The multifold practice of Brooklyn-based interdisciplinary artists Angel Nevarez and Valerie Tevere spans two decades of projects that actuate music and sound, radio, dissent, and the cultural complexities of the public sphere. The artists have produced works in video installation, lyric writing, performance, and photography. Their research interests lie in the intersections of music, civic action, and historical moments that resonate through distinct musical instrumentation, sonorous traditions, and social forms.
The duo’s Artpace project, entitled Twenty-One Silent Stages: A Ballad, responds to the life-changing events brought about by this generation’s pandemic in ways that envision silence, emptiness, and voids in cultural and social spaces. The artists’ work has often involved collaborations with musicians, radio practitioners, and city agencies. Yet, due to the pandemic, Nevarez and Tevere have contemplated a restructuring of their practice and have spent time in San Antonio reflecting on such transitions and new possibilities.
On view in the gallery are a series of photographs and a prominently placed stage. The artists photographed the empty and silent stages of 20 San Antonio music venues, performance spaces, and theaters that went dark during 2020 and 2021. The venues include The Bang Bang Bar, Carver Community Cultural Center, Cowboys Dancehall, Esperanza Center for Peace and Justice, The Lonesome Rose, Mission Marquee Plaza, and Paper Tiger, among other local favorites, some of which may close permanently as a result of substantial financial losses.
The circular stage constructed in the center of the gallery is much like the venues captured in the duo’s photographs—it is empty and silent. The stage-as-structure suggests the activation of bodies, voices, instruments, and props that once signified communal social experiences. The empty stages portrayed in the photo series do not merely query the effects of the pandemic on performance venues but also the entirety of their related institutions: the musicians, performers, stagehands, audio engineers, and office staff whose creative and financial livelihoods depend upon the activities and opportunities of performance.
For Artpace’s lobby, Nevarez and Tevere created and installed Side Effects, a neon sign with green, blue, and red alternating text reading “postponed,” “rescheduled,” and “canceled”— words that many artists were intimately familiar with in 2020 and continuing well beyond. While “rescheduled” and “canceled” illuminate and then disappear, the word “postponed,” lit up in reen, is legible whether illuminated or not, underscoring the residual effects of such postponements on the past, present, and future.
Twenty-One Silent Stages: A Ballad and Side Effects simultaneously mark the social, cultural, and economic impact of COVID-19 on both macro levels (cities) and micro levels (the artists’ practice). Viewers are invited to the gallery to encounter the reverberating silence and consider the very potential of empty stages, postponements, and cancelations, and what could be possible when people gather and performers take the stage once again.
The artists would like to thank Gary Nichols of Hare and Hound Press, Ray Lynch of Affordable Neon, and the Artpace team for their work which made this exhibition possible.
Photo Credit: Beth Devillier
3D Tour: Chris Mills