“Signs of Their Times” Exhibition Explores San Antonio's Vintage Marquees


  • Ben Ortiz
In the midst of San Antonio’s 300th birthday, it’s hard not to wonder what the Tricentennial’s takeaways will be. Memories of parties, concerts and festivals? A better understanding of the history of San Antonio and its peoples? From our corner at least, one of the biggest standouts so far is the degree of nostalgia and reflection its inspired from San Antonio artists, who’ve collectively done a commendable job of placing our city in a fascinating historical context.

The latest example of this creative introspection arrives in the form of “Signs of Their Times: Totemic Marquees and Neons of San Anto,” a series of 13 paintings by Ben Ortiz. Although born in Chicago, Ortiz grew up near Jefferson High School, an area of San Antonio that (from certain angles at least) feels like a time capsule. A charming throwback seemingly devoid of irony, the historic ’hood comes to light in Ortiz’s realistic paintings that link Jim’s Coffee Shop, Pizza Hut and the Tip Top Cafe through vintage signage.

Presented as underdog icons that have witnessed the passing of time — proven by rust, broken bulbs and other battle scars — his “Signs of Their Times” take on further meanings via philosophical messages (“We cannot change anything until we accept it.” — Carl Jung) spelled out on their marquees. Described by the artist as “a window into an art form that is disappearing from society,” the solo show opens with a reception featuring food, drinks and poolside music by the Michael Waid Trio.

Free, opening reception April 13 6-9pm, on view 1-4pm Fri April 13-Sat April 14 through May 19, Bihl Haus Arts, 2803 Fredericksburg Road, (210) 383-9723, bihlhausarts.org.
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