adam

Posted by on February 26, 4:47 pm | Category: adventure day, announcements, art paparazzi, borders, photography

a flyer Adam handed me before I left

Last Friday night I was assigned a real doozy of an assignment for the San Antonio Current, Wrestling 4 Christ (..errr warriors 4 christ?)  an event that sits in a church parking lot and claims to both spread the word of Jesus Christ, and offer free live wrestling to the community.  Since that story and those images have yet to go to print, I’ll refrain from posting them here.  While waiting for the event to begin, I noticed a tall skinny blond guy, looking a little bit out of place with the crowd, walking with a pad and pencil in hand.  Not sure yet who was writing the wrestling story, I quickly scanned my internal archive of SACurrent writers who I’ve met or seen in person, and came up blank.  After sitting a little to far away from all of the gathering crowd, I decided to make my way closer and maybe see what kind of christian wrestling gossip I could catch up on.  I found a rock wall to lean on a hundred feet from the ring, turning my head, I noticed the writer who I had previously thought to be out of place.  I asked him who he was writing for and he said something to the effect of, nobody, himself, a comedy book, etc..  He was from Britain(the Isle of Wight), and had just gotten to San Antonio the day previous.  He mentioned that he had come to town just for the wrestling event, and I thought for a second he must be a real religious wrestling zealot.  After continung our discussion, I decided there was no way he could really be that much of a kook, he seemed pretty level-headed really… what was the deal?  Johnston walked up (the SACurrent writer for the story) and I soon lost track of my discussion with Adam.  We all turned our attention to getting inside of the backstage trailer full of Christian wrestlers.  Once inside, coated in the dank smell of sunday school portable turned middle school locker room, Johnston asked Adam specifically what the book he was writing was all about and if he had a publisher?  In a quiet way Adam tells us he is the maker of “The Girl of My Dreams.com,” and had embarked on a worldwide hunt for a girl he woke up one morning and drew a picture of after seeing her in a zombie killing dream.  He had received some sort of lead that his girl might be here, in San Antonio, at the Wrestling 4 Christ event.  What a journey!  Me and Johnston felt ridiculous elation at meeting such a one-off traveler.  He was leaving in the morning, on a train to Washington.  He was even wearing a neon green wrestling jumpsuit under his clothing, perhaps to flag her down? Finally, He mentioned to us the connection between his website, and “the NY Girl of my Dreams guy, who broke up with his dream girl after only 2 months..” and what he thought of that, “..Lame, wheres the story in that?”

Adam Pacitti, on the hunt for his dream girl in San Antonio.

Adam Pacitti, on the hunt for his dream girl in San Antonio.

I left Adam after watching most of the wrestling, my girlfriend wanted to get dinner, and I had the shots I needed.  Wrestling, even the pseudo-safe Christian type makes me squirm to watch.  I’m such a pacifist, I stand there watching, cringing in pain and thinking to myself, “isn’t somebody going to stop that guy?”  Adam seemed to think I was going to miss out, and Johnston got some fabulous quotes out of the backroom sweaty guys for the upcoming story..  I don’t think I’ll ever understand what the draw is..but I hope it gets Adam one step closer to his Dream Girl.

San Antonio Beauty College, 02.21.09

Posted by on February 24, 4:01 pm | Category: art paparazzi, music, sound art

jason kahn performs at the former san antonio beauty college, saturday feb. 21st.

jason kahn performs at the former san antonio beauty college, saturday feb. 21st.

this is what the stage looked like post-show.

the stage, post-show.

apologies to annette krebs and chris cogburn, who were too blurry to post.
(photos: a famous cell phone photographer; lamps by saavedra + coltrane.)

Jason Kahn’s “San Antonio Beauty College”

Posted by on February 19, 2:09 pm | Category: architecture, music, public art, sound art

Posting has been light this week because I’ve been helping Jason Kahn set up his sound installation downtown on E Travis St (which is officially opening this Saturday). Kahn, a Zürich-based artist, has been working with sound as a material for years, in both performance and installation contexts. The idea is to activate existing spaces in a way that reveals unnoticed qualities, architecturally, environmentally, and perhaps socially.

In some senses “San Antonio Beauty College” has a strong relationship to Max Neuhaus’ Times Square piece; it is unmarked, and mostly invisible (if you look closely you’ll spot some small speakers); it uses abstract textural sounds that change as you move around them; its significance in the environment is meant to shift as other sounds move along the street. But socially, it feels very different. Times Square could hardly be further from this little piece of Travis street in terms of the amount of foot traffic and the socio-economic makeup of that traffic.

The block of Travis where he is installing this piece (titled “San Antonio Beauty College”) is between Broadway and Alamo. Although it is near the Express-News building, and around the corner from the popular Twin Sisters café, we’ve noticed that no one who has a home seems to walk on this little stretch of Travis Street. The space has become a kind of social eddy, as the employed flow down Pecan or Houston Streets.

As I’ve been publicizing this installation, which is meant to be experienced from the sidewalk in front of the building, I wonder how the existence of the piece will impact the social space it inhabits. Will the people who ordinarily walk down this street notice the subtle sonic textures that Kahn has engineered to be concealed and revealed as the city sounds ebb and flow? Will it attract visitors from nearby businesses, or just the occasional art observer? I’ve often wondered if we’re too limited in the ways that we think about using public art: a monument here, a mural there. Have we overlooked the power of small, almost unnoticeable environmental responses to shift the social landscape? I don’t expect this installation to have much impact in that regard, but if you see me sitting in Twin Sisters watching the sidewalk all day, you’ll know what I’m doing.

By the way, check our event listings to the right for more information on Jason Kahn’s performance this Saturday.

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