Artpace: International Artists-In-Residence 13.2: Part 2

It was a great evening. The energy was electric, the work engaging. Three artists, each working in their own way with a “sense of place” and what that conveys. Every space was buzzing with conversation and curiosity. The artists’ panel discussion was SRO. Just love it when this happens! I sat in on the conversation prior to seeing the individual gallery representations. The next time I will investigate the work first in order to put the talk in better context, but no matter. It worked. I was ready to check it out.

Paglen's "Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 2, Build 1)

Paglen’s “Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 2, Build 1)”

Trevor Paglen, hailing from New York, shares a glimpse of his very complex oeuvre. With “Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite (Design 2, Build 1)” we see a model for a satellite that can actually be placed into orbit as a “secondary payload.” Wow. I have to disclose a bit of geek worship on this one. I was raised south of Houston in the hoods surrounding Johnson Space Center – NASA. I grew up with the kids of scientists who were pioneers of the US space program. My “briar patch,” shall we say. Paglen’s work is dense with scientific detail and precision. He literally works with teams across the world to bring his “art projects” to fruition. In his estimation, each piece takes 5 years to bring to completion. Frankly, it boggles my mind. Brilliant. I found the work so compelling that I had to find out more, and I recommend that you do the same. Spend some time mining his website. Start with this Vimeo about his “The Last Pictures Project.” You will be blown away, too. There’s much to absorb.

Tossin's "Brasilia"

Tossin’s “Brasilia: Cars, Pools, and Other Modernities”

Next, Brasilia! Clarissa Tossin is such a nomad. She is now in Houston, shining her light on Texas. The 1970’s VW Brasilia (the “people’s car” of Brazil)  was parked in the middle of the space, laden with the tools employed to clean other people’s pools. Film loop running. Driving. Driving. Driving. What? Why? Aaaahhhh! Lightbulb moment. The film is of the passenger’s-eye-view of what it is to drive around Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer’s master planned city, the ex nihilo capital of Brazil, created in 1956. Today, it is a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, and Tossin’s childhood home. The pool cleaner’s gear was a great foil for creating the connection between Brasilia and Los Angeles – the only site of an Oscar Niemeyer designed structure in the USA – The Strick House. You see, Niemeyer’s politics kept him from entering this country for decades. The government was a little sticky about Communists, what with the Cold War, and all. Anyhow, suddenly, you find yourself no longer in Brasilia, but in California, land of the statuesque and towering avenues of palms. And pulling up to a private residence, presumably to clean the pool – clever. I really kind of hate that word, but it applies.

The piece de resistance of this installation was a letter to the architect by the artist. Unfortunately, this letter will remain unanswered, but Tossin’s query to Niemeyer was quite poignant. The present owner of The Strick House is, unfortunately, one of the “fashionably interested.”  This term recently came out of a great conversation at La Tuna, indicating one who is only interested in the fashionable or signature weight of Art and not any real consequence or thought of the impact that Art can and does make. Please, read the letter below, then you will understand. I wish Niemeyer had been around to receive Tossin’s letter – he passed from this planet just this past December at the age of 104… Well, I won’t be completely harsh. The current owners are taking good care of their investment.

Tossin's letter to Neimeyer - 17 June 2013

Tossin’s letter to Neimeyer – 17 June 2013

Pak Sheung Chuen, from Hong Kong, presents stream of consciousness. He enjoys exploring where he is. Finding creative thought on a human scale. During the upfront, he did acknowledge that this was a little more difficult to do in the heat of San Antonio. Face it, we are not the greatest town for walking everywhere you want to go and mass transit is a bit weak, although he did utilize our bus system.

Upon walking into the space, your eye searches for what it is supposed to find. And then you see the fine print. A thought for the day, so to speak, for each and every day that he spent exploring San Antonio. Thoughts not necessarily about San Antonio. Just thoughts, challenges. “Traveler’s Notes: San Antonio (2013.5.28 – 2013.7.12)” basically sets the viewer on a path of discovery. The art is this case is written word. This is where Pak begins as he journals each day, and we are along for the ride, so to speak. Following the ant trail of suggestions and observations about the room, we are all set on the same path. Although, like the religions and spirituality he explores in his work, what any given individual takes away from the experience is personal and unique.

Another aspect of this piece is journalistic. Artpace has collaborated with the San Antonio Current to document a series of works and observations over the period of several weeks. As print journalism is definitely an aspect of how this artist works, you must experience these pieces to further glimpse Pak’s particular point of view – curiouser, and curiouser…..

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Pak’s “Traveler’s Notes: San Antonio (2013.5.28 – 2013.7.12)” – detail

Pilgrims on the path

Pilgrims on the path

I suggest you high-tail it on over to Artpace to experience this installation for yourself. You have until September 15….

As a matter of fact, the next installment of FRESH ART FIRST Summer Concert Series is happening on Friday, July 26. Go and check out the party for sure, and check out the art while you are there. None of us would want to be simply fashionably interested now, would we?

To see the complete photo album from this event, click here.

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