A few weeks ago I made it to San Antonio to pick up some auction art for Glasstire’s fundraiser. I didn’t have much time (day trip) but I stopped into Artpace to check out the shows.
I liked all the exhibitions on view, but admittedly the special draw for me was that San Antonio artist Michael Menchaca had a big muti-channel video installation upstairs. Menchaca is the Texas component of this Artpace artist-in-residency cycle, and I am a huge fan of the artist’s work.
I was also aware that I was lucky to see this new work, that most Texas art fans would not (thanks, Delta), and I wished I had the power to call up a major Texas curator or collector to tell them to get this work onto a museum acquisition list, toot sweet. Menchaca’s piece, a video which consumes an entire room (ceiling too), feels too important and too much a synthesis of this time we’re living through for it to have a limited run in just one space. It should travel. It should be allowed to communicate w i d e l y, because that not only feels like its purpose, but it feels like its destiny. Menchaca has over time cultivated their own lexography and codice (with deep nods to ancient Mesoamerica) of scenes and characters of contemporary community — robust, volatile, celebratory, sinister, and most importantly, very much alive. A force that’s shaping this nation.
Menchaca keeps expanding their vision and method. Photos can’t do it justice. When you are in it, you are in it — it devours you. Essentially, the entire gallery space acts as the vessel for an animated vaudeville of a creation myth of Texas. It’s called The 1836 Project (Extended Widescreen Edition), and as Artpace describes it: “…this work employs vivid colors, active layering, purposeful pacing, and use of familiar cultural images which convey the colonial and racist realities of Texas history.”
It’s raw, unsparing, and witty. It’s angry. I don’t often see such highly politicized work rendered and presented so beautifully, so fully able to deliver on its goal.
Today is the last day of its run. If you’re in San Antonio, stop in. If you’re elsewhere in Texas: let’s hope some good folks figure out how to make this work accessible to more people across the state, and beyond.