Artist and San Antonio native Jesse Amado believes that everyone deserves beauty in their life. For his latest curatorial project he wanted to create just that – something beautiful, so he “set out to assemble a group of artists who address reality as a dreamer.”
The result was Ruiz-Healy Art’s current show Dreamers and Realists, a group exhibition featuring Jesse Amado, Andrés Ferrandis, Cisco Jímenez, Nicole Franchy, and guest artists Kaela Puente and Alejandro Augustine Padilla. Puente and Padilla are two artists Amado met during the Second Saturday monthly art walk that takes place around the intersection of South Flores Street and Lone Star Boulevard, the other artists are on the Ruiz-Healy Art roster.
As I walked through the wooden doors of Ruiz-Healey into the exhibition space, I was immediately aware of the interesting spatial layout of the show. Amado chose to evacuate the room of a linear narrative, defying the white cube model and typical gallery hanging procedures.
Less so than a gallery space, it feels like you got an exclusive invite to an art aficionado’s swanky loft in New York City’s meat packing district. The way the works adorn the white walls creates rhythm and movement that activates the room and translates into a beautiful and dreamlike aura.
What immediately caught my eye was Amado’s identifiable circular felt sculpture hanging in the back of the room like an all-knowing sunset. However, I decided to wait and began examining Padilla’s mixed found objects figurines which were closer to me.
Padilla’s found objects evoke a strong sense of Mexican folkloric inspiration combined with the random and almost humorous nature of the treasures that could be found in Ariel from The Little Mermaid’s treasure cave. This union between curanderismo and Disney speaks the language of dreams and can be seen in Le Chocolate Assemblage and The New Monsters, The New Myths.
In the former, Padilla uses baby pink, gold, and black acrylic paint on found statuettes of a lamb, A Wise King figurine, and a cat bone. In the latter work, Padilla marries two statues of ambiguous yet identifiably rich 18th century European women with gold foam bleeding from their waists like ostentatious ball gowns. Nestled between them is a stark white octopus I named Ursula in my notes.
Next I began to admire the works of Andrés Ferrandis who is currently experiencing a stylistic shift. Although I am not personally familiar with his older works his newer works are mixed media, combining archival pigment printing on cotton paper and felt to create images of vintage machinery decorated with Damien Hurst-like bubbles.
Works like Moving Image #4 made me feel like I was having a psychedelic recount of an image of a camera I had once seen and stored in my memory. I wasn’t alive during the early stages of the conception of color photography but Ferrandis’ works made me think I remembered being there – total déjà vu.
Across the room from his black and white images with pastel bubbles hung two large-scale abstract paintings also by Ferrandis. These works read as if the “bubbles” were actually balloons of paint Ferrandis popped with darts to then drip down the canvas and create Sulki #1 and Sulki #2.
The second guest artist featured in Dreamers and Realists, Kaela Puente, has mixed media collages and porcelain statues hanging and free-standing in the show. Almost kitschy, her Mundane Moments drawings with wallpaper and sparkles are incredibly powerful. The DIY-nature inherent to collages is complemented by her deliberate arrangement of the animal figures that confront the viewer – they are fantasies grounded by the realistic nature of the animations. Her ceramics are contemporary takes on Egyptian canopic jars with meme-inspired, punny titles.
Nicole Franchy’s inkjet prints on cotton paper strongly reminded me of the “Upside” from for the Netflix original series Stranger Things. The works from the Doppelzeit Series each feature two images of notable landmarks in one frame with one half completely subverted in either direction, color, or anachronism from the other.
Her other works featured in the show, such as Camouflage, are handcrafted and cut layered prints. Despite stylistic differences, both sets of work convey a strong sense of an alternative reality within reality. Franchy tempts the viewer to make an existential choice of what is real to then lead the viewer into a forced acceptance of the entire image as a truth. She highlights the inherent dualism in the experience of reality by juxtaposing or altering two snapshots of a singular space. Together, the two realities form a dream-like geography,
Thinking about the reality living invisibly in reality I jumped across the room to Cisco Jímenez’s collages with drawings that feature framed pieces of trash. Jímenez’s work highlights the waste left behind by consumer culture whose existence we often forget about once an object no longer has utilitarian value and we dispose of it – out of sight and out of mind but still breathing just in another version of reality such as a landfill.
The alluringly designed products become grotesque next to Jimenez’s organic and mathematical line works in Gremlins and Stretch. The logos on the trash pieces are like cue cards and you are painfully aware of how their iconography has subliminally snuck into your consciousness and polluted your mindscape. Jimenez’s work is the reality and our ignorance of our ecological footprint becomes the dream.
After viewing the rest of the artists’ works I was ready to walk back to a separate crevasse of the gallery and view curator Jesse Amado’s work. In reference to the tragic events in 2014 in Mexico, Amado’s art installation is titled A Mass Disappearance of 43 Students. The victims become embodied in sensuous forms of brown virgin wool felt. Amado creates metaphoric graves for the brown skinned boys who were robbed of a physical place in reality.
His work allows the viewer to imagine a reality in which there is reconciliation for the tragedy while creating tangible permanence and existence in an artwork that represents their bodies. The installation shows how there must be both states of dreaming and reality and a choice between the two cannot be made.
Complementing and included in the installation is a giant felt circle decorated with smaller felt circles that are Amado’s anti-depressants. Speaking to the rise of synthetic pain killers and drugs that work to alter consciousness, Amado created tablets that allow you to feel good about yourself. The rise of drugs allows for easily accessible altered realities, dreaming whilst awake simply by swallowing a pill. A Mass Disappearance of 43 Students with 7.5 mg makes you think about the ways you can dream in reality, either by denial of tragedy or by reliving pain.
This exhibition is a place where dreams and real life co-exists. The viewer is allowed to meditate and question modes of perception and states of consciousness. Experience it for yourself and think about the ways in which you are both a dreamer and a realist. Dreamers and Realists will be up at Ruiz-Healy Art on 201-A E. Olmos Dr. until Aug. 27.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Dreamers and Realists would run until Sept. 3, but the show’s final day will be Aug. 27.
Top image: Golden Mean (Victim, Casket, Grave) by Jesse Amado. Image courtesy of Ruiz-Healy Art.