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The Art Capades 

One of Betty Bastidas’s photos of Colombian hip-hop, on view at the UTSA Downtown Gallery through Saturday.

Our critic trumps fate to spend a few magical moments in UTSA’s Sound Gallery

Dance faster, I said!
My experience at UTSA’s Sound Gallery: de Ushuaia a San Antonio was a bit like the “speed golf” scene in The Houseguest. (If you haven’t seen it, just imagine playing 18 holes in 20 minutes). You might call it “speed art.”

I know it sounds crazy, but I think the great Goddess of Journalism was against me last week. After one ailing Mazda, a set of feuding parents, and a car ride from a recently reconciled boyfriend, I finally arrived at UTSA’s downtown gallery to view/hear Sound Gallery. I was met by Associate Vice President Dave Riker (who opened the exhibit after hours just for me!) at 5:45 p.m. He had a lecture to attend in 15 minutes. OK, breathe, I said to myself.

As you may know, the square gallery is not large — in fact, it really doesn’t do this exhibit justice — but the size made it easy to get around, a plus for me. In a nutshell, Sound Gallery is an interactive, multimedia affair that includes photography, music, and video collected and shot by Latina artists Betty Bastidas, Alejandra Palacios, Carolina Rubio, Laura Varela, and Guillermina Zabala.

Zabala, who organized Sound Gallery, envisioned a union of photography and music. Her photography subjects (who were all very open to the project, she says) include local musicians Flaco Jimenez, the Texmaniacs, and 18-year-old drummer extraordinaire Juanito Castillo, the star of a documentary Zabala is filming. (He’s mastered 14 instruments so far … Did I mention he’s blind?) Her images, captured on film and processed digitally with minimal fixes, function as no-nonsense, single-shot documentaries.

Betty Bastidas and Laura Varela’s collaborative contribution to Sound Gallery is the very non-minimal “Street Altar of Hope,” a rasta-hued, um, altar. Comprising a Virgin graffitied on the wall, looking down on a semi-circle of cactus, dried flowers, two television sets, and candles, the hip-hop inspired “Street Altar” is an overwhelming presence, breaking the uniformity of the exhibit in a pleasant and yet jarring way.

Carolina Rubio’s “Tejano Wedding,” is pleasantly ghostly. Its long exposure causes a crowded dance floor to instead resemble a cloud of dust. Rubio’s “Flamenco” series, in which she captures motion and beautifully contrasting color, is featured just inside the gallery entrance. It’s a pity the photographs are positioned so closely together — they don’t have room to breathe.

Argentine artist Alejandra Palacios’s breathtaking photographs take the cake, with a sandy, indigenous quality, and the best composition in the room. (Her Alan-Lomax-like project, From Ushuaia to La Quiaca, which documented local Argentinean musicians in situ, inspired this project’s name and scope). The old woman’s heavy wrinkles in “Geronima Sequeda” echo the lines of the landscape in the neighboring photographs. And I am SO digging the mullet-man in skinny pants, whomever he may be … Did I say I got to read all the plaques? This is speed art, after all.

Four days remain in the installation; find time to delve into the overwhelming Sound Gallery.

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