Arturo Herrera's "Adam" on Main Street
Arturo Herrera, in person, is charming, smily, self-deprecating and personable. He’s undergone many interviews in the last few days surrounding the (re-)unveiling of Red, his 2,500-square-foot wall painting in Main Plaza commissioned by the Linda Pace Foundation.
During one TV interview, he says, the interviewer has to keep reminding him not to look directly into the camera. He flew in on Southwest Airlines, with attendants brusquely ordering him around, and it baffles him that the seating arrangements are more or less every man for himself. He’s amused by the Christmas song the attendants sing over the P.A. Tomorrow, he says, he’s flying from San Antonio to New York, and then to Berlin. He pauses for a moment to sigh, and frame the moon with his hands.
Adam rises in red loops and squiggles above the Bill Miller signage on the Frost Bank parking garage at the corner of Main and Commerce. The unbroken lines suggest doodling, or an illegible handwritten typeface. Red is bold and striking and really pretty, feels breezy and chic and cheerful.
In Linda Pace Foundation advance materials about the piece, Herrera writes “The title Adam brings several images to mind: An earthbound beginning; the first individual human; humankind. It is a powerful and yet open-ended title that can convey multiple readings to the audience. The color red that I chose for Adam was intentional as red is the color associated with heat, power, physical energy and celebration. Coincidently, red was (Artpace/ LPF founder) Linda Pace’s favorite color, both for its physical and spiritual qualities.”
I don’t think you have to have read this to have a genuine experience with the piece. Like much contemporary public art, it’s agreeable and open-ended and monumental at 25 feet high and 98 feet wide. It’s wise open and avoids preaching, isn’t contingent on vocabulary.
Imagine being an artsy tween dragged through historic San Antonio by your parents, a little worn out by the lauded significance of the disappointingly small Alamo (where you take a scowling selfie), made to trudge through the San Fernando Cathedral and the Governor’s Palace, tuning out your mom reading aloud from Wikipedia. You check your text messages, check Tumblr. You sigh, and look up, and Adam catches your eye. It’s cool-looking, which is refreshing. And it’s not on your parents’ agenda, you don’t know what it’s called, but there it is, celebrating and vibrating and being very cool. If you were on Project Runway, you think, that would be your inspiration for the on-location challenge. You gaze at it for a while, take a photo, upload it to Tumblr, and look at the photo several times after you’ve taken it. You imagine your own textile. This is a very valid moment. The man who made the painting, and the woman whose favorite color it was and whose money eventually paid for its installation would applaud you.