Humor and play pervade the exhibition New Image Sculpture at the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio. It features thirteen contemporary artists and art collectives and was organized by René Paul Barilleaux, the McNay’s Chief Curator and Curator of Art after 1945.
These artists make things we see or at least understand as everyday objects in the real world. They are sculpture, paintings, and installations out of nontraditional, primarily craft materials. Libby Black makes luxury items such as luggage and shoes out of paper, hot glue and paint that comment on commerce and fashion. Her delicate but clearly handmade objects of leisure and vanity are meant to question value/values and authenticity.
Margarita Cabrera uses clay to make a John Deere tractor. A visual mash up of Mexican craft and the agricultural industry that hires migrant workers. The ceramic tractor is life size and covered with ceramic birds and flowers much like the kind you would see on a Mexican Tree of Life. She describes it as a hybrid of materials and images that reference all the people behind them.
New to me was artist collective (more of a duo) Canadian artists Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg, who have been collaborating since 1987. Their two labor-intensive sculptures, an overly huge microphone stand and an amazingly delicate chandelier which is also composed of multiple microphones and their cords are both carved out of polystyrene in shades of pale blue and ice green.
Some of the strongest work in this exhibition relates material directly with its imagery such as Margarita Cabrera and The Untitled Projects of Conrad Bakker. His Untitled Project “Eames Table [eBay]” is a series of 12 paintings based on images of the Herman Miller table designed by Charles and Ray Eames that are taken from online auctions and classifieds. Each painting is priced according to the original auction price. The paintings and a life size roughly painted and hand carved version the table are part of Bakker’s ongoing interest into the presentation, circulation and consumption of design objects and are part of the exhibition.
The Austin-based collective Okay Mountain‘s hysterical installation is a combination torture rack/exercise machine. Personally my favorite part of the workout equipment is Dragging Rock that is simply a large rock attached to a rope. This piece proves that not only the labor intensive and compulsive but also the irreverent and smart are stand outs in this exhibition. Inspired in part by the McNay’s collection of Spanish colonial paraphernalia the installation compares and contrasts what could be the brutal torture equipment of the Spanish Inquisition against contemporary ideas of exercise and fitness all in what seems to be rudimentary carpentry skills. This work is made mostly of wood, metal and leather and is one of the few works that gets its own room and does not seem crowded in this over abundant exhibition.
New Image Sculpture is on view at the McNay till May 8th, 2011 and features the work of: Conrad Bakker, Libby Black, Tom Burckhardt, Margarita Cabrera, Chris Hanson and Hendrika Sonnenberg, Dennis Harper, Kiel Johnson, Kevin Landers, Jean Lowe, Okay Mountain, Kaz Oshiro, Mark Schatz, and Jade Townsend.