The four shows on view through Jan. 5 at San Antonio’s Blue Star Contemporary all play with the notion of impermanence — ironic, given Blue Star is the city’s longest running contemporary art space.
The artists — Joey Fauerso, Tsuyoshi Anzai, Margaret Craig, and collaborators Sterling Allen and Larry Graeber — probe the symbiotic relationship between creation and destruction, and how humanity helps or hinders the process, be it in the White House, the ocean, a living room, or an operating room.
Fauerso’s “Teardowns,” in Blue Star’s main gallery space, is a black-and-white world of sculpture, painting, video, and, occasionally, performance; a coloring book which has never met a crayon. On closer looking, metaphoric tones of grey dominate. The installation is part of the artist’s on-going exploration of nature, gender, and culture, and how these things are often in discord with each other.
“Teardowns” is filled with flora, fauna, and figural uneasiness: two-dimensional cutouts of cacti and creatures, subservient women on their hands and knees, cartoon-like paper body parts sprinkled across a makeshift stage. During Blue Star’s First Fridays, a solo dance performance takes place and the installation becomes a theater, with much of the art transformed into props. (Fauerso returns the following morning to reorganize the gallery space.)
A mural inspired by the White House Diplomatic Reception Room historic wallpaper, known as “Views of North America,” serves as a 50-foot backdrop. It depicts imagined early American landscapes favored by early 19th-century European dignitaries: majestic beauty, wild animals, men holding rifles. Fauerso has carved away at this wall mural with a squeegee, softening the images into a light grey, as ghostly and illusory as the history it delineates. In doing so, she has allowed the viewer an opportunity to fill in those reductive blanks for themselves.
With a title like “Teardowns,” Fauerso seems unconcerned about moving all manner of things around — long-held ideas, cultural beliefs, various wooden shapes. Her six-minute looping video (which bears the same name as her show) is a playful homage to destruction, as we watch individuals take turns chucking black objects at sculptures made from the very same objects. Such interchangeability seems to eliminate any real consequence, which perhaps speaks to the “destructive and reconstructive natures of humanity” that the artist contemplates in this new work.
Fauerso’s black-and-white installation of moveable props and interchangeable objects is a sand mandala of sorts, an exercise in impermanence and perhaps a commentary on the ever-changing state of affairs in this world. She has even supplied Blue Star’s Learning Lab with a shelf full of black-painted blocks, giving visitors a chance to create (and destroy) their own masterpiece. A sign on the wall enthusiastically reads: “When you’ve finished your creation, tear it down!”
Also on view, Margaret Craig’s “Sea Islands” is a birder’s paradise born of colorful trash items. The biology major turned artist has constructed an observation pier in the middle gallery — complete with binoculars — that overlooks an archipelago installation (made of plastic) at low tide, the swirl of garbage resembling organic marine life that would no doubt attract circling shorebirds. Her show’s message feels oddly hopeful, as if the sea might one day learn to coexist with these contaminants.
“This is not without precedent,” Craig states. “The bacteria, ideonella sakainsis, eats plastic.”
On a less existential note, “Formal Proof” in the back gallery offers a roomful of design pieces worthy of an urban loft space. Repurposed materials, along with a wide selection of found objects (including a set of striped karate belts neatly wrapped around the torso of a ladder-looking object), have reincarnated as chipper wall art and floor sculptures in this collaboration between Sterling Allen and Larry Graeber.
And finally, Tsuyoshi Anzai has recreated an operating room in “Healthy Machines,” using bright kitchen utensils in lieu of cold surgical tools. The Japanese artist’s personal MRIs (“self-portraits,” he calls them) and photographs from when he underwent brain surgery cover the wall as clinical proof of his personal ordeal. Though the operation itself was a success, Anzai now suffers from epilepsy: modern medicine eliminated one issue, but created another. Not surprisingly, his work explores what exactly it means to be healthy.
The answer comes from the Constitution of the World Health Organization and is neatly inscribed above the ersatz OR’s exit:
“A state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease of infirmity.”
The exhibitions run through Jan. 5, 2020 at Blue Star Contemporary in San Antonio