Only mediocrity can be trusted to be always at its best.
--Sir Max Beerbohm
The one thing to expect of First Friday is consistency: Following a broad middle road assures that there is something for everyone and that nobody is in danger of being amazed. This leaves me mulling over the validity of the First Friday monthly art opening regimen, and I always end up at the same contradictory conclusion: As long as the beer sales are good, and SAPD make money handing out tickets for expired inspection stickers and parking violations, then it must be worth continuing. On the non-sarcastic other hand, First Friday is still an opportunity for a great cross-section of the S. A. population to partake in art. I know that without the group effort of Blue Star inhabitants, a majority of shows mounted in the collective would go completely unnoticed; it’s like strength in numbers. But the repetitive routine and the profusion of underwhelming exhibitions makes me wonder why I bother going.
At the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center http://www.bluestarart.org/, The Familiar Unknown ceramics show, which opened the first week of December, still haunts the main gallery. Meanwhile the small Gallery 4 space has been re-installed with a collection of wall-mounted sculptural pieces by Marc Wiegand titled Now That You Are Here, Begin. Categorized as lightboxes, these plastic units with their ribbons of color and back lighting would look great in an ultra lounge, but ultimately fail to hold my attention: The formalist structures and use of light add up to little more than a regurgitation of minimalist design. The stripes of color achieve nothing except to damn these works to the realm of all color stripe paintings made after 1919.
The UTSA Satellite Space hosts Devon Moore and Kathy Kelley with their show The Grey Area http://www.utsa.edu/today/2010/02/greyarea.html. I was hoping this was a reference to the brain, and not the trend of grey being the new black. Perhaps the title refers to the indefinable middle of a proverbial black/white binary, that area where absolutes are questioned and where one can safely reside without making definitive choices. But I doubt it. No, more to the point would be the intersection of rust, rubber, and steel. Kelley’s works, comprised mostly of deflated inner tubes, hang ominously on the walls in patterns resembling elephant trunks or connective tissue. One piece turns a whole wall into a concentration of rubber not- dissimilar to a grotesque plague of pustules. Meanwhile the surfaces of Moore’s steel wall hangings show the signs of bending and grinding — telltale clues that you are looking at process art. Unfortunately for these geometric forms, it is the final product that commands critical attention. Substance is lacking in this show; something is needed to draw out of the pieces on display, to push this exhibition out of the gray area of ungraceful industrial design.
Three Walls Gallery presents Chris Sauter’s paintings of exploding silos, each spewing thick, peachy, tubulous globs of paint. As a rule, I shy away from work with thickly- textured paint; it’s a personal aversion I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Because of that, I find Sauter’s series hard to stomach. I appreciate the dynamic of ordered agricultural landscape with unpredictable oozing of an imaginary fleshy substance, but the idea of big steel structures exploding smacks of nothing less than a boyish fascination with fire and destruction. Compared to Sauter’s sculptural/installation work, these paintings fail to captivate, though in relation to the concerns within his overall oeuvre — of utilitarianism and the geometry that accompanies it — Exploding Silos makes for a nice material detour. But when it boils down to visual response, these paintings don’t venture very far from those of an MFA candidate interested in testing the boundaries of contemporary academic painting. I would consider this series a success, but would hope that it is just that — a completed experiment.
At cactus bra SPACE http://www.cactusbraspace.com/, Cain Nevaeh (aka. Texas Tech MFA candidate Chisum Armstrong Pierce) posits a celebrity in a boring attempt to question the validity of celebrity. I have a better idea; put a kid in the attic and launch a Jiffy-Pop-shaped balloon and let the world watch.
Chad Dawkins is an artist and critic based in San Antonio.