Arts Artifacts

News and notes from the San Antonio art scene

Artist and artisan Harold Wood, whose singular installation, A Room of His Own, is on view at the McNay Art Museum through February 5, was the belle of San Antonio’s art ball last week, first at a crowded gallery talk Thursday evening and again on Sunday, as host for a reception honoring fellow Englishman and silversmith Hector Miller. As was the case last year when Wood introduced his handcrafted furniture to a McNay audience, he addressed the topic of “contemporary” and high art versus decorative art, distilling the evolution of abstract art into a 30-second demonstration by placing a frame around a segment of his highly decorated surfaces: Voila! Abstract art.

Wood, who can paint a faux marble that would make a Medici swear off quarries, has adapted the space-age construction technology from his previous vocation — interior decorating for private aircraft — and covered the sturdy but lightweight walls and furniture of his portable room in layers of intricate detail inspired by William Morris’ Arts and Crafts movement and Pre-Raphaelite John Millais’ famous painting of the rejected Ophelia.

At Sunday’s reception for Miller, members of the McNay Contemporary Collectors Forum were surrounded by many of Wood’s muses, from his father’s bucolic landscapes (the elder Wood was influenced directly by Morris) to the house itself, an O’Neil Ford masterpiece, the decorations including Arts and Crafts-inspired tile inlays (perhaps by Martha Mood). A sketch by Gustav Klimt hangs in the living room, and as one Collectors Forum member observed, Klimt’s influence can be seen in the painted aluminum panels that adorn Wood’s living-room furniture. The artist obligingly disassembled a pedestal for his guests, demonstrating how the panels can be swapped out if he grows bored of the current design. “That’s Harold porn,” quipped one observer.

The reception that followed Wood’s talk was at collector Tom Wright’s home, where several guests dissected the lifesize, neo-Surrealist painting “Hope Sack,” by former San Antonio resident Dan Sutherland, now an associate professor in studio art at UT-Austin. The general sense of well-being and joy was created in no small part by Wright’s beautiful house, also designed by Ford — which turned discussion to developer James Lifshutz’ plans for Willow Way, the former Ford estate in South San Antonio that Lifshutz purchased this fall.

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” Lifshutz told the Current by phone. “It’s just such a magical place, and I want to do the right thing with it.”

Lifshutz is also the landlord of Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, which is mounting only the third one-Latino show in the organization’s history for Ricky Armendariz, says curator Arturo Almeida. Almeida says Armendariz’ work appeals to him because Almeida is from Brownsville and Armendariz is an El Paso native. “You’re close to the border and you have that same Tex-Mex aesthetic. It reminds me so much of that, and it’s so unique,” Almeida says. Armendariz, an instructor in the UTSA art department, uses dichos, or sayings, in his paintings that are drawn from his brother’s poetry. “You see these gorgeous colors, and the sky, and then there are these beautiful words,” says Almeida. The show opens with a reception at 6 p.m. Thursday, January 19, at 116 Blue Star, and runs through March 13. For more info, call 227-6960.

Elaine Wolff

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