Breaking the narrative mold 

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Mary Agnes Rodriguez' paintings take a literal approach to the subject in Changing the Face of Domestic Violence, a group show on view at 1906 Gallery through November 3.

Two South Flores shows bridge the figural gap

Chances are good that the people who went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 already had a beef with Bush. Likewise, if you're reading this you probably have an interest in art. Two San Antonio shows break the mold this month, with philosophies that embrace those of all faiths - art worshippers and non-art worshippers alike.

1906 Gallery's current exhibition, Changing the Face of Domestic Violence: From Hidden Corners to Public Light, is part of the P.E.A.C.E. Initative's month-long series of events that call attention to National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Curated by Patricia Castillo, the Initiative's executive director, the exhibition features local artists Susan Oaks, Le Green, and Mary Agnes Rodriguez.

Green and Rodriguez's works are narrative and figural. While modern art junkies may find some of it too expressionistic, they are honest statements about an emotionally charged theme. Green exhibits several dramatic paintings with dark subjects, but her two prints are standouts. Lottery Night is edged by a variety of screen-printed scratch off lottery tickets. The center shows an ambiguous family scene with an empty refrigerator yawning in the background. A man holding a beer can blocks our view of a woman who evasively twists away. Here the lottery tickets may imply hope of escape or, conversely, a domestic brand of Russian roulette.

Changing the face of domestic violence
10am-5:30pm Mon-Fri, 11am-3pm Sat
Through Nov 3
1906 Gallery
1906 S. Flores

En Cada Cabeza ... Un Mundo
11am-5pm Fri-Sat
Through Nov 4
Gallista Gallery
1913 S. Flores
Rodriguez was lead artist on a mural project at Zarzamora and San Fernando which was a collaboration between the P.E.A.C.E. Initiative and San Anto Cultural Arts. Here she exhibits tightly painted canvases that resemble murals on a small scale. She goes directly to the theme, with subjects like flyers mailed to the community in Stop Family Violence and parade marchers in P.E.A.C.E. Initiative in the Cesar Chavez Parade.

Susan Oaks fills the center of the gallery with fiber sculptures that add visual softness. Up close, however, the viewer sees the contrast of hard materials like rusted spikes that pierce the sculptures. The brilliant red coils of The Mean Mother form a nest for nails rather than baby birds. The sculptures' size and soft fuzziness makes you want to scoop them up and pluck out their sharp bits. Oaks provides similar fiber nests for the Initiative to give out as "Phoenix Awards" to survivors of domestic violence.

Included in the show are three large panels coordinated by Debbie Smith during her internship. Each panel is decorated with masks painted by survivors of domestic violence in jail, in the community, and at a battered women's shelter. According to Castillo, they titled it Descaradas, "because in Spanish that is a word that has a 'doble sentido' (double meaning). It is an insult when you are referred to as a descarada, it means you have no shame. It also means you have no face, or you remove your mask. When women who are battered flee their abusers they are often looked upon as shameful, or bold."

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Emotionally wrenching works by StoneMetal Press Co-director Le Green are part of Changing the Face of Domestic Violence.
Across the street from 1906 Gallery is the friendly Gallista Gallery, this month featuring Edward Ingle's exhibition En Cada Cabeza ... Un Mundo / In Every Mind ... A World. The gallery is a coffee drinker's hub for Chicanos interested in making art. It tends to draw artists who have faced rejection by other venues for not being in line with current artistic fashion. While there are bigger-name artists who work and socialize here, many are everyday guys who live in the community, have families, and happen to care about and make art. Joe Lopez, gallery director and artist, rents studios and gives shows in the garage-like studio and gallery space, but the artists have to do the work to orchestrate it. Partially because there are no stark, white walls, Lopez and Ingle say that when people walk in, they feel good.

Ingle, who taught high school art for 10 years, makes extremely sophisticated paintings with found objects that blend realism and conceptual assemblage. The artist has also been in the military for 18 years and holds very liberal views about what we have unleashed on the world. In Let's Just Nail Sandals on Their Feet, he paints an indigenous family set against a landscape with a smoking chemical plant. Japanese calligraphy is embedded in the work which is framed by the remnants of a Korean house salvaged by Ingle when he was stationed in South Korea. The beautiful wood and metal attachments remind us of simpler, pre-industrial times and the double-edged sword of modernization.

Because of the layers of very specific meanings, Ingle posts descriptions next to each piece. The War Machine is now Fully Operational: Mission Accomplished is a sculpture made from a rusty oil barrel and shell of a gas pump that counts the number of war casualties. Another work sports trim from a 1959 Chevrolet Apache and a dashboard from a 1946 Chevy. The only thing more manly than the details is the confidence it takes to speak out on topics like child abuse, teen delinquency, the ills of Abu Ghraib, and the need for peace. Ingle is the kind of artist that could bridge the diverse San Antonio art scene, using narrative with satirical humor to make objects that are equally self-deprecating and urbane.

By Catherine Walworth



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