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News and notes from the San Antonio art scene

San Antonian Dario Robleto recently earned the distinction of being the first non-NYC-based artist to install a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of Art at Altria. Robleto's sculptural work blends hip-hop sampling technique with a Situationist's sense of the absurd: authentic meteor fragments injected with the dust of a ground-up Beatles album, buttons made of melted Billie Holiday records and sold on clothes placed in thrift stores. The 30-year-old conceptual artist first acquired widespread recognition during his ArtPace residency several years ago, and catapulted into the international art arena. His work has been included in shows at the Renaissance Society in Chicago, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, Gasworks in London, and is now part of the permanent collection at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Robleto's "Say Goodbye to Substance" was on view at Altria this summer.

Former ArtPace program coordinator Alexander Gray resigned from his high-profile position as the Executive Director of Artadia in NYC this week. Gray's resignation is another unfortunate consequence of controversy surrounding the 2003 Artadia Awards process.

One of Artadia's stated goals is to provide direct monetary support that enables artists working in areas outside the art world to remain in their native communities. When five Houston-based artists were chosen to receive $20,000 grants, the selection caused an outcry in the Texas arts community. All five 2003 Artadia recipients are under age 33, implying that the vast pool of more established Houston-area artists - 208 of whom applied for the award - were not seriously considered. Of the five artists selected, four were then enrolled as Core Program residents at the Glassell School of Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. One Core Fellow/award recipient has already left Houston for NYC, and two others are expected to soon follow suit. Their exodus directly undermines both the Artadia mission and its selection process, though it is unclear at what point during the selection process these three artists made their relocation plans known.

Additionally, Rainey Knudson, founding editor of Houston-based, an online arts magazine, reports that the money used for the artists' awards did not actually come from Artadia - a fact that some say was not made apparent until after the funds were distributed. Award money was funneled through private Houston-area patrons and the Brown Foundation, leading critics to argue that Artadia has in effect removed a whopping $100,000 from the Houston and greater Texas arts communities. Hopefully, new work produced by the 2003 Artadia Artists - Santiago Cucullu, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Robyn O'Neil, Sigrid Sandstrom, and Brent Steen - will be some sort of condolence to those upset by this ill-starred debacle. Better get busy, folks. •

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