The Art Capades


Heady Vegan
Rainbow Murder
10am-5:30pm Mon-Fri; 11am-4pm Sat
Through Jul 9
Fl!ght Gallery
1906 S. Flores

Enrique Martinez: Thus Spoke the Enigma of Desire
10am-5:30pm Mon-Fri; 11am-4pm Sat
Through Jul 6
1906 S. Flores

Stevan Zivadinovic: Orson Welles vs. the Burning Dumpster
2-6pm Thu-Sat
Through Jun 17
Sala Diaz
517 Stieren
852-4492 or 313-7159
As a child of the '70s, I wanted to expect hardcore countercultural substance from Heady Vegan Rainbow Murder, but Fl!ght Gallery Director Justin Parr was warning viewers off that notion before Saturday night's opening. A wise move: the combination of Sarah Stevens's abstract fabric-scrap sculptures - which resemble technicolor-yawn earthworms and caterpillars - and Aaron Forland's tightly executed color-bar paintings creates the fun, 3-D equivalent of those old television end-of-broadcast bars: post-content eye candy. The best part of the show, which the publicity postcard accurately conveyed, is Forland's underground public-art campaign. He's collected fallen light-pole panels, improved them dramatically with his line paintings, reattached them, and then photographed them in situ. In the photographs, the lighter colors seem to glow phosphorescently from behind the darker bars, casting a low-budget cinematic glamour on the paintings' grubby urban surroundings.

Just down the hall at one9zero6, Enrique Martinez puts on the second slam-dunk show in as many months (if you didn't catch him at Sala Diaz in May, you may have seen his work in the Current's May 30 Last Words). His grotesque, feverish graphite and ink drawings create a universe populated by monsters - mutated hairy blobs who live for their addiction to consumption, convenience, and immediate gratification. There is a narrative element involving some cute retro Martians (sporting medieval-esque eye-slit helmets), and plenty of cultural criticism targeting dogma as well as self-absorption (if you liked Heimo Wallner's March UTSA Satellite Show, you'll love what Martinez does with a dick metaphor), but it's too dense and over-populated to reduce easily. The Muppet-like Sesame-Street refugees who cringe below a scene of Mohammed vs. Jesus Armageddon could be victims or passive enablers. The cowboy with a question-mark head astride a giant cyborg caterpillar might be saving earth from the McDonald's scourge, or just another perpetrator of the rape and pillaging. Martinez's attention to intricate, absurdist detail - which reflects and does not suffer by comparison to the artists' inspirations, Hieronymous Bosch and Robert Crumb - will pull you from one alarming scene to the next like a good noir film, so make time for a leisurely visit.
The Muppets themselves - Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, etc. - make an appearance at Sala Diaz this month, in Stevan Zivadinovic's one-man exploration of ego and identity, Orson Welles vs. the Burning Dumpster. In a series of "self-portrait of the artist as ... " Zivadinovic mimes the career of that magnificently self-regarding, self-destructive genius from the highs of Citizen Kane and The Third Man to the satiric, froggy lows of Jim Henson (send impassioned defenses of the Muppets' artistic value to: [email protected]).

A small, handmade cyanotype book, "Transcendental Shame Over a Burning Dumpster," completes the show's title. It strikes a similar mood with its blue images, but the humor and tragedy of the book's existential crisis pushes it toward the Citizen Kane end of the Welles Self-implosion Meter: In the essay, the Serbian artist confronts conflicting national pride and shame in the form of a burning dumpster across from Belgrade's Nikola Tesla museum. "Over there, all stupidity takes place in my name, like the Original Sin," Zivadinovic writes of the post-Yugoslavia Serbian
"All genius, however, is accidental. Tesla is a paragon of the potential of my quaint little people. The burning dumpster, alas, is its fact."
The entire essay isn't this lucid or pithy, but the melancholy indigo picture of Tesla unfolding across the pages like a Manet etching will carry you through the muddier portions.
Perhaps the show's title is merely meant to be fun, but the installation's melodramatic, almost campy, atmosphere engages the always pertinent question of when and how artistic genius - which at its best drives fearless observation and introspection - is corrupted into parody. How does an artist mine the reservoir of self without becoming a megalomaniac? Zivadinovic's show reminds us that dark humor is a good defense.

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