At its core, Contemporary Art Month (CAM) is designed to “promote and raise the national profile of San Antonio contemporary art and artists” but the nonprofit that makes the tradition tick also understands the value of outside perspectives and welcomes them annually through creative collaborations with national and international artists and curators. While it’s not one of CAM’s “foreign exchange” programs such as the CAM Perennial or CAMx, the group show “Civil Pleasures” falls neatly into that cross-pollination category by bringing together seven artists connected by the mystical, magical, high desert art mecca of Marfa. In every imaginable persuasion, painting also emerges a common — but not exclusive — thread running through “Civil Pleasures.”
With a resume that includes solo shows in New York, Los Angeles and Berlin, and press from Art in America, Artforum and the New York Times, New Jesery-born Van Hanos is perhaps the best-known artist in the bunch. Currently living and woking in Marfa, he paints in styles ranging from photo-realistic portraiture and conceptual landscapes to humorous surrealism and hybrids in between.
Based between Austin and Marfa, Biff Bolen employs an almost childlike sensibility in garish abstractions and playful figurative paintings he says are “meant to discomfort first, and then to be assimilated, like a bad stand-up comic or extremely spicy food. Start with agitation, then make a sandwich.”
Raised in the seemingly disparate locales of Marfa and Bremen, Germany, Moritz Landgrebe draws inspiration from “the architecture of our physical, and also our immaterial surroundings.” While versed in painting, drawing and video work, his recent output falls in the three-dimensional realm via sculptures rendered from MDF, Bondo, nails, spray paint and other low-brow materials that “can be found at the hardware store.”
A California native now based in Marfa, Natalie Melendez spins “American detritus” into sculptural collage work that’s currently being collected in a book based on her recent series Birds of America.
A Chicagoan who’s been embedded in all aspects of Marfa culture since 2006, Ross Cashiola is arguably best recognized for his long-running, earthy music project Hotel Brotherhood but proves himself here as a accomplished visual artist with paintings that bring classical subjects into bizarre, contemporary contexts.
With roots in Arizona and a connection to West Texas through Cashiola, Rhode Island-based Norbert Garcia also plays with classical iconography albeit in moody, slightly ominous drawings rendered in charcoal on unstretched canvas.
Most likely to be familiar to locals, San Antonio’s own Amanda Benavides studied under Hanos at Columbia University and was featured in Freight Gallery’s memorable 2018 exhibition “Images of Power.” Through painting and mixed-media work, she addresses “the ideas of action, physicality, gender, race, hip-hop culture, queerness and violence.”
Organized by Vance Knowles, who ran the music program at the renowned contemporary art space Ballroom Marfa before relocating to San Antonio, “Civil Pleasures” is worthy of a visit based solely on its historic venue — the Spire, a 19th-century East Side church the Guide to the Historical Markers of Bexar County describes as “the first established for African Americans in San Antonio.”
Free, 7-10pm Sat. March 16, the Spire, 230 Center St., contemporaryartmonth.com.
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