It’s that time of year again for me, the end of Contemporary Art Month. Like last year, it is an intense period. This year, I had to leave before the month was over. Seven Minutes in Heaven is my biggest curatorial project of the year and then two weeks later I had a solo exhibition of my new body of work, Practice Makes Perfect, at Plazmo contemporary. As if that wasn’t already enough, there are the tons of exhibits open for Contemporary Art Month. Every gallery and most artists try to exhibit, it’s an important month. Of course I had to go to as many as I could fit in. It is about exposing myself to what people are doing and offering my support for their projects. I also made a major change in my life and left Ruiz-Healy Art. Before determining my next direction, I needed some breathing room.
After my exhibit at Plazmo, there were still shows, including the CAM Perennial 2014 Untitled (Public Display) at the Guadelupe Cultural Center. This was a two-person show of Mark Menjivar and Christie Blizzard. I was one of a few selected for a studio tour by visiting curator Leslie Moody Castro in April. While I wasn’t chosen, I always am glad to have a curator look at my personal work. I may not be right for this particular project, but I may be for something in the future. As a curator myself, I know a studio visit can open up working with different people and offer new opportunities. My friend Alex was also invited to participate in a smaller group exhibition in the Perennial where they took their work off of the walls and walked it around the neighborhood, bring art to the people of the West Side of San Antonio. Blizard gave away pieces of her artwork for free, I took home this pixilated photograph. Menjivar “fixed” candles individually for good luck, wealth, and love, adding a piece of art completed by Blizard. I know Menjivar from when I worked at the Southwest School of Art, so I am always excited to see more of his work. It turns out he only fixed 40 candles, so I was lucky to get one.
One piece I was eager to see was The Lovers, 1928. It is romantic and haunting at the same time. Nearby on display was a photo titled Amor, 1928 that was of two people standing together with their heads covered. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find an image of that on the internet. The image of what was real was beautiful.
However, when I was searching images, I came across this other painting by Magritte and a photo credited as being of Magritte that reminded me of the Amor photograph. I’m not entirely sure of the title, it has been coming up just as Lovers, and I can’t find a date to this particular piece. Sometime, I’m sure I can find some kind of raisonne and get the details.
One reason I’m drawn to these particular images is because I have always been impressed when a photograph captures a surreal moment without digital manipulation. My particular fascination in art is with reality. The last couple of years I have been working with found objects because they are what exists, discarded remnants of peoples lives. During this period exhibited here, Magritte plays with reality in many different ways, including a frame within a frame within a frame, what is (or isn’t) an object, or as in the piece Representation, 1937. Another piece I dedicated some time to, this realistically painted female torso in a shaped canvas entranced me.
This exhibition was amazing. I spent a long time going through, slowly digesting the imagery in front of me. When I was done, I walked through again. There was also a smaller exhibit of his later works where Magritte played with reality through visual texture and patterns, but I was not drawn to them, not like his early works. When I was done at the main building, I decided to head to my favorite building, to see Cy Twombly. Spending time surrounded by the work of Twombly is very contemplative for me. I have written about a previous experience I had at the Twombly Gallery.
This time around I was able to get some images from one of my favorite bodies of work by Twombly, a set of five paintings, Untitled (Analysis of the Rose as Sentimental Despair), 1985. This is another body of his work that consists of one title but are made up of several paintings.
In his despair he drew the colours from his own heart
In drawing, and drawing you his pains are delectable his flames are like water
While I didn’t go to the Dan Flavin installation located in another building by the Menil this time, I did go to the James Turrell on the Rice Campus, Twilight Epiphany. Unfortunately, I lost the photos I took during the the light show. But these two photos from before it began show on a low scale the color theory that Turrell applies.
This was another quick, yet inspiring trip to Houston. Art keeps my thoughts processing and clears my head. I am very fortunate that Houston is so close and regularly has fantastic temporary, as well as permanent exhibits that I love to visit. Being able to just take in the beauty of it instead of having to organize or explain it is such a different experience. At the end of it all, I am able to focus and be calm again.
This was the beginning of three nights in a row of art shows. The first event is at the McNay. It is always nice to visit here, both the grounds and the buildings are beautiful. The permanent collection and travelling shows that come through here are always impressive, as well. The talk today is Artists Looking At Art, featuring Ana Fernandez. Always enjoying her work, I also visited her solo show in Austin, at Women and Their Work, and previously wrote about it. Hunting out the originality of San Antonio, Fernandez presents her take on the authentic parts of the culture here. I learned how her family, particularly her Grandmother’s home, became a pivotal influence to her art, inspiring her original paintings. The home itself became a place of mystery for her early on in her life. Her slide show included many of the photo studies she did in preparation for her paintings, proving these places really exist. These photos were taken from the huge screen in the Chiego lecture hall, so their colors are not depicted accurately and there is some obvious distortion. However, the imagery was so great, I had to include them. Below, the real house is on the left, Fernandez’s painting on the right. While never painting the scene exactly as she found it, she captures the essence of these places, the most important part. This next image is another photo of a real house on the left. On the right is Fernandez coincidentally meeting a man who lives in that house. Randomly, he had wandered into her show at Joan Grona’s, instantly recognizing his dwelling. This photo was taken and printed in a publication. Sharing tales of her methodology, Fernandez searches around the city for her inspiration. Claiming she can never find anything when she is looking for something specific, just getting into her car to drive around reveals all the material she needs. The final part of Fernandez’s lecture took place in front of her painting currently on display in the Frost Octagon, in the front of the building. The standard size of her oil paintings are large scale. It was impressive to see so many of these on display at her show in Austin. I learned this particular piece was inspired by a family party going on as she drove by. The actual photo had a large family in it, but she decided to omit them, creating an eerie feeling of something missing from an event that was already in full swing. Instead, Fernandez represents the missing family by numbers on the chairs. The sole figures remaining are the ghostly silhouettes of two children in the bouncy castle, that were in her original photo. Fernandez gave a great lecture, explaining a lot about her work. Finding out what she was drawn to and why helped me understand how personal her work is and see it from a different view. While changing some details, she is preserving the unique history she has adopted as an adult and artist. From the McNay, I head across town to Bismarck Studios for Franctober-Fest, featuring the work of Franco Mondini-Ruiz. Never having been to this gallery before, I was impressed by its size and what an event they had going on. But of course, I have never been to a Mondini-Ruiz show that wasn’t an event. With beer, bratwurst, and umpah music, this was a fabulous Franco Mondini-Ruiz experience. Mondini-Ruiz typically makes two types of work: oil paintings and assemblages. I have been a fan of the assemblages for a while now, owning two of them already. La Mojada, the first piece I purchased from Mondini-Ruiz, is smart and comical. It is a white porcelain female head, swimming across a cup of tea. Since then, I search through the seemingly endless amount of art he creates for his shows, looking for other pieces that I connect with. Mondini-Ruiz will never be accused of not working on his art, every art show I have ever been to has an insane amount of art that he has produced. Having been to his lecture at SAMA a few years ago and reading his interviews, he says he makes art for all people, all incomes. Primarily making his profits from his large scale paintings, he lets his assemblages go sometimes for a price that is “artist affordable”. Remember, all art is normally negotiable. Seriously, if he had not lowered the price, I wouldn’t be able to afford even one piece. Mondini-Ruiz is quite a character, and easily recognizable in his trademark stripped pants. When I arrived at this show, I didn’t really have any intention of buying anything. I am broke right now, after all. But after talking to him, my husband bought me a new piece I had been admiring, Bubble Boy, in the price range of our other pieces. Mondini-Ruiz even convinced my friend that came with us to buy a piece as well. We probably should have left then, but the we were having such a great time! Eventually, Mondini-Ruiz charmed the pants off of us and made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. We bought another piece, and I left with the biggest assemblage there, the priciest. It was such an incredible deal, we could not pass it up. This was a fantastic and exciting night. I love going out to see art, it is always inspiring. Beginning with a great lecture and finishing up by walking away with two pieces of art that I love, I really can never predict what may happen. Mondini-Ruiz is the artist I own the most pieces from, now owning four. Next is Linda Arredondo and Barbara Justice, having two pieces from each artist. I may have to write a blog about the wonderful pieces that my collection is comprised of. It is a small but growing collection, and are all pieces that I admire.
Second Friday has come around again so I head out to see some art.
One of the artists exhibiting at REM Gallery is Erin Stafford. I have known her since we went to Berlin together a few years ago, when she was finishing her graduate studies. She paints very feminine, classic subject matter, and in this show, displayed them in beautiful baroque frames in contemporary colors. Pearls and jewelry are common themes among her paintings. However, she adds a suggestive touch, updating classic imagery with a more modern, seductive take. Stafford chooses to present us with another view of these female adornments, one not so polished and perfectly manicured. What I enjoy most about this series is her ability be seductive with inanimate objects. When I use words like suggestive and seductive, I expect a portrait, not a still life. I had been considering her for Seven Minutes in Heaven, and this was my first opportunity to discuss this with her. I found out she has moved back to Dallas, but was very excited to be invited to the show.
I decide to check out the art at High Wire Art Gallery. A large space, there are always several artists showing various media. In particular, I notice the photography of Carter Johnston. His unassuming portraits have an interesting take on a personal experience. All of the photos are of people driving in their cars. In his artist statement, he discusses the private world that exists when you are surrounded by four walls of metal, able to push out the rest of the world, only interrupted by other drivers, breaking the magic of solitude. Unaware as Johnston’s shutter clicks, his subjects reveal moments of introspection, withdrawn from reality, if just for a few moments.
I laugh as I see an old, beloved painting displayed. Zagros Memar painted this piece while we were in school, and it has always been a favorite of mine. The imagery of these conservative women with a stud is playful and insinuating. The rawness is very expressive, exposing the secrets that goes on behind the closed doors of society. He has a studio in the back building of High Wire with Holly Simonson and Alex Vargas, but unfortunately it is closed tonight. Normally it is open while they paint or display their art for sale. There is a band jamming together, experimenting with sounds in the open studio area. I know High Wire encourages musicians to jam together, both the owners, Ray and Cindy Palmer can often be found in the middle of the instruments. I have also seen Vincent Valdez join them with his trumpet, although not tonight.
There is also a small space in the front that has paintings, prints, and sculptures for sale, although not a part of the current exhibit. Walking in, there is a portrait being painted of a seated subject. Seth Camm is the artist, explaining to me that portraits are a good way to make extra money. I definitely understand that. I am the queen of making a living from anywhere I can. Still at High Wire, I ran into Thomas Cummins, a photographer that has large scale work currently displayed in the Window Works at Artpace. I was at the opening reception last month and heard him talk about the bridge he photographed. Another Thomas Cummins met his demise off that bridge, so he went and paid a visit. Linda and I recently were going through our artist list and she had brought him up as someone she was interested in having in the show. The three of us have shown together in at least one group show at JusticeWorks last year. He is interested, but a little apprehensive because he is an architectural photographer. I discuss that Barbara Justice is also and she more than rose to the challenge of Seven Minutes, even getting a review of her piece. I tell him to think about it, there still is almost nine months until Contemporary Art Month. He is still interested and I tell him I will get with him to show him the coloring book and reviews from the show. This art evening has been very productive. Anytime I get a little work done on Seven Minutes I am extremely happy. My goal is to have the majority of the artists confirmed by the end of the summer. Now that I have more experience and know better what to expect from putting on a large, independent group show, I am more determined to complete things in a much earlier time frame.
Yesterday was the last day I could make it to the San Antonio Museum of Art (SAMA) to see San Antonio Collects: Contemporary, an exhibition of art from the private collections of San Antonio, including pieces from the late Linda Pace’s collection, before it closes this week. It is an impressive collection amassed here in San Antonio, giving me a rare glimpse into what is displayed in the expensive homes throughout the city. This impressive show includes internationally known artists, but also clearly recognizes the local talent from right here in San Antonio. This show focuses on the contemporary private collections, showcasing that San Antonians have excellent taste in art, and why many artists continue to work and be inspired in this bursting art scene.
Upon entering the room, an expanded accordion by Christian Marclay is the first sculpture to welcome you. To this point I have only seen Marclay’s film work, however, the accordion fits appropriately into his ongoing ideas about sound and music. His video, The Clock, 2010, was well received and reviewed, earning him a place in the 2011 Venice Biennale, leading Newsweek to name him one of the most important artists of today. Extending from the usual size, this expanded piece reminds me that sound can be made by anything and how any sound can be composed into music. A few months ago, I did get to view Telephones, 1995, at the Contemporary Art Museum of Houston. I was unaware Marclay had done a residency at Artpace in 1999, where this piece was created. Proof that Artpace and their guest curators recognizes outstanding talent.
Chakaia Booker is also included in the exhibit. I have been inspired by her work since she gave a lecture at Blue Star when I was an art student. She had completed so many pieces, she just walked around the audience, clicking the projector through her vast collection of images, choosing to show her immense her body of work, only stopping on a few key pieces to discuss specifically. Booker has a piece in the McNay permanent collection that I enjoy going to view. Her works are conversations about the environment, re purposing rubber tires as her primary material. At the lecture, she was asked where she got all of the tires, as she has created some massive public sculptures. Booker laughed, responding that tires where everywhere and free. Since her lecture, I have included rubber to my stock pile of art supplies. She was absolutely correct. They are plentiful and cost nothing but the time it takes to stop your car and throw them in the trunk.
A large portrait of Linda Pace by Chuck Ramirez was displayed. Not the traditional portraiture you would expect, Ramirez did a series of intimate Purse Portraits, revealing the secrets a woman hides and carries around with her in her purse. Louis (Linda), 2005, exposed the contents of Pace’s purse, in a large 60″ x 48″ format. Often very personal, this series exposes a private, yet functional side of his subjects, needing and using the objects carried around, yet the inside of a purse is personal, secretive. Ramirez takes this commercial approach to portraiture, isolating the subject, making it the only thing for the viewer to contemplate without distraction.
Other pieces I enjoyed in this exhibition included two pieces from Robert Longo, an artist that I have always found inspiring. The large, contorted bodies of his subjects are both awkward and entrancing to look at, again, a different way to view portraiture. His subjects are dressed for business while their poses reveal another reality, almost as if they were just struck. In my silhouette paintings, I have been using very feminine imagery, however, I have been interested in a more unusual body image, influenced by Longo, expanding from the more common femme fatale. There are a few people that have expressed interest in modeling for me using a trampoline to get a falling sensation from different body poses. Now if I could just find a trampoline to use…
Another notable San Antonio artist included is Alex Rubio. His huge piece, 4 Horsemen, takes imagery from the Book of Revelations, discussing apocalyptic themes, while updating into his signature style. Representing Pestilence, Famine, War, and Death with skeletal figures, he expands the imagery to include healing remedies for each of these world issues. Also included is a bird representing each of the subjects he tackles on the canvas, a living symbol of the horrors that will one day be the end of civilization. Of course, these are just a few of the fantastic pieces included in this exhibition. There is no possible way to discuss all of the wonderful art work on display, so I had to just highlight a few that stood out for me. Artists were represented from coast to coast, including Jeff Koons turning childhood memories into iconic sculptures, and a sleek, polished industrial board from John McCracken. This has been one of my favorite shows curated by David Rubins at SAMA. I am so glad I was able to make it, before this exhibition closes later this week.
The other night was a membership party at Artpace. I am a member of Artpace because I love all of the contemporary ideas they support. I love their residency program and how it brings art from around the world to San Antonio. I have also seen some great opportunities taken with their annual travel grant. Artpace is a place I always expect to see fresh ideas being experimented with. As per usual, there was great music and plenty of drinks flowing on the rooftop. But the star of the evening was Agosto Cuellar, Designer Extrordinaire. He has successfully run several businesses and has been designing for years. Tonight, Agosto created a fun photo shoot for willing participants. There was no way I could resist! Here is my finished photo taken by Erik Gustafson:
But it took a team of people to create these portraits. It began with Agosto designing you. He had several interchangeable pieces that he had created. Each person got a different look, making this a unique experience. He creates original styles that are fantastic.
Next was off to hair by Angie Riojas. Adding several layers of hair was another part to put together Agosto’s vision. It took many different smaller pieces to shape an entire head of hair. As you can see, it was quite a high wig on me by the time it was complete. It was so much fun!
It was supposed to then be make-up, but since I was next to last, there was no make up left. The last bit used on the person before me. So of course Agosto got creative and took over, deciding to use tulle on our faces instead of makeup. I think I preferred this much more, giving an aire of mystery. Besides, I prefer to be different from the crowd anyway. This was such a memorable evening! The best part was discussing Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013. Yes, there has been talk of the sequel event, since before the first one had even occurred. I love that there has been such a positive response to the show. At the Artpace party, I confirmed my first artist for the next show, Vanessa Centeno. She is a fantastic artist from San Antonio currently going to grad school at the University of New Orleans. It was luck that I ran into her, she was in town for less than a week. The next day I ran into Agosto in Southtown and got to tell him what a fantastic time he had created. One thing led to another…and I have now confirmed artist number two for Seven Minutes in Heaven 2013. I am very excited to have Agosto included in the show. He always brings his originality and electricity to all of his events. I am a big proponent of having a show with many different mediums. To have a fashion element will keep this event fresh and unique. All new artists, all new location. This should be just as exciting as the first one!