Political Art Month Scavenger Hunt: A Survey of the Obvious, Forgotten and Controversial

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Moses Austin 
100 Military Plaza

Another ignored (by me) bronze guy I’d never bothered much about. As it turns out, it’s Moses Austin, the Connecticut-born colonial impresario who paved the way for, well, white people. The statue was erected in 1936, on the occasion of the Republic of Texas Centennial, with federal funds. Why him? He extends a hand with a rolled-up document in the direction of the Spanish Governor's Palace. His look is triumphant, as though 300 white families were to take their rightful place based on his God-granted fiat.

Interestingly, Moses Austin spent a scant year in Texas, before escaping to Missouri. According to the pediment, “Exposure and exhaustion during his Texas journey caused his death.”

What does that tell you? Elder and I feel it may be karmic.

La Antorcha de la Amistad
Intersection of Losoya, Commerce, Market and Alamo streets

You know it. The sky-arching twirly red steel ribbon. “I think the feng shui is perfect where it’s placed — it takes the energy flow from the Alamo and stirs it around on the roundabout,” Elder says, dispersing the violence of the battle, and standing as a reminder that the relationship between San Antonio and its once mother country remains indelible. Worthy of note, it’s often the focus of static video that appears in interstitial ad break-bits, including the Spurs and the NCAA. So it’s associated with a very 21st-century form of victory.

Our Lady of Guadalupe
115 W. Main Plaza

“We are, after all, in the city of Saint Anthony,” Elder says. It’s placed with curious serendipity, in a small walled-off area at the rear of the San Fernando Cathedral. If you stand with her and Juan Diego at your back as Moses Austin does, Moses’ back seems particularly grandiose and clueless as he brandishes his scroll at the Spanish Governor’s Palace.

It’s an unusual 3D depiction; her pointy rays are spiky and delineated, but she wears the customary Buddha-like compassion, and Juan Diego — indigenous, poor, but invested with grace and celestial power — kneels in wonder. It’s another salute to and a reminder of the devotional history of our city, the Mexican Catholicism that existed here long before Moses Austin thought to bring white people. Moses’ son, Stephen F. Austin, has been described as “the father of Texas.” Here is the mother of everything.

Fittingly, she marks the departure from military to a more humanistic history. To wit:

Liquid Crystal
900 E. Market St.

We close with another giant architectural abstract, this one representing the controversy and doubt surrounding public art in SA.

While Elder idles at the curb, I’m confronted by the monolith in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center lobby. The surface is made up of hundreds of LED panels. I am initially unimpressed, finding it a looming, almost menacing presence, forboding some ill for civic life of our city. Also, it appears to be unplugged. But the fault lies in my perspective; nobody is walking past, so it hasn’t got much to respond to.

Steeped in controversy due to its $1 million price tag and installed in spitting distance from San Antonio artist Bill FitzGibbons’ similarly color-shifting, LED-powered Light Channels, London-based (gasp!) Jason Bruges Studio’s towering “cheese grater” amusingly earned a “like” from FitzGibbons when we posted a photo of it on Instagram. We decided to consider this the very first public response to our curation.

In the spirit of PAM democracy, let’s let this vote stand.

PAM: American. Controversial. Easy as hell.

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