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Artpace's Fall 2019 International Artists-In-Residence Have Created Surprisingly Synchronous Exhibitions


  • Kelly Merka Nelson
It's no surprise that Artpace's residents often find common ground. They're lumped together, noses to the grindstone for two months, after all.

However, this fall's three Artists-In-Residence seem to vibrate on an especially united wavelength, cross-pollinating ideas as they developed three distinct bodies of work.

United by curator Kelly Baum (New York) — who confessed that curating an Artpace residency was a personal dream of hers — Jessica Halonen (Austin), Emre Hüner (Istanbul) and Cauleen Smith (Los Angeles) each use found objects and other ephemera in their work, collecting secondhand items from bookstores and Pick-N-Pull or drawing from the relics of family history. Amongst themselves, the artists marveled at how interconnected their processes became during the residency, and how their ideas would sync up in surprising ways.

  • Kelly Merka Nelson
Upon entering Smith's "Contingent Habitat," the viewer approaches a crow named Odeyemi from behind, passing her small hoard of books, toys and trinkets before crossing the threshold into the room beyond. Odeyemi's cluttered collection gives way to mostly open space, in which Smith places larger set pieces that speak to black womanhood, space and safety, interiority and exteriority, and police brutality.

Building on the protest banners she created for the 2017 Whitney Biennial, a neon protest sign flashes between "I will light you up" — a threat made by Trooper Brian Encinia to Sandra Bland in the confrontation prior to her arrest and death in custody — and a lyric from the 1977 song "You Light Up My Life." On the wall opposite plays a film featuring local vocal phenom Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson doing what she does best: singing her heart out. The film — the beginning of a longer project investigating the concept of the chorus — is a celebration of creativity, community and black excellence.

Taken together, these two pieces foreground the tension between visibility and invisibility experienced by people of color and black women in particular. While creatives like Sanderson deserve all the attention they can get, if Bland had not been targeted by the police, she very well may still be alive today.

  • Kelly Merka Nelson
Hüner fully embraces clutter in "a Model is not a Map a Home is not a House." Like Smith's Odeyemi the crow, he collected San Antonian detritus — secondhand books in particular — to fill the space alongside 3D-printed recreations of fossils, dog pelvises, banners printed with words and images excerpted from secondhand books and more.

Overwhelmed by the sheer size of the state, Hüner cast aside his original plan to explore brutalist architecture in Texan metropolises, opting instead to dig deep into what San Antonio's downtown has to offer — and imagine everything else himself. He dreamed up a series of strange structures, which he made into unfired clay sculptures labelled with odd phrases inspired by the aesthetics of signs and names in the U.S., using vocabulary drawn from his finds at Cheever's and the Antiquarian Book Shop — "Vocaloid Unexplained Sounds Research Initiative," "Pheochromocytoma Superalloys Syzgy Communication Systems," "Xenolith Gold Energetically Modified Cement Border Wall Solutions."

Not even Artpace was immune to Hüner's magpie-esque tendencies. Many of the found objects placed or mounted on pegboards were sourced from the building's rear storage room, including the roof of a camper van.

  • Kelly Merka Nelson
Upstairs, Halonen's "Sorry I haven't written" draws from ephemera related to her father's deployment to Vietnam. Though he died years ago, Halonen's grandmother kept a file full of Vietnam-era papers and materials squirreled away, which were uncovered after she passed away. Halonen recreates some of these objects in trompe l'oeil oil paintings — a well-worn helicopter diagram folded to fit in a pocket, the untidy embroidery of the "wrong side" of a military patch and the cover of a Christmas card whose unvarnished message gave the exhibition its name: "Merry Christmas. Sorry I haven't written."

Drawing from the windows in the space, Halonen fabricated two wooden panels. One is solid and embossed with textured gold foil. The other is a grid that mirrors the window frames, filled in with subtle gold foil accents and held in place by glass sandbags fabricated by Dawn del Alamo. Nearby, a solid plank of raw Douglas fir, a tree that populates Halonen's childhood home of Michigan, is similarly weighed down by a pink glass sandbag — a fallen body of sorts.

On Thursday, Smith, Hüner and Halonen's work will be revealed to the public with an opening reception and artist talk. After the opening, the three exhibitions will remain on view through January 12.

Free, 6-9 p.m. Thursday, November 14, Artpace, 445 N. Main Ave., (210) 212-4900,

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