Arts tx 13 web

Photo Credit: Rafael Gutierrez

Museums are too often assumed to all be the same. Following the guidelines of formality and sophistication, museums attract the same crowd time and time again.

The Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum works to break this stereotype and develop a lively atmosphere to display, discuss and witness the arts. It does not take much questioning to understand why Blue Star was chosen to host the central feature of the 2013 Texas Biennial.

The Texas Biennial is a chance for local Texas artists to present their artwork in a formal setting and gain recognition for their talent and hard work. With its open call format, the Biennial gives local Texas artists the opportunity to display their work in its survey exhibition.

In this year’s Biennial, a team of 14 curators selected over 60 artists to highlight. Each curator independently selected works from the open call database. There were no set guidelines on how many artists or artworks could be chosen for the 2013 Texas Biennial. This gave the curators ample discretion on which artists they wanted to present and which direction they wanted to lead the exhibit.

The Texas Biennial is now in its fifth year. Originating in 2005, the Texas Biennial has grown from being held in only a few galleries in Austin to stretching across Texas with venues in Houston and San Antonio.

This is the first year that all the new chosen works are being presented under one roof. With one central location, art enthusiasts are able to witness all the new contemporary works in one outing. Ideally, this will facilitate equal coverage of every up-and-coming artist in the show.

As stated on the Texas Biennial website, “The Texas Biennial is a program of Big Medium, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting contemporary art throughout Texas.” Big Medium is located in Austin and receives funds in part from the City of Austin through the Culture Arts Division. Since the Texas Biennial began in Austin and continues to be programmed by an Austin art institute, it says a lot about the Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum that the main exhibition was chosen to be held in San Antonio.

This exhibition is a big step in the right direction for the San Antonio art scene. Artists and art enthusiasts from around the state and country will come to Blue Star to witness new talent and ideas. San Antonio is developing into a vital part of the Texas art scene.

The opening for the 2013 Texas Biennial curated survey exhibition took place on Thursday, Sept. 5. In Blue Star, it was evident that the show was not going unnoticed. The parking lot was packed and swarms of people, young and old, were anxiously making their way to the door.

Right from the start, the exhibit had its audience a little dumbfounded with a repurposed helicopter vehicle sitting right out in front. Inside, a lively, light-hearted chatter filled the room. The atmosphere better represented a party than an exhibit opening. Most people had a drink (dominantly Lone Star) in their hands matched with a smile on their face.

The exhibit space was filled with a diverse range of contemporary art. There was quite an array of 2-D works ranging from abstract and very conceptual to more realistic with an upfront purpose and many works falling in-between.

To be expected in any contemporary exhibit today, there were many interesting and unusual installation pieces that attracted attention. As soon as people walked through the door, their feet were met by meticulously placed containers filled to the brink with water, taunting every last onlooker to give them a little tap.

In the back left corner, a chaotic explosion of vibrant color and twisting forms crept through the top of the doorway, leading curious attendees to an almost hidden hallway in the back. The spontaneous shapes and hues continued developing down the hallway, leaving just enough room to squeeze through.

Digital media and video art also had a strong presence at the Biennial opening. Unfortunately, the audio for most of the videos was either drowned out by the audiences banter or completely overpowered by its neighboring work.

However, many of the videos were still incredibly engaging, encouraging audiences to watch them all the way through in spite of the distractions. “Fires” by Michael Morris was on 35mm film, and all narration was given by white subtitles contributing to its pensive tone. It evoked ideas of self-reflection and the effect of the past on the future.

There were also more humorous videos at the opening. One video, by Hillerbrand and Magsamen, displayed a family of four smashing holes into the walls of their house. Then, one after another, they would crawl through the openings.

This video was cleverly titled “Whole.” Another video, housed in the UTSA Satellite Space, a gallery adjacent to the Blue Star that held some of the work in the exhibition, projected old family photos onto a blank wall. Then the artist, Carrie Schneider, in a video overlay would try to match up her silhouette with figure of the person in the photo. The video was called “Dress,” referring to the white dress the artist was wearing.

The work in the curated group survey seems to be unique and genuine. For many of these unknown local artists, the Texas Biennial has given them their first chance to show their artwork to a large group of people. They are eager to express their ideas and get recognition for their hard work.

The opening night was about the artists. The audience appeared very open-minded and content with bearing witnesses to the amazing artwork. The curators and the Blue Star staff reiterated the fact that the night was really about the artists. A half-hour into the opening, they had every artist in the show raise their hands so the audience would know whom to attribute the great works.

The enthusiastic curator-at-large, Virginia Rutledge, smiled. It was evident that she was very pleased to finally have the exhibition up and running. During her speech, she exclaimed that “collaboration is really, really, really hard work,” then paused for an applause of recognition. She continued on to talk about the need for “an infrastructure to make an art scene. It takes institutions. It takes writing about the art. It takes being critically engaged in the art.” She wanted San Antonio and the Biennial audience to understand the opportunity it had “to show not just Texas but a lot of other places around the United States that fantastic art is being made outside of New York” and “outside of Los Angeles.”

The Texas Biennial exhibition will be available at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum (116 Blue Star) through November 9. Admission is free. Events will also be held on October 3 and November 7. For more information, visit texasbiennial.org.

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