Shows and galleries The art capades

In Fiesta's forgotten corners, clever video, and vignettes marvel at our modern weirdness

Robert McAn's miniature world of metaphor is on view in sculpture and photographs at REM Gallery. Above, "Drift," a mixed-media diorama (2005).

Fiesta has a way of displacing San Antonio's population, congesting some areas and emptying others.

I spent a Fiesta Friday afternoon wandering around the Blue Star Arts Complex, where door after door was locked but the silence was sweet. And I still managed to see two very good shows.

REM Gallery (117 Blue Star, No. 3, 224-1227) had its shingle out, which was not surprising since director Dana Read is always ready to make you feel at home. As it happens, the gallery is in her Blue Star apartment until her new space is ready in the Blue Star commercial building currently under construction.

Read is showing the work of Dallas artist Robert McAn in Suspect Definitions. Scouring toy shops, hobby stores, and flea markets, McAn collects miniatures that he juxtaposes with a series of 2-foot trees made of skinny branches and tiny florets. The accoutrements add smart depth to the artist's wee world.

In Rock Salted, the trees' upper limbs are covered in clear beads to look like ice crystals. The ice is then menaced from the top by a tiny man with a jackhammer and from the bottom by a bag of rock salt. The reasons for the onslaught are ambiguous but the sense of menace is palpable.

A detail from the Fuji Crystal archive print "Birdcage" (2003).

McAn's tiny vignettes are also used as subjects of large photographs. Summit #1B shows ladders ending at a terrace of clouds where a climber is greeted by a mysterious blue phone booth and another downy ceiling. It should be Cloud Nine, but it recalls an unsatisfying goal attained.

The artist's trees, miniature houses, and photographs form a new language for exploring the American dream of work, home ownership, and success. The show is extended for another month so poke your head in and be charmed at tiny people confronting big themes.

Next, I moseyed over to the UTSA Satellite Space (115 Blue Star, 212-7146) for the 2nd Annual Video Show, What's Behind What's Going On, organized by the ubiquitous mixed-media artist Richie Budd. The two-day event featured a menu of 18 films blending young collaborative groups with some of last year's participants, including Rebecca Burt, Wes Martin, and Ronnie Bass. Local favorites such as Karen Mahaffy, Michael Velliquette, and Michele Monseau were also represented.

Short narrative videos took the cake at What's Behind What's Going On, the 2nd Annual Video Show at UTSA Satellite Space April 22-23, where organizer Richie Budd projected the films, often confined to small television screens, on a large wall.

Seeing the short films projected on a large scale transformed them. Budd's own Chalk It Up was filmed on location at Artpace's annual family sidewalk art event. Pranksters hawking sidewalk space were competing with the rain for the role of fly in the ointment. At just over half an hour, the longest film was PriceMaster. It was hysterical, if a little too long, in documenting a Denton yard sale. Collaborators called The FastHouse staged a scenario in which PriceMaster, a Japanese theater-inspired, masked figure, stood on the porch and called out astronomical prices as customers held up objects they were interested in buying. It was great to see such an elaborately staged distortion of something as naturally weird as yard sales.

In films such as these, the vigor and humor of a fresh generation of artists are alive and well. Meanwhile, other films were less theater and more painting, capturing flickering images in off colors and contour lines. Lastly, I rounded out my week at's political protest, because art is politics. It doesn't matter how clever your message is if you're not allowed to say it or display it. Now go be weird.

By Catherine Walworth

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