|Gabriel Garcia exhibits new work at R. Tatum's Art Lounge during CAM|
July is, according to a 1984 presidential proclamation, National Ice Cream Month. According to a 1985 mayoral proclamation, it is Contemporary Art Month here as well. The seventh month of the year has also been certified by various authorities as National Baked Bean Month, National Bison Month, National Hot Dog Month, Cellphone Courtesy Month, National Blueberry Month, and National Picnic Month. With blueberries, bisons, and baked beans to keep us distracted from cell phone rudeness, it is no wonder that July has also been designated Anti-Boredom Month.
|James Smolleck's "A man of much learning" is among new pieces at Finesilver|
Separating life from art poisons each. Without painting, sculpture, photography, music, dance, theater, film, and literature, existence is barely breathing. And art that loses contact with the vibrant verities of its own time is a stillborn formal exercise. Isolating contemporary art from the rest of San Antonio and the rest of the year conveys the message that it is something exotic, perhaps even toxic. Does creating a carnival of unconventional images in the Blue Star barrio justify the dreariness imposed on so much of the rest of the city? The strip malls, neon signs, billboards, and parking lots that taint our vistas are not only an environmental blight; they offend the eye, insult the intelligence, and corrode the soul.
|Joey Fauerso shows her work at Blue Star|
To paraphrase Robert Frost: Something there is that doesn't love a Wal-Mart - and what it is is aesthetic sensibility. The grotesque stretch of I-10 west of 410 mocks the pretensions behind Contemporary Art Month.
National Hot Dog Month is a clever marketing device, and so is Contemporary Art Month - a way of selling the city, if not its art. San Antonio has been mingier than most in supporting the arts, and its limited interest has been limited largely to exploiting art to promote tourism. If a poetry workshop or a cello recital is not likely to boost hotel occupancy, it is not likely to receive city funding. Amherst, Massachusetts, is proud of Emily Dickinson not primarily because out-of-towners flock to its streets to buy T-shirts silkscreened with her image.
|Blue Star features an installation by Henry Rayburn|
In 1985, Contemporary Art Month was a novelty, and large crowds showed up at its opening to satisfy their curiosity. During the last 18 years, attendance at First Fridays has generally been dense, but a visitor during first Thursdays, second Tuesdays, or fourth Fridays could count on solitude. Work displayed has ranged from wretched to sublime, but the annual ritual of cruising past the installations seems less about the work than another chance for schmoozing. Contemporary Art Month is an extended block party for the hipoisie, Fiesta without tacky parades. In a city that drops everything - including the ball - to hold a party, Contemporary Art Month celebrates art as fun. A theme park of art open 31 days a year, it is contemporary with SeaWorld and Fiesta Texas. But not all art is revelry. Sometimes it is formalized misery. Sometimes art brings poop to parties.
|The Center for Spirituality and the Arts features digital work by Conan Chadbourne|
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