Jesse Amado's McNay installation plays clever, deconstructive games with language

Jesse Amado's site-specific installation Beauty Spot, currently on view in the McNay's Brown Gallery, delicately confronts its audience with a tangled conceptual conundrum. Though the installation initially purports to examine the ambiguity of language, all the while it


February 4 - April 27
Part 4 of the Artmatters series
The McNay Museum
6000 North New Braunfels Ave
reveals a much more tantalizing truism: the inherent self-indulgent subjectivity involved in the individual pursuit of meaning.

On each enormous wall of the Brown Gallery, austere graphite letters are sandwiched into cryptic anagrams. Laminated cards disclose the origin of these esoteric forms as quotes, while tall, mirrored walls in the center of the space reflect the deconstructed utterances back at the viewer from every angle. The viewer is immediately compelled to search this reflection for some latent hint of meaning; but in doing so, they have been duped. Amado's post-minimalist reduction of words into pure form absolves language of its formal purpose. Literal meaning is suspended, and despite this fact, the human need to impart definition in a traditional context overtakes visceral logic. And like Narcissus, audiences end up staring into a mirror at nothing but their own reflection. Suddenly the title Beauty Spot takes on veiled meaning.

The mirrored central structure doubles as an axis, cleverly attaching Amado's empyreal installation to the prim museum surroundings. Majestic Rodin sculptures and the elaborately landscaped grounds of the McNay suddenly exist within the same liminal space as Amado's work. The mirrored structure exists in four segments, gapped in two corners to reveal a small room. Its pure, black interior, complete with a small seating area, is at once inviting and totally inaccessible - a physical element that effectively reinforces Amado's theme of subjective ambiguity through its detached existence.

Amado is known and respected in elite contemporary art circles for his cool implementation of post-minimalist discourse. Unlike many conceptual artists, his attention to detail reveals a painstaking level of craftsmanship. His deconstructive tendencies, however, place his work into a purely academic context often off-putting to the average museum attendee. This makes Amado a rather ambitious choice for the first contemporary artist to create site-specific work for the McNay Museum. •



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