For over a decade, Iván Argote has been creating interventions on public monuments across the world as colonizer statues are being removed. His Artpace exhibition, All Here Together, was originally conceived for the city of San Antonio’s Piazza Italia Park, specifically for the now empty plinth which formally held the Christopher Columbus statue. With this project at Artpace, we encounter a gentle, contemplative approach, in which the artist investigates what comes after a monument has been removed.
As you enter the gallery, you are greeted by a monumental pedestal and staircase which invites your participation. Embedded into the treads of the sculpture the words, DEAR WE ARE ALL HERE TOGETHER THIS IS A PLACE FOR US, give welcome and representation. Once at the top of the sculpture, the representation becomes recognition and honor as the participant has become a monument. It is a simple gesture which celebrates the fact that we are all important and we all deserve to be respected
Throughout the gallery are Polaroid photographs taken during a community event organized during the artist’s residency. Argote invited people to participate on a journey of reflection about our monuments, and about this specific empty plinth. These photographs are presented with a nod to official portrait galleries such as one would see in a bank or social club. Also displayed are drawings from the event attendees who contributed their ideas for this monument.
The video work, All Here Together, San Antonio, TX, serves as a collage of people, places and ideas which have motivated this exhibition. Much of the source material came from the artist’s community event, the artist’s exploration throughout the city of San Antonio, and through the generosity of individuals who were interviewed.
In the series of paintings, Fantasies, Argote continues his gentle and subtle commentary on public space while ironically using the strength of poured concrete as a substrate. Similar contrast appears on the gallery walls through a mural created with sketch-like strokes of paint, entitled “A Statue that Gets Tired”. The mural depicts a statue which climbs down from his plinth to lie down on the grass. The whimsical nature of the mural suggests a sense of play, while the action of the statue conveys frustration and weariness.
This exhibition uses humor and community to illustrate how sculptures, memorials and statues throughout the world are being reassessed through the lens of social justice. It reminds us uses of public space are rarely democratic and often represent a specific legacy.
Iván Argote has used his time at Artpace to construct a blueprint of what is possible and to encourage open dialogue about how the public can be involved in the decisions around community spaces. His works ask you to join in the discussion of what is public space? Who is represented? How can our community create a sense of belonging?
Artpace’s Summer 2021 International Artist-in-Residence program is made possible with the support of the Linda Pace Foundation and the National Endowment of the Arts. Iván Argote’s Artpace project was also supported by an Étant Donnés Contemporary Art Grant from the FACE Foundation. Artpace is generously supported by the City of San Antonio Department of Arts & Culture, the John L Santikos Charitable Foundation of the San Antonio Area Foundation, the Brown Foundation, Inc., the Texas Commission on the Arts, and the Harris & Eliza Kempner Fund.
Photo credit: Beth Devillier
3D Tour: Chris Mills