Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
“Texas Uprising,” which focused exclusively on the state of contemporary sculpture in Texas, clearly showed just how diverse contemporary art is here. The exhibition boasted over three dozen artists, most of whom submitted outstanding works. I found Alex De Leon’s “Welcome Home Series,” a clustering of simple, small dwellings constructed of homeless people’s signs, to be powerful, timely, and timeless. The scribblings of these lost men and women, who write such things as “Dr. Said No Working—Anything Will Help,” “Homeless Not Hopeless—Will Work For Food or $—God Bless,” “No Food—No Money—No Home,” are universally sad and compelling. De Leon approaches the homeless and buys these signs for up to three dollars, seeing this more as a working relationship based on trust, trade, or commerce than exploitation, and I agree. Above this construction of miniature houses, De Leon added two speakers with recorded sounds garnered from places where the homeless live. In this instance, he recorded beneath a highway overpass. His installation was easily the most powerful work in the show.
Chris Sauter’s Sleeper was also thoughtful. The upholstered sofa covered in a fabric bearing an all too familiar military fatigue pattern, with its pull-out bed redone in added-on topographical forms, is extraordinary. Here again, as in the case of De Leon, the artist asks poignant ethical questions with a supremely narrative form.
Anne Wallace’s Reflecting Pool, composed of three small containers of tar dressed with brass edging, had the extra added effect of smell. Tar, which signifies one of the most intense forms of long-term organic waste fermentation, makes an odd nod toward the state’s oil industry. At the same time, Reflecting Pool refers to public art and the perceptions we have about acceptable design and materials for such accessible places.
Bale Creek Allen’s West Texas Tumbleweed is both austere and delicate. In making a casting in bronze of an actual Texas tumbleweed, Allen manages to bring the bronze object to a very unfamiliar place. Cathy Cunningham’s Mad Prophet of the Nowadays was one of the show’s most comedic works. A steer skull, with a red bulb inside lighting up its eye sockets, sat atop a pile of salt surrounded by another local icon—barbed wire. A red neon, comic strip-type voice bubble contained the words “I’m mad as hell and I ain’t gonna take it anymore,” bringing to mind the famous line in the movie Network. However, in this context, the saying conjured up some local, inside joke. The Art Guys’ two miniature golf holes (one a par one, the other an impossible vertical par infinity) also afforded a bit of humor, as well as participation.
The show, which was vast and a bit overcrowded, had an outdoor installation at nearby St. Paul’s Square. George Schroeder’s One, composed of rusted steel, dominated one area. The form, which looked like an enlargement of a heavy-duty foundry tool, was as graceful as it was immense. Phil Simpson’s Kings Hill Country offers another compelling use of rusted metal. Here, with a weird juxtaposition of supports and bent and torn sheet metal, the artist portrays a most graceful, even poetic representation of a hillside. Lee Littlefield’s Queen Mimi’s Exotic Flower II is funky and fantastical, while Robbie Barber’s Goddard Nomad V, which looks like an intergalactic, albeit rusted 1950s style camper is brilliant.
The fact that all of the works here were accompanied by sketches and notes was commendable. The drawings enable uninitiated visitors to see, to some degree, the artist’s process: how they think and plan. Someone who has never made a formal sculpture could see how a relatively simple idea can become a major artistic expression.
Blue Star’s Gallery 4, which features work from either up and coming or established and experimental San Antonio artists, showed Linda Pace’s cacophony of popular culture, Green Peace. Pace took green objects—stuffed animals, a rubber duck, a water pistol, a frog key chain, Hulk action figures, doggie dishes, a rubber fish, a toilet bowl brush, plastic turf, hair bands, a hula doll, a feathered headdress, gardening gloves, a rubber snake, and on and on—and organized and assembled them into a rectangular expanse that redefined obsessive. It made me wonder about the Collyer Brothers. If they had possessed such a vision, a plan, could they have created something from their hoarded detritus? Pace’s Green Peace offered a constructive outlet for the need to accumulate, an alternative to the destructive effects of an acquisitive nature.