about the exhibition
New Works Now: Alex de Leon, Katrina Moorhead, Katie Pell, Juan Miguel Ramos, Lordy Rodriguez
May 10–September 09, 2012ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
New Works Now features the recent work of five former Artpace International Artists-in-Residence from Texas: Alex de Leon (1996), Katrina Moorhead (2005), Katie Pell (2006), Juan Miguel Ramos (2002), and Lordy Rodriguez (2001). Inspired by the importance of place and its relationship to identity and culture, each artist reflects on the significance of his or her surroundings. The exhibition considers universal and specific aspects of an environment and contemplates how truth and fiction mix in memory, while affecting a sense of nostalgia for remembered locales. Following its closing at Artpace, New Works Now will travel to the Dikeou Collection in Denver, Colorado.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Alex de Leon was born in Edinburg, Texas, in 1959. He received his BFA in printmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1983, before establishing his studio in San Antonio. He has exhibited extensively across Texas and elsewhere in the United States, in individual and group exhibitions, and has also contributed design for film and television. His rhythmic patterns of repeating images, often featuring symbols of contemporary folk culture, are hand painted and rendered through the visual language of printmaking.
Combining the imagery of South Texas culture with heavy themes of alcoholism, greed, violence, and addiction, de Leon exhibits two vibrantly colored pieces in New Works Now. Repeating images of beer cans adorn a large ceramic vessel in the Hudson (Show)Room, representing a time the artist witnessed his friend consuming a case of 24 beers in under eight hours. Downstairs, three mosaic panels of ceramic tiles depict smoking skulls, a single diamond, and bottles of whiskey flanked by firing assault rifles and empty shells. Composed like an altarpiece in reverence to the shared experience of war, the panels ponder symbols of humanity’s ills. De Leon is a self-proclaimed observer of culture and community, and considers his artistic responses to issues in society to be observations rather than judgment.
Katrina Moorhead was born in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, in 1971, and currently lives in Texas, where she works as the Assistant Professor of Sculpture at the University of Houston. She received her BA and MA degrees from the Edinburgh College of Art in the United Kingdom. Her elegant and delicate drawings, installations, and sculpture showcase seemingly ordinary and often hidden objects and experiences, casting the familiar in a new light.
On a recent trip to Iceland, Moorhead encountered an all-blue rainbow, which featured only the colors in the blue/indigo/violet range of the spectrum. Her fellow travelers argued that it was merely “a shaft of light,” but she disagreed and set about proving-by illustration and in a rudimentary way-what she had seen. A large projection screen draped over the table forms the basis of her piece, in which she cut an upside-down profile of the landscape where she viewed the rainbow. On the table surface, highly reflective projection screen samples vie for the attention of the light. Optical calcite, or Iceland Feldspar, is included as a dead-end in the investigation (this is a material that has many interior prisms and one that the Vikings used successfully as a compass). A watercolor drawing, which includes colorless but tonal versions of the colors of the spectrum she is not trying to reveal, operates as a sort of “target” for receiving the rainbow element she is trying to procure, but humorously sits aside from the activity, as if to expose the very pseudo-scientific nature of the whole investigation. Bones are included within the artwork to reference the X-rays that are present in the spectrum but are not visible to the human eye. Moorhead later discovered that what she witnessed may have been a “moonbow”-a particular and very rare phenomenon that occurs using the same physical principles as a rainbow, instead using the moon as its light source.
Katie Pell was born in Wilmington, Delaware, in 1965. She received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in Providence in 1987. She has lived in San Antonio, Texas, since 1995, and currently teaches at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her drawings, sculpture, and installations confront issues of gender, class, cultural identity, and race, often utilizing humor and whimsy. Memory, dreams, pop culture, and fantasy characterize the imagery in her work.
In New Works Now, Pell shares memories of her adolescence through life-sized rubbings taken from trees in the wooded area behind her childhood home in Delaware. Each rubbing is imprinted in graphite and melted black crayon on muslin cloth, which is pieced together and backed as a quilt. Like stone steles transmitting messages from a lost era, the rubbings reflect the mood of a youthful time, capturing the worries, musings, slang, and spirit of the kids who carved into the beechnut bark. One panel hangs in front of the larger backdrop, suggesting the memory of the deep space of the forest. Woods, exhibited here for the first time, imparts a sense of childish mischief, escape, and exploration, while the heavy quilted fabric conjures a sense of warmth and home.
Juan Miguel Ramos received his BFA and MFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio. In 1993, the artist, photographer, and musician co-founded San Anto Cultural Arts, a West Side learning space that promotes and encourages organic and cultural self-expression. He currently teaches at the International Academy of Design & Technology in San Antonio, his hometown. His work documents the people, places, and layers of Mexican-American culture in South Texas communities.
Yo Vendo Unos Ojos Negros is a video portrait of a young couple dancing to music of a bygone era-a traditional Tejano band with a full brass section and no synthetic instruments-set against the backdrop of a local bar. As with previous work, the people Ramos portrays are not characters, but likenesses of actual friends and acquaintances. To compose this piece, he photographed the dance partners, then drew their images by hand, digitally coloring and arranging the illustrations before inserting them into a video depicting a rotating 360° view of a the bar. As the pair concentrates on remembering the traditional steps of an old-school polka, they reflect a seriousness and reverence for past customs, while positioning a historic dance in a contemporary setting. The video represents the setting through the couple first, for, according to Ramos, “it is the people that make the place.”
Lordy Rodriguez was born in Quezon City in the Philippines in 1974, and grew up in Louisiana and Texas. He received his BFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and his MFA from Stanford University; he currently resides in the Bay Area in California. Inspired by frequent family road trips taken across country to visit relatives, his colorful work-primarily drawn in pen and ink-manipulates the language of cartography into abstract compositions of invented regions and places.
In the one hundred 10-by-14-inch pen-and-ink drawings in this exhibition, Rodriguez explores the possibilities of visual elements taken from maps and other visual systems such as aerial photographs, geological formations, recurring patterns in nature, street signs, cracks in the road, flags, and patterns on wrapping paper. Recognizing the familiar in his abstract drawings fascinates him. Each drawing in the series-which has no set arrangement-relies heavily on its interaction with the shapes and colors of the surrounding works. “Even color starts to have more of an intangible connection to its definition,” he explains, “same thing with the pattern and shapes that I have played around with. With these visual languages, after a while everything becomes interchangeable.”