By Elaine Wolff
The Finesilver building is as good a place as any to begin the Contemporary Art Month marathon. Finesilver Gallery has installed a group show by three of its most saleable artists: Tommy Glassford, Meg Langhorne, and Kim Squaglia. Just down the hall in space donated by Finesilver proprietor Chris Erck, two of the dons of local contemporary art, sculptor Ken Little and conceptual artist Jesse Amado, have curated a show with Anjali Gupta called New Stars: CAM 19.
The title sounds like a playful poke at an annual show that used to take place at Blue Star Art Space until the aborted attempt by OCA and Blue Star to move CAM to the seasonally more congenial month of October. The artists and artist-run spaces that are the soul of CAM balked. When OCA withdrew support, Robert Tatum took the helm and organized a professional-looking festival featuring as many openings and related events as any year prior. During the confusion preceding Tatum's guerrilla coup, Blue Star scheduled its Mexican Report survey of contemporary art from our southern neighbor to run through July. Blue Star has since come around. Not only are they co-sponsoring CAM, director Bill FitzGibbons announced at the ArtLies benefit and CAM preview party last Saturday that Blue Star 20 would return to July in 2005 (this year's number 19 is scheduled for October, during the new Fall Arts Festival sponsored by OCA and the Convention and Visitors Bureau).
But we'll cross that potentially confusing bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, the two shows at Finesilver present some interesting contrasts. Seasoned contemporary art lovers are unlikely to be bowled over by the show in the gallery; although it features solid, accomplished work by all three artists, none of it represents unexplored territory. The paintings by Kim Squaglia, however, are particularly fine and represent a new level of beauty and sophistication in her signature technique of layering translucent and opaque paint to create botanical landscapes reminiscent of seaweed, jellyfish, and here, of atoms in motion.
Langhorne's delicate pointilist drawings of creatures on whom we have forced our suburban environment are startling lovely; they float above her husband Hils Snyder's heavy explication: "Their mute witness seems to smile, but without a mouth. Even so the warning that is their burden is stern: be vigilant. Watch over what matters. The dawn crew is coming to dismantle your world."
Glassford's sculptures made of commercial cafeteria ware are in his rascuache-influenced vein: turning mundane, unattractive objects into well-designed sculptures that are fun and thought-provoking. The other pieces included here, pleated, polished aluminum panels, and woven sheets of reflective ribbon, would seem more at home at an architecture and design convention. I'd love to see a building exterior utilize any of them.
The most overt of these are predictably the least interesting, although two of them have an amusing element of potty humor - literally, in the case of the "Patriot Toilet," which features a bright red commode and an eviscerated book whose contents have been replaced with a red gun inside a rough-hewn outhouse. Randy Wallace turned the capitol's biggest phallic symbol, the Washington Monument, on its side and stenciled "Who's Your Daddy?" on its panels, a reference, Little thinks, to Bush and Bush. A video screen embedded in the base shows a hooded character "metaphorically dragging or pushing around this load of shit on stage with his penis," as Little describes it. But deep-seated anger rarely breeds subtlety, and subtlety rarely breeds revolutions.
A particularly good piece in this vein is a life-size sculpture of the lower half of a torso, constructed of hundreds of plastic army men, by Alex Lopez. Suffused with the red glow of a wartime sky, it's a powerful evocation of the reality of war in the face of the game of honor and glory that's sold to young boys and their parents.
Lucilla LaVilla-Havelin's needlepoint work takes a giant leap forward here, too, with a large in-progress tapestry that Little says was inspired by her father's death. Organs and exposed torsos are reproduced in vivid detail against a scarlet background, while a delicate arbor of ivory branches and leaves unfurls overhead.
A full schedule of CAM events can be found on-line at www.camsanantonio.org. In the meantime, don't miss the premiere of John Mason's film, Skippy the Serial Killer, which will screen between 7-11 p.m. at REM Gallery on Thursday, July 1. Skippy stars Dutch artist Peter Zandvliet, whose two-person collaboration with local painter Joan Fabian, Salsa and Tulips, opens at the same time and place. Friday, July 2, catch the San Antonio Brass in a free performance from 7-9:30 p.m. at Blue Star Art Space. The quintet, which includes trombonist Ron Wilkins, will play selections ranging from Renaissance times to West Side Story. •
By Elaine Wolff