10 Years and Over 100 Artists: the Artpace International Artist Residency

by Jennifer Davy March 2, 2006

Inspired in part by the Capp Street Project and the Dia Art Foundation, Linda Pace's philanthropic vision opened in 1995 as 'an advocate for contemporary art and as a catalyst for the creation of significant art projects.'

Christian Jankowski...The Holy Artwork...2001...116-min DVD

Inspired in part by the Capp Street Project and the Dia Art Foundation, Linda Pace's philanthropic vision opened in 1995 as 'an advocate for contemporary art and as a catalyst for the creation of significant art projects.' Over the past ten years, the Artpace International Artists-In-Residence program has ushered 117 (and counting) artists through its doors in the former Hudson automobile dealership in downtown San Antonio. The wall of participating resident names greeting you as you walk in the door reads like a who's who list of artists. Many of these artists have gone on to acclaim elsewhere, and many of their Artpace projects in particular have been featured in seminal exhibitions across the globe. Through its roster of internationally acclaimed curators, the residency program has been able to launch, or at the very least propel, many artists onto a wider playing field, primarily through the opportunity for practice and exchange. There are very few events that can act as a catalyst for an artist's career and even fewer such events in Texas. Artpace has facilitated this need through the program's overarching goal of integrating local, national, and international artists and curators.

Reviewing this decade-long history of residencies is a daunting task; attempting to highlight the more or less successful outcomes of those residencies is close to impossible. Aside from the obvious fact that this author hasn't experienced every residency first hand, the primary predicament lies in the residency process itself. Unlike a typical exhibition, the Artpace residency presents the results of variable studio practices – some of which don't even occur in Artpace's studios or galleries. Whether the residents come to pursue a specific project, respond to the uniqueness of the region, and/or take the opportunity to experiment, all the artists are presented with the same conditions. They “come for two months at a time to realize projects of their own choosing, and are given an apartment, a studio, a budget, technical support, a publication, and a deadline.” What stand out in surveying this vast array of projects are the artists' unique choices of pursuit, methods of production, and overall utilization of the residency."

In 2001 Rivane Neuenschwander chose to experiment during her residency through a series of projects, methodically initiating temporal pieces, many of which were never publicly viewed. The work in the artist's studio at the close of the residency evoked her working practice. A maze of cardboard and newspaper pathways encompassed the entire space, which included 122 lettered grapefruit piths (referencing the game Scrabble), tiny “sculptural doodles” made during conversations, and a black-and-white video of magnified soap bubbles, all conspiring to present a maze of occasions and queries. During the same residency, Shahzia Sikander decided to experiment with a new medium, employing digital media for the first time in her piece Intimacy. Facing each other only four feet apart in a darkened gallery were one of Sikander's signature miniature paintings opposite a framed monitor screening a four-minute movie of what was essentially a miniature painting in action. The sense of intimacy, both of her miniature paintings and their installation, was made ironic by the not-so-intimate digital medium.

Chris Sauter...Graft...1999...Drywall, wood, insulation and construction adhesive...Dimensions variable...(Installation view)

Similarly, the painter Angel Rodríguez Díaz (1998) expanded upon his practice in his installation Splendid Little War, which illustrated the complexities of the Spanish-American War and its social and cultural aftermath. The centerpiece of the artist's project was a self-portrait installed on the exterior of the building: a mural-size 'painting' rendered in blinking Christmas lights ('twas the season), which encapsulated the double entendre, 'now you see me; now you don't.' Also working outside traditional parameters, Jim Mendiola and Rubén Ortiz-Torres (2001), both filmmakers, opted to work collaboratively during their residency to produce a provocative project that focused on the Alamo as an architecture of myth. Transgressing its traditional and conflicting history, the artists made paramount the banal events surrounding the Alamo's alternate history as a tourist monument, best exemplified in their wax re-incarnation of Ozzy Osbourne urinating on the “shrine of Texas liberty.”

From Ordo Amoris Cabinet's (2001) floor mosaic of 1,200 mouse pads screened with appropriated commercial photo stock transforming Artpace's entryway to Cornelia Parker's (1997) suspended 'reconstruction' of the Lytle, Texas Baptist church's charred remnants, the majority of artists at Artpace have worked directly with the space, transforming their galleries and/or Artpace into full-scale installations, video installations or other spaces altogether. Michael O'Malley (1997) literally turned his gallery space inside-out, excavating the contents below while Chris Sauter (1999) excised the walls of his white-cubed gallery to reconstruct the domestic space of his family dining room in a work titled Graft. Both Jaan Toomik (1997) and Yangah Ham (2000) built tunnel-like passageways to carry the viewer into the womb-like spaces of their video installations, the former presenting dualities of the past and present, the east and west, and the soul of the individual and the collective; the latter evoking dreams and memories through visions of the landscape. In each video installation the artist sought to create a space that intensifyied the meditative qualities presented in their work.

Hills Snyder (2005) also created a psychologically- and physically-charged space in his recent installation Book of the Dead. Like the structure of an elliptical narrative, Snyder created a cyclical journey for the viewer in three parts. Beginning with an ellipse-shaped door leading to a reclining anti-gravity chair from which one could view a lunette-framed video of the sky, the piece continued with a fluorescent Plexiglass-clad electric chair in a dark room whose only exit door was marked 'STAY.' This one-way portal opened up to a disconcerting (or terrifying, if you're claustrophobic), pitch-black maze, which finally propelled the viewer into a mustard-yellow living room inspired by Americana kitsch and punctuated with coded texts and images. It was either domestic bliss or the afterlife — for your troubles or because of them.

Isaac Julian...The Long Road to Mazatlán...1999...(Collaboration with Javier de Frutos)...Four videos through 3 LCD projectors...with 10 speakers...18-min. loop...(Installation view)

A handful of artists have employed the studio as a site for performance. Diana Thater (1998) and Christian Marclay (1999) both produced collaborative performances. Thater, with T. Kelly Mason, brought in video artists and DJs from Los Angeles for two densely filled five-hour VJ/DJ performances. Marclay, working with local DJs, presented a DJ'd Christmas from approximately 1,000 holiday LPs on the night of his opening, and once a week thereafter for the duration of the show. Xu Bing (1996), Iñigo Manglano-Ovalle (1997), and Surasi Kusolwong (2002) each staged interactive projects as well during their residencies, respectively: a studio for Chinese calligraphy and essentially a classroom on language, image, and meaning; a pair of 'private' shower rooms with an audio/visual prelude before a 90-minute meditation in an isolation tank; and a Thai street market with DJ and bar, exploiting the reality of art in the market place.

Whether on horseback (Ann-Sofi Sidén, 2002), or on a flatbed trailer (Jason Rhoades, 2000), other residents have chosen to leave the studio all together. After a short visit, Maurizio Cattelan (2000) mailed in his piece to be installed in the artist's empty apartment. A tiny cartoon-like mouse hole and companion garbage can installed at the base of the kitchen wall drew visitors away from the 'art' to eavesdrop on a high-pitched — and consequently ridiculous — power struggle taking place behind its closed door (think Alvin, Simon and Theodore-style domestic squabble).

In a more substantial commentary, Liisa Roberts (1999) sought to engage outside the confines of her studio in a project entitled Sidewalks. The artist recorded anecdotal responses to the idea of monuments and markers in public spaces in order to have the recordings disseminated in elevators throughout downtown San Antonio. In an ironic outcome, the artist installed the recording without permit in one elevator and consequently incited unfounded concerns from an unassuming public, illuminating the constrictive apparatus that governs social space, the public, and the monument (indeed, the building in question was evacuated by the bomb squad when the boom box in the elevator's ceiling was discovered, and Artpace was then unsuccessfully sued by an employee who claimed a knee injury during the evacuation). Likewise, Glenn Ligon (1998.1) installed his personal narratives in the public domain. The artist produced plaques, miniature monuments to failed attempts at cruising, inscribed with the oblique and poetic mental notes of abortive encounters or observations of others, and situated at the corresponding site, marking a non-event. (In the case of Ligon's work, nobody got sued, although most of the plaques were immediately stolen.)

Ann Sofi-Sidén...3 miles an hour...2002...272-mile horseback journey from Artpace...to NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas

Another important consideration in surveying the Artpace residencies is the role of place. Manifest in a multitude of ways, the enduring influence of Texan culture and the mythical West is overtly pronounced by a vast number of resident artists, often to the irritation of locals. The most successful of these commentaries on the Texas ethos don't fall for hackneyed stereotypes that play well elsewhere. In 1996, Esko Männikkö produced a visual narrative through penetrating portraits of the overlooked areas in southwest Texas, while Candice Breitz (2002) critiqued Hollywood's image of Texas in a multi-channel video installation in her apartment, which involved short looped clips from the TV series Dallas (and which outdid her 'real' residency show). Not so much a critique as an unlikely collaboration, Christian Jankowski's (2001) The Holy Artwork infiltrated the world of evangelism – a Texas industry – relinquishing his role as a “creator,” during a live service/performance, to the agents of the Creator.

Obfuscating the masculine and rough-hewn lens of Texas, the lonestar cowboy, and its corresponding landscape, Isaac Julien (1999), working with choreographer Javier de Frutos, frustrated stereotypes with filmed homoerotic sequences and dance numbers which were screened in his saturated color, three-channel video. Facilitating a different story, Yutaka Sone (2000) encapsulated visions of the western frontier with his video of a cowboy and his horse. Appearing to chase giant dice dangling from a helicopter which then plunge to the ground, the cowboy and his steed let them fall by the wayside. Sone convoluted his multiple anti-narratives yet perpetuated the proper ending, into the sunset.

Evidenced above, the residency projects are not only diverse but “grand.” At Artpace, the purpose of the residency is not only to provide time, space and support for artists and their work but to incite “the creation of significant art projects,” as cited in the institution's mission, culminating in what is effectually a solo exhibition – pressure with possible pay-off. “Artpace is a site of dialogue and exchange of production and display, with equal emphasis on the process as well as the product,” states Kathryn Kanjo, Executive Director of Artpace. “Blending the local and the global, we give artists the space and resources to take time, take risks, and unveil new ideas off center from traditional art world hubs.” [2]

Diana Thater...The future that almost wasn't...1998...(Collaboration with T. Kelly Mason)...Live video and audio performance

“Off center from traditional art world hubs,” Artpace has evolved into an expansive institution still committed to its original roots in Texas. Since its inauguration, Artpace has cultivated its programming to meet varying needs. Originally hosting four rounds of residencies annually, in 2001 Artpace scaled that number down to three. The change has allowed for a longer exhibition period: each residency is comprised of two months for production followed by a two-month exhibition period, (a necessity perhaps, given the relatively remote location of San Antonio vis-à-vis the larger art world). Aside from alterations to its line up, the institution has developed an ambitious parallel agenda, from the revolving exhibitions in the Hudson (Show)room to its K-12 lessons of the Art Elements program. Although additional programming has amplified the institution's role as a contemporary art institution, the International Artist-In-Residence program remains at the core of the Artpace project.

Linda Pace founded Artpace with the goal of encouraging experimentation and dialogue among artists and their practice, and this is what will continue to sustain the relevance and impact of the institution regionally and internationally. As Robert Storr remarked ten years ago in the brochure for the very first Artpace residency, “Viewed separately, the work of each of these artists articulates an independent vision. Viewed together, their projects begin a conversation.” Congratulations to Artpace for sustaining and encouraging ten years of conversations.

1. Kathryn Kanjo, “The Why and the What,” in Dreaming Red: Creating ArtPace, (San Antonio: ArtPace, A Foundation for Contemporary Art, 2003), 82. Kathryn Kanjo in correspondance with the author, December 2005

Images courtesy Artpace.

Jennifer Davy is an artist, writer, curator, currently living in San Antonio.

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