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San Antonio Artists Come 'Back From Berlin' 

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click to enlarge Cathy Cunningham-Little's Light sculpture Architectural Tectonic
  • Cathy Cunningham-Little's Light sculpture Architectural Tectonic
click to enlarge Vincent Valdez's large-scale painting Requiem I - COURTESY
  • Courtesy
  • Vincent Valdez's large-scale painting Requiem I

However, World War II tanks can still be found around the city and Armendariz created woodcut prints combining tanks with the ubiquitous graffiti that's everywhere in Berlin.

"Every wall from about six feet high down was covered with graffiti," Armendariz said. "But right behind the graffiti artists were the wheat paste artists, who would paste stuff over the graffiti. So my tanks look like they could be wheat paste designs and I asked a San Antonio artist, Christopher Montoya, to 'tag' my prints."

For most of the work in the show, Armendariz used his distinctive carved plywood panels and oil paint, although he drew from the classical myths that inform much of the public artwork he saw in Berlin.

"For example, in the Greek myth of Zeus and Callisto, he is usually depicted as a bull and she's a bear," Armendariz said. "So you see a bull and a bear, but it's not clear if they are fighting or making love. In another work, I use the coyote to stand in for Phaeton, who borrowed Zeus' golden chariot to drive the sun across the sky, but messed up, and Zeus had to kill him with a thunderbolt. I wanted to give some of our American myths a classical spin."

In Coyotes (Phaeton, Remix), you see the underside of a coyote falling out of a sky filled with stormy clouds and wracked by lightning.

Valdez kept a visual diary of his experiences in Berlin, small notebook-size drawings recording the famed U.S. Army "Checkpoint Charlie," a symphony orchestra, a jazz musician, a crumbling portion of the Berlin Wall and a sign at a train station near the Künstlerhaus. He is also showing two giant paintings – much larger than any he's shown in San Antonio before – of the folded body of an eagle and a man with a tattooed face, Metanoia.

"My time in Berlin was invaluable," Valdez said in his artist's statement. "My mere approach to painting has been greatly affected after obsessively studying closely the paintings of Gerhard Richter, Sigmar Polke, Anthony Van Dyke, Neo Rausch, Christian Schad, Otto Dix and George Grosz. As seen most specifically in Metanoia, a work in progress, my physical approach to applying paint to the canvas has been altered. The layering and mark-making process are now becoming as important as the portrait itself."

In his video interview, Valdez said he has spent years trying to "paint like he draws," but after studying the European masters during his Berlin residency, he wants to "paint like a painter."

"Back from Berlin"

$3-$5, Noon-8pm Thu, noon-6pm Fri-Sun, Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, 116 Blue Star, (210) 227-6960, bluestarart.org, Through May 10

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