As I approached 2008, I began to make the usual resolutions — one on my list included covering a wider array of art, which meant hitting a few art locales I have yet to cover. On my list was the San Antonio Art League & Museum, a place I’ve wanted to check out but haven’t had the opportunity to … that is until last Sunday. SAAL&M opened its doors for Selections from the Permanent Collection: Jose Arpa and the Davis Competitions. Seven of Arpa’s works were on display in the main gallery — for this occasion aptly titled “The Arpa Room.”
The Handbook of Texas lists Arpa as a painter born in 1858; he received special instruction from the historical painter Eduardo Cano de la Peña. Arpa went on to become a sought-after painter who declined the position of director of the Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City. After showing his painting “A Mexican Funeral” he gained attention stateside. He went on to call San Antonio home; here he participated in the 1927 Texas Wildflower oil-painting contest, and won the state prize of $1,000 for his work “Verbana,” which is currently on display at the museum.
Arpa was a founding member of the Taos Society of Artists (along with W. Herbert Dunton and Oscar E. Berninghaus, whose works also can be found at SAAL&M), a group of New Mexico-based painters. In a more mainstream arena, their works could be compared with Tao, New Mexico resident Georgia O’Keeffe, who fell in love with the Southwestern locale and spent the remainder of her life in New Mexico.
The majority of Arpa’s work shares a Southwestern theme, with the exception of three pieces, two of which were charcoal and chalk on paper. (One in particular, “Caricature of Mr. Classen, Raba & Arpa” is a humorous etching that is a cheery glimpse into Arpa’s non-landscape-inspired works.)
On a sidenote, it is an absolute necessity to view the recent restorations of two superb pieces on display: Martha Sawyers’ “Self Portrait” is absolutely gorgeous, the detail and the rich palette sets this piece apart from the others occupying the space, and Martha Mood’s beautiful appliqué stitch work “San Antonio River” is another incredible piece. (I could be mistaken, but I believe I saw the exact piece at the Southwest School of Art & Craft nearly a year ago.)
Now let’s backtrack a bit to First Friday, which was a little bit different this month — I’m not sure if it was the corner-side troubadours who occupied a few bare spaces down South Alamo or just the smaller crowd that made it out for the event — whatever it was, I enjoyed it. I paid the UTSA Satellite Space a visit where Joseph Cohen and Robert Tiemann’s works were on display in the show Engaging Propositions.
In the series, Cohen’s simple creations present an interesting viewpoint, where, as his artist statement promises, “philosophical inquiries into both the nature of painting and the act of perception” are met. By painting layers upon layers of paint, there is a depth to each piece that gives it a unique texture — where the sides of the works (which feature multi-colored paint strata) are equally, if not more interesting to the viewer.
Cohen reclaims “oops paint” to serve as his “found palette”; his pieces consist of commercial and exotic words intended for decorative purposes that act as the backing of his work, or even the prominent feature. A favorite piece — one that at first view seemed ordinary — had me coming back for a second take to realize that droplets of paint were actually falling onto the cement floor (a piece of tape was placed on the floor to warn viewers not to cross and ruin the somewhat-interactive piece).
As Cohen states, his “works call for a slowing down, a contemplative respite” — his art isn’t easy to take in; the pieces call for a second view or possibly a few deep moments with the work to discover the precise stroke it took to uncover another layer.
In the course of the usual rounds, I sneaked into Loft 120-2 where I’d received word that January’s First Friday marked the last of its kind for the Loft. Apparently, the overall small crowds didn’t affect the Loft. According to the website, the show brought in a “sizeable crowd” that was interested in the art — pieces sold and the evening was a success. Be on the lookout for what February has in store for the Loft — their site boasts major surprises will occur next month. Can’t wait to check ’em out. •
Selections From the Permanent Collection: Jose Arpa and the Davis Competitions
Through Feb 16
San Antonio Art League & Museum
130 King William Street