ART Magazine. San Antonio, Texas.
What does a chalkboard texture painted board bursting with handwritten words in chalk by Garza, a black and blue large-scale painting with rich textures by Whitby, Velasquez’ vivid colored flora and fauna morphing within surrealist paintings, beautiful color interactions on Anderson’s abstract works, Ziegler’s stunning encaustic textures, Buckle’s hyper-realistic depictions of metallic paper, Mc Donald’s impressionistic contemporary everyday landscapes, and Cartiness Johnson’s familiar scenes that scream color, form, and perspective have in common? San Antonio.
We have had some very interesting personalities from outside of the city curating shows with local artists this year besides the regular programming at Artpace and the new adjudication process at Luminaria. We had the Inaugural Perennial: Natural Abstraction at the Guadalupe Cultural Center for Contemporary Art Month curated by Frances Colpitt, critic, curator, and art historian and former resident of San Antonio who now resides in Forth Worth, Texas, we had Peter Tippi, Chief Editor at Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine, curating the San Antonio Art League and Museum’s 82nd Annual Exhibition, and lately, Barbara MacAdam, Deputy Editor at Artnews, curated San Antonio Painters, which is currently on display at Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. The last two exhibitions mentioned, consisted of a general selection from local artists with no theme or subject and both curators were impressed by the diversity of styles, backgrounds, and media in our local art scene. The Inaugural Perennial did address a particular theme, perhaps because of the familiarity of Colpitt with local artists, but still, the wide range variety of styles, backgrounds, and media was present. There is an interesting exploration when outsiders are asked to select work in such a close-knit community such as San Antonio. Since politics and “who knows who” play a big role, the same artists and artist combinations are often seen in local galleries and exhibitions. Therefore, when an outside curator is asked to select work some preconceptions are eliminated creating a different outcome and an interesting perspective.
San Antonio Painters showed a very strong selection that, interestingly, seemed innovative to the public even though all the artists were local. Some of the visitors said they had never seen work by some of the artists on display, which might prove that we need new faces and more objectivity choosing art for its real quality. “Luckily, I saw these works as an outsider. I don’t know how these artists fit in the San Antonio scheme. I don’t see them in a context. I really like to look closely at work, so I came in open-minded with no preconceived notions, and I did not connect it to anything. I don’t know how they all connect, except, that they maybe connect with my own sensibility. There was a lot of sincerity”, said Barbara MacAdam. MacAdam put up a high-quality compilation of works that “spoke by themselves” and followed an art historical dialogue. “I can’t say about San Antonio. I can say its very non-provincial art. It’s part of art history and it is aware of what other people are doing, but it does not try to be part of any other national trends. I think it is very distinctive and very personal. This work just spoke through itself”, added MacAdam. As I mentioned before, the show was extremely diverse. San Antonio Painters features abstract, surrealist, figurative, expressionist, impressionist, hyper-realist, conceptual, and minimalist art. It is interesting to compare Peter Tippi’s impression on the diversity of San Antonio and see how MacAdam experienced the same. “The artists are all very different: a lot of them come from elsewhere, they are not part of any particular trend, they have very personal statements and everything is very well done too. Very well-crafted”, said Barbara.
San Antonio Painters presents a top-notch quality of artists that might have never been seen together before. With a very generic title and a general selection without a particular theme or substance, the exhibition turned into a practical and straightforward compilation of good art. This practical assemblage was positive since it gave our community an unbiased (or differently biased) point of view but also negative because it showed a lack of in-depth engagement (perhaps because San Antonio Painters is not a very enthusiastic title) and understanding of our community and the deeper relationships between the artists. However, this outsider selection mimicked many of our drawbacks, such as not being an active part of the national art picture by staying isolated within our community or the tutti-fruity styles and currents that neither mature into a movement of its own nor dissipate as mere experimentation. We see influences from art history within local art, but we see very few art history in the making. The outsider input is very important for our growth, but perhaps we could learn to be more objective and sincere about choosing our artists and when analyzing our art scene in general. Our community is in fact very diverse and, because it is a close, friendly, and comfortable community, it tends to segregate itself ignoring what is happening out in the world. Our perspective is slowly shifting outside, which can also have negative effects since we might lose our isolation and the distinctive creativity that is characteristic of that situation. We want to keep our creativity, but we also want to be relevant nationwide and internationally.
San Antonio Painters will be on display until August 18. For more information go to Blue Star’s new website http://www.bluestarart.org/
Artists Participating: Andrew Anderson, Roberta Buckles, Marcus Garza, Carmen Cartiness Johnson, Elizabeth McDonald, Sammy Velasquez, Sandy Whitby and Rachel Ziegler.