Arts : Pucker up

Performance-art averse? You’re gonna love it!

Let’s get back to essentials with Judith Cottrell: Lemonade is yellow. Although according to, Mrs. E.E. Kellogg included a pink variation in her 1892 tome Science in the Kitchen, when lemonade came to be (as most food-o-philes seem to agree it did) in 17th-century France, it was made of lemon juice, sugar, and water, and was quite likely not pink.

Artist Judith Cottrell works on her i2i installation, Pink Lemonade. A sign in the entry warns that intentional popping of balloons will result in a $10 fine.

Judith Cottrell’s one-woman performance piece at i2i Gallery, Pink Lemonade, is as lemony and yellow as non-lemons can be. The rectangular, high-ceilinged room is painted Lemon Yellow (Behr paint) and filled six-to-seven-feet high with lemon-yellow balloons. Through the bright yellow aura created by the balloons you can discern a few of Cottrell’s familiar dense black-ink filligree drawings on the walls. They arc and turn on themselves, seeming to float on invisible planes in deep-yellow space.

Pink Lemonade
Noon-6pm Fri, & by appt.
Through Aug 6
i2i Gallery
2110 McCullough

Art in the Garden:

9am-5pm, except Christmas and New Year’s Day
Through Jun 2007
$6 adult; $3 age 3-13
San Antonio Botanical Garden
555 Funston

But on opening night, the drawings were incidental to the experience of wading through the thickly layered balloons, anticipating a sudden pop and feeling the static electricity build up on my skin, until I stumbled upon the artist, who was calmly serving lemonade and lemon cookies in the center front of the gallery (it’s worth noting, in this context, that Cottrell is rather lemony herself, with an oval face and blond hair). Surrounded by and ingesting yellow in multiple sensory forms — liquid, solid, visual, light — and thinking of yellow atoms, I felt transformed in some subtle way: happier, maybe, or energized.

“It only takes five minutes, but then you’re never the same,” said fellow critic Catherine Walworth after she made her way through the lemonness.

“The Lemonade Room was so intimate, afterwards, I had to have a cigarette,” emailed social-critic-at-large Gene Elder, who added, “`Judith Cottrell` is the artist to beat this Contemporary Art Month.”

And yet, Pink Lemonade is a very simple installation and performance piece. It lacks confrontation, a discernible agenda, or even the willful obtuseness on which so much of the genre relies. I suppose simple color therapy could explain the wildly positive reactions: Intellectual power and awakening, joy, and primeval life force are variously credited to yellow. But I’m not going to dismiss solid concept and execution on the part of the artist, who nods without solemnity to the Dada tradition of ready-mades and absurdity. Nonetheless, this is not a revolutionary show; one of its tasty surprises is the way it uses non-traditional materials to lobby for the elemental role of pigment in art.

And don’t discount the power of whimsy during a sweltering summer of depressing news headlines. Sculptor Roger Colombik’s funeral barge for a Viking Cleopatra (aka “Some Waves Spark Stones”) evokes a little whimsy, too, beached as it is on the grounds of the Botanical Garden for the two-man Art in the Garden show featuring him and granite master Jesus Moroles. It was predictably sweaty on opening night; having recently picked up The Botany of Desire, I wondered if the plants had tricked the Garden’s overlords into hosting an art show to entice pollen-carriers out during the heat wave (on what the organizers were billing as a “treasure hunt” for God’s sake; “forced march” was on my mind). Good idea, as it turns out: Moroles’s giant pendants and lozenges rest and hang in their rich green landscape like the rough jewels they are. The only disappointment is “Lotus Blossom,” which is set among the succulents, because you can see a little of the glue used to affix the spiky petals to their base.

Beautifully installed as it is (by curators Arturo Almeida and Bill FitzGibbon) for an entire year, the show not only gilds the Garden’s lilies, it gives formalists something to embrace during CAM, too. Although I do recommend a lemonade tonic for everyone.


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