Triple Treat @ Unit B, San Antonio

Work by Emily Sloan for "Triple Treat" at Unit B

Work by Emily Sloan for “Triple Treat” at Unit B

I’m not sure what I expected from “Triple Treat,” the CAMx exhibition at Unit B. I had really high hopes for the exhibition and can honestly say that I’m extremely excited about the San Antonio/Houston collaboration as part of Contemporary Art Month this year. I was excited to see what Redbud Gallery in Houston would bring to San Antonio.

I was disappointed. Triple Treat wasn’t an exhibition, but more of a showcase of three different artists. There was no conversation between the works. It looked like Redbud Gallery pulled work from an available checklist of works by three Houston-based artists: Ariane Roesch, Emily Sloan, and Kaneem Smith, to plop into Unit B. It’s not to say that the work is bad, or that the show is bad, but I expected much more from Houston. It didn’t help that  each artist’s work is divided by a wall or a room.

Ariane Roesche’s work is in a smaller gallery toward the back of the space. Framed works hang on the walls, and a life-size handmade linoleum ladder illuminated with small Christmas lights sits in the middle of the floor. The work combines regular household materials such as linoleum with small touches of technology like exposed wires and Christmas lights.  It’s inviting: I spent time admiring the flora and fauna of the linoleum in the wall works. The  clearly un-usable ladder seems almost deflated, it’s a wonder that it can support its own weight. The room makes sense as a tiny solo show of Roesche’s work.

Ariane Roesch for "Triple Treat" at Unit B

Ariane Roesch for “Triple Treat” at Unit B

Ariane Roesch for "Triple Treat" at Unit B

Ariane Roesch for “Triple Treat” at Unit B

In the next room is an installation of treated burlap vests by Kaneem Smith. The work is breathtaking, and the weathered and aged affect in the burlap is really impressive. Compared to the other two artists, Smith’s work felt thematically heavy. It didn’t  fit with the rest of the show, nor were there other works by the artist to help me grasp her ideas. It’s a nice piece, but I needed more.  It would have worked better if another piece been included to allow some sort of conversation, and to give the audience more of an idea of the artists intention.

Kaneem Smith for "Triple Treat" at Unit B

Kaneem Smith for “Triple Treat” at Unit B

The final piece was was a series of lamp shades scattered outside on the facade of the gallery itself, completely removed from  the other artists’ projects. Emily Sloan’s contribution to the exhibition, stuck to the facade in a random configuration, looked cool, but didn’t really “fit.”

Sloan and Roesch’s work was somewhat playful, and I wanted to see more by Smith. Unit B has standout shows by great artists, so I’m really left wondering: “this is all you’ve got, Houston?” Triple Treat really isn’t a treat, it is three different projects that don’t talk to each other. It feels too segmented and segregated. I want more than three mini shows when I walk into a gallery; I want a conversation between the works and the artists. I want to see why the works were chosen and placed where they were, and I certainly want to see why the artists were chosen. I’m happy to see the collaboration happen between the two cities, and remain positive, but was left feeingl just a little disappointed.

also by Leslie Castro

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3 responses to “Triple Treat @ Unit B, San Antonio”

  1. Dear Leslie,
    I understand your frustration with the show and feel like explaining a few factors that might help re-direct your “disappointment”. The artists in this show are all individually outstanding. The work they make transforms a space. Gus does not really represent artists. The RedBud Gallery, like Unit B, is a project oriented space and usually focuses on an individual artists’ vision. Each of these three women are part of the very best that Houston has to offer. They indeed should have each had an opportunity to showcase the full extent of there practice within and outside of the Unit B space. This is why you might have felt that you were seeing three mini solo shows that lacked connection. I think if each artist was given room to re-invent that space, the conversation between these two art communities would be clearer. Therefore, I feel that the “disappointment” should be felt towards the programs’ attempt to cram three amazing installation artists into one installation. Thank you for considering all of the works individually, and with understanding of each artists talent. And thank you for keeping a positive outlook on the future of this project. I agree that it is a great idea and that nourishing dialog between these two art communities is already sparking great exhibitions and discussion. Cheers, Jonathan

  2. In response to Jonathan Leach’s comment, I would like to clear up some information on the program that he refers to. Although he doesn’t specify, I assume the program he is talking about is CAMx, a new San Antonio initiative meant to increase dialog between San Antonio and a different sister city every year during Contemporary Art Month. The curators of CAMx 2013 were not given instructions to “cram three artists into one installation”. The curators were not given instructions, period–they were simply given the freedom to exercise their curatorial muscles and make their own decisions based on the space they were working with and the artists they chose–as any curator is. CAM does not under any circumstances dictate what or how many artists the curators choose, or the content of any exhibition. We look forward to the 2nd leg of this endeavor at Redbud in July, curated by Kimberly Aubuchon!–Michele Monseau, Chair, Artist Advisory Board, CAM

  3. I visited the Triple Treat show in San Antonio and was impressed by each of the artist’s works individually but I also felt their works spoke to each other symbiotically.
    I observed that lampshades, clothing/coats, and a ladder are all typical household items – this was first parallel I drew between the works. It gave them common ground especially in the setting of a gallery like Unit B which is incidentally in a house.
    The outside of the “house”/gallery covered in lamp shades for me, referenced the 1950’s (because of their colors and their vintage look ). They turned the idea of women in the home upside down and inside out (the visual of them sticking out on the front of the house in such a backwards manner made me think briefly of the atom bomb going off in 1945 and how that turned everything upside culturally in the 1950’s). Keeping this in mind I went inside.
    I saw Ariane Roesch’s light ladder. A ladder could be symbolic of moving to a higher place or perhaps falling to a less desirable place. I pocked these thoughts and moved to Kaneem Smith’s work (the dark hanging coats) – I happen to know (from previous research) that her work speaks of the women that have been murdered in Juarez.
    I mused…. 2 of the 3 works referenced “home” and “women” as well as “upheaval”. Could the ladder be a “bridge” between the 2 other works? Maybe the lamps of another time and the dark clothes which talk about the tragedies of today are supposed to be connected by the ladder and that is how the works speak with each other…. I do not know if this was at all the curator’s intention but the exhibit certainly gave me food for thought. Perhaps these three women will all be offered solo shows after this since each work and artist is powerful. Perhaps that is why the curator prudently kept the commentary to a minimum and let the art speak on its own. I would not appreciate a letter or long diatribe from the curator and or artists telling me what to think and I am glad they chose to allow me to experience the show without that distraction (Dominique de Menil employed the use of MINIMAL labeling for Houston’s Menil Collection with the thought that individuals are intelligent enough to think and interpret art for themselves – she allowed art space to breath). I would expect something like this exhibit from Houston and I think highly of it as a whole. I suppose for some the show simply didn’t correlate, however for me it was definitely connected and wonderfully free of telling literature and or pamphlets .
    “Perhaps only silence and love do justice to a great work of art.” –Dominique de Menil
    – thoughts from a humble Houston artist

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