By Sarah Fisch
This blog post brought to you courtesy of iced coffee and Paul’s Boutique!
I hit the First Friday art show openings on actual-First Friday this month instead of on First Thursday. I hadn’t done First Friday in a long, long time… I mostly avoid it because I have trouble focusing on art amid throngs of people, and partially because parking and shit is such a drag. I newly live in Southtown, though, so I could walk to the fracas, which I enjoyed doing.
Also, I’d spent First Thursday, instead of gallery-stalking, reclined on a beanbag chair at Artpace, watching Guillermina Zabala’s presentation of Soy Cuba, a gorgeous piece of filmic work produced in 1964 by director Mikhail Kalatozov at Mosfilm. Mind you, it’s nigh on three hours of Soviet-made propaganda — reductive as hell, and apparently not all that beloved by actual Cubans at the time of its release-- but with some of the most gorgeous cinematography this side of Kurosawa.
Soy Cuba, in addition to narratively justifying the Revolution (sugar cane workers exploited! University students martyred! Peasant farmers bombed, then joining the glorious army!) seeks to answer a question I’ve had a long time: “Is there a single solitary unattractive man, woman or child in all the land of Cuba?” (Answer: yes! They’re American Imperialists, though, wanting to buy both Cuban dancer’s vaginas and their humble crucifix necklaces.) Soy Cuba was presumably supposed to be forward-looking, but in its extolling of virtuous farmers, virtuous prostitutes, and its voluptuous adoring gaze on the countryside, it’s a sort of Cuban fantasy sprung from the mind of a… not even a Rusian Revolution-era artist, more like a 19th Century Russian, actually. Pre-revolutionary Empire. Like Cinema by Turgenev.
But at any rate, Soy Cuba is truly worth seeing, if you can find a copy…The DVD Guillermina screened for us was in Spanish, dubbed in Russian, with English subtitles, making for some unintentionally funny moments: like a Cuban female character utters “No,” over which the Russian –dubbing man’s voice intones “NYET,” then, after about an 3-second lag, the yellow English subtitle appears: “No.”
((Paul’s Boutique lyric digression: “…Is your name Michael Diamond? No, my name’s Clarence.” …Sorry.))
OK, so, I walked to Blue Star for First Friday, both to see the shows, and to get in on some gang warfare! Or, as in this past Friday night’s case, to check out the end product of what is, arguably, some affluent-older-white-people paranoia: vastly increased police presence, the likely result of a Southtown meeting about the supposed “gang activity” last month (the QueQue covered this issue here — check out our Mixxed Media video this week, too).
And I get the First Friday objections by some King Willie/Southtown residents, I do; if you own a Victorian house you’ve lovingly restored from near-wreckage, you’d rather said house get neither peed-on nor tagged. Very reasonable. Furthermore, these First Friday objectors may remember the actual, brutal, prolonged San Anto gang wars of the 80s and the St. Mary’s Strip shooting, etc, and be justifiably wary, therefore
…of elote carts? $3 earrings? And you know how horchata makes people CRAZY.
I’m being a little bit glib, and this is why, according to various e-mails, certain King Willie-ers don’t read the Current: we find this controversy a little bit funny. No doubt I would not find being shot, peed-on, or even hit with a windbreaker “funny.” THEN I’LL BE SORRY. But still…having watched a couple of the videos people took of the “gang fights,” it seemed mainly to be teens hitting each other with windbreakers. To which an affluent (and likely white) Southtowner might understandably retort, “First Friday used to be a respectable art walk, and these kids hitting each other with windbreakers and munching elote, while not demonstrably Crips, are not “art-buyers,” either.”
Well, neither am I.
Few reviewers of contemporary art can afford to actually buy any, and yet I had a good time on Friday night with many, many other people who were neither buying art, nor peeing on the shrubs (that I saw). San Antonio likes public celebrations! And for the most part, we get along—white, brown, art-buying, elote-selling, stroller-pushing, boy-cruising, or whoever —remarkably well! First Friday’s growth as a public event has less to do with gangs and crime, I feel, than with the dearth of public space to enjoy ourselves in. Public space for everybody, not just art-buying demographic (and who says elote isn’t art?)
But in any case, there were a shitload of cops out on Friday (not in the actual gallery spaces, though), a striking and novel situation duly noted by most media outlets, including those in whirring news helicopters overhead. Sitting on my porch between about 5:30 and 7, I must’ve seen 20 cop cars, and witnessed about 4 parking citations. Hopefully this one-night crackdown-as-performance-art fiesta (sorta like Luminaria solo-curated by Tom of Finland !) will both appease the frightened and discourage the rowdy, and now things can get back to normal. Including: I’ll probably go back to attending First Thursday for the art, and First Friday for la Tuna and Casbeer’s.
AND NOW, THE ART I DONE SAW.
…BUT FIRST, ANOTHER LYRIC DIGRESSION BROUGHT TO YOU BY TOO MUCH ICED COFFEE AND PAUL’S BOUTIQUE:
You're all mixed up, like pasta primavera
Why'd you throw that chair at Geraldo Rivera (man)?
NOW ART, FOR REAL.
1. Beili Liu at Three Walls Gallery.
A native of Jilin, China and graduate of University of Michigan’s MFA program, Beili is now an Assistant Professor at UT Austin.
Her mixed-media installation at Three Walls Gallery, composed primarily of intricately pulled, entwined, and hung wool fibers, is entitled “Miasma” and I found standing before it t a very stirring, curious experience; provoking both thought, and an engaging conversation with Beili Liu herself, about “femininity” in contemporary art — as a positive quality, not just a first wave reaction “against” something. In Liu’s deconstructed skeins of wool there’s a perceptible “woman’s touch,” like a gesture towards traditional knitting, a rumination on the repetitive and the domestic, but also an inquiry into the sexual (hair?), and even the ghostly (smoke?).
Continuing Liu’s philosophic bent and delicate touch with materials was “Lapse”, Alongside “a 4-panel mixed-media —painting? let’s call it?— that hung alongside “Miasma”, composed of layers of delicately-burnt vellum mounted on birchwood.
Seen from afar (though not that afar-Three Walls ain’t big) it recalled stalks or grasses or something, even evoked motion, something strewn by a natural process. Which it is: which art is.
Go look at her website for her other pieces—there’s one entitled "Void"which also uses her meticulous, unexpectedly light burning ritual/technique, upon numerous layers of silk organza. Gorgeous stuff, subtly sly, and deeply thoughtful.
Michele Monseau, Three Walls gallerist (and, incidentally, one of the members of the Artist Adivsory Board of Contemporary Art Month —the other board members are Andy Benavides, Ben Judson, Michele Leslie Raymond, and Jason Jay Stevens –more about this transition in an upcoming post) encourages you all to phone up the gallery and arrange to come see the show. REALLY AND TRULY! She does NOT mind.
BEILI LIU: MIASMA
A SITE-SPECIFIC INSTALLATION
Three Walls Gallery
106 D Blue Star Building B
call for an appointment
Through March 27
...Shadrach, Meshach, Abednigo.
2. Leona Scull-Hons at Cactus Bra
In the very same neck of the (Blue Star) woods as Three Walls is Leigh Anne Lester’s Cactus Bra Gallery, now in its fourteenth year. I’m guessing it’s curatorial coincidence, but like Three Walls, Cactus Bra’s hosting a site-specific installation using natural materials in primarily black by a female artist. TREND??
Leona Scull-Hons was in effect there Friday night, and is a candid and charming artist to speak to. Her work definitely had none of the polished elegance of Liu’s, but wasn’t trying for it either; instead, a massive, inverted, ceiling-hung tussy-mussy of black spraypainted mistletoe was meant to serve as a sort of impromptu altar under which, Scull-Hons hoped, people might find reconciliation.
Wait. Reconciliation? What about Christmas, and kissing, and green, and all that? Scull-Hons schooled me that the kiss under the mistletoe, though grown to indicate romantic kissing, grew out of a tradition….well, here, from her artist statement:
“Mistletoe has been a symbol of peace and forgiveness for centuries. In the past, if enemies met by chance under mistletoe, they were required to put down their weapons and declare a ceasefire (if only for one day). This custom later morphed into our present-day tradition—kissing beneath mistletoe.”
Alright, then. And after talking to Scull-Hons, her open-hearted community-mindedness is as palpable as that hanging mess of black mistletoe. Take a look at these images sent me by Leigh Anne, which emphasizes the installation’s interactive use (compete with hanging-down headphones playing love songs) rather than its Object-ness:
So it would seem the proximity-forced comparison of Liu’s abstract, academic (yet handmade) works with Scull-Hons inexact, somewhat muddled, yet exuberant piece isn’t as easy a fit as at first I thought. Interesting sidenote: Scull-Hons at first experimented with metallic treatment of the mistletoe, but ended up painting it black for technical (adhesive, as I recall) considerations, and came to re-frame the work in her own mind as more leaning towards the sorrowful and Victorian. Interesting progression.
To kiss me is to take me in.
Through March 21, 2009
cactus bra SPACE
106 C Blue Star
3. The third show I ducked into was the “Self Image” self-portraiture show
by the ARTsmart Students, curated by Alex Rubio at Dayna de Hoyos’ space, Stella Haus Art Space. It’s a truly inspiring and terrific show by some real creative talents, and I plan to attend the opening Saturday March 28th 5-8pm and talk to some of the artists for the in-print arts lead. Stay tuned
Here’s an image from the opening, courtesy of the photographer, Troy Wise:
That’s Alex Rubio himselfon his cel phone.
And here’s a list of the fantastic ARTsmart students, whose work you should definitely see:
Congrats on a great show, everybody. See you on the 28th.
‘Til then, don’t gang fight, or pee on anything.