This morning I dropped by Urban-15 to meet with George and Catherine, and talk about the up-coming Josiah Youth Media Festival they will be organizing later this summer. I'm to be hired on to coordinate the event. When I arrived, George escorted me down to the basement space where he was meeting with one of the newest curators over at SAMA (the San Antonio Museum of Art). David S. Rubin has the lengthy title of the Brown Foundation Curator for Contemporary Art. He was displaced from New Orleans by Katrina, and has been with SAMA about six months. I'm not terribly keen on the contemporary stuff that SAMA shows in it's rather limited modern gallery. The Asian, Oceanic, and Latin American collections (especially the Latin American Folk Art collection) are where they shine. But David seems well on his way organizing special shows.
I'm not sure if his visit was a courtesy call he makes to all local artists (George has been doing innovative video art, multimedia, installations, and conceptual pieces for over three decades), or if he was looking for items to add to a show that will debut in October.
I took a seat in a chair a bit back from them. George and David sat at a computer work station, and George loaded up a DVD with some of his work on it. I knew he'd done some big, prestigious pieces, but I hadn't realized how secure is his place in the international art scene. He was talking about a time, probably 25 years ago, when he was in New York City, hanging out with avant music icons like Steve Reich, and they'd go out to hear Pauline Oliveros. And whereas I like the playful, quirky world of art here in this city, George was talking about a milieu a long way from San Antonio, and not just removed in years and geography.
One of the shows that David is planning is a retrospective of psychedelic art. He made a few comments about how he saw a transformative watershed in the art world where a whole new color pallet was introduced. He made some mention about Frank Stella. And then he mentioned something about Op Art. “So,” George said, jumping in, “you're having poster art?” David shook his head. Before he could clarify, Catherine wandered in. She picked up a Mexican blanket. “These traditions are older than Frank Stella,” she said. “The red dye is made from the crushed bodies of the cochineal insects.” “Ah,” David added, “but that's not a psychedelic color.” George stood and unfolded the blanket. “But this pattern sure is,” he said. Catherine pulled out another blanket with bright saturated colors. “These are all natural, fluorescent dyes.” And I just leaned back, smiling. The old tussle between the academics and the traditionalists.
“You've bit off something pretty big,” I said with a laugh. “The word psychedelic means so many different things to different people. You're wanting to make some sort of bridge where Frank Stella and Bridget Riley connect Kandinsky to the current crop of post modernists such as …?” But before I could get him to tell me who he considers the current crop of psychedelic artists, the cross talk began between him and George; the former speaking of historically vetted post modernists who have enjoyed high profile representation of the big time NYC art dealers, and the latter bringing in drugs, technology, and shamanistic traditions.
David laughed and said something about how he knew what he meant by the term psychedelic. I laughed also. He'd better do a good job of conveying those nuances in the program and and other contextual material which will accompany the show. Because I know exactly what psychedelic art means. And clearly George does as well. And I can say without a slightest doubt, we all have radically different images in our heads.
All I can say is, pass out fistfuls of psilocybin at the door, and you can hang toothpaste tubes or Thomas Kinkade posters on the walls, and the visitors will be enraptured.
I followed as George and Catherine gave David a tour of the building. We went up into the old sanctuary which has been converted into the dance practice studio, as well as the screening and performance space. The projector screen which will electrically lower when needed, has arrived but still needs to be installed. And George told me that he and Catherine are still reviewing the proposals from the architects who are vying for the contract to expand the performance space. We then walked down to the greenhouse, which has been converted into George's office. Herman was in there on the phone, pricing equipment needed for the Smithsonian video art installation. I walked out to the courtyard with Catherine. We watched the goose and the rooster scratching the ground over by the west wing of the building.
George and David walked up behind us. “We have wildlife,” he said.
“Livestock,” Catherine modified.
“Very nice,” David said, looking around.
“The rooster attacks me,” Catherine told me in her soft voice. “He thinks I'm a rival.”
“Is that why you're holding that broom so tightly?” I asked.
She smiled. “The goose is the great love of his life.”
“One day,” George said, hands on his hips, “we'll find a nest of eggs watched over by that goose and her rooster.”
A man who does construction and building maintenance around the place walked up behind us. He tugged on his ponytail. “The gooster might turn out to be a delicious animal. And if not, I expect it will hold it's own in the cockfight ring.” He nodded decisively, and ambled off into the greenhouse.
After David left, I talked with George and Catherine about the Josiah project. There's a lot of work to do. But on the bright side, they do have a budget. If things work out the way they should, I'll get some decent pay. However it didn't help that when George dropped by the Leftovers set last Saturday, Russ walked up and said: “I hear you're giving Erik a job. He's working on this particular project for food. Are you paying him in food or money?”
George pursed his lips. He turned and poked me in the belly. “I'll have to wait and see how much he eats.”
That's right. I'm just here for the amusement of other people.