It is time again for “On and Off Fred.” This self-guided neighborhood art studio tour is now in its seventh year and has doubled in size since it began in 2007. There are more than 80 artists in a variety of media represented this year, in addition to theater and live music performances, poetry, and classic autos from Model T Fords of Texas touring the “Old Spanish Trail.”
New this year, you can also tap into the Twitter feed for up-to-the minute information on flash performances and other exciting developments.
This type of studio tour is a really great way to get to know your local artists, a glimpse beyond the curtain, so to speak. It is also a great way to experience the wonderful classic neighborhoods of Los Angeles Heights, Monticello Park, Jefferson, Woodlawn Lake, Keystone, Beacon Hill, and Alta Vista. All border Fredericksburg Road and can be reached by auto, bus, bike, or on foot if you happen to be in the ‘hood. Seeing as our home base is in the heart of the tour, we utilize an approach that is all of the above.
The tour kicked-off with an opening night reception and Autograph Party at Bihl Haus Arts, which does a wonderful job of organizing this event. The Golden Horizons artist volunteers served up a tasty pot-luck style buffet with plenty of libations to go around.
There was even some dancing as Los Nahuatlatos delighted the full-house crowd with their signature “skajunto, hiphop cumbia, surfer polka rock, and Reggae y huapango.” Everyone enjoyed the sneak peek of what we could expect on the tour this weekend. SAMA Contemporary Curator, David Rubin (who will have an open studio for his work on Sunday) commented, “I think this is the strongest showing for this group yet.”
With the printed catalogue in hand, Page and I set out to explore the tour. Available for $15 at participating locations, it really makes it easy to map out your tour strategy and is full of pithy information. You can also access the catalogue online for $5. Or, you can just wander around and search for the yellow signage and balloons that denote participating venues. (Insiders tip for 2015: purchase your catalogue in advance for $10 and that includes entry for two to the preview party.)
We were not disappointed. From the warm and and incredibly tactile works that fiber artist Beth Callaghan creates using vintage and resourced materials, to the quirkiness of Jessica Garcia’s conceptual assemblages constructed from the detritus of urban life, this tour is packed with artistic trailblazers as well as deeply seasoned veterans of the art world with treasures around every corner.
There are a number of stops on the tour in which multiple artists are exhibiting. Some represent gatherings and collaborations for the weekend others are more permanent studio arrangements. One example is the Michigan Building at 1101 W. Woodlawn, where we visited with Alejandro Padilla and Albert Alvarez working at their shared space Studio Fantoma. They have in common a strong and confrontational style but that is where the similarities end. Padilla’s work is colorful, jarring, perverse, and hauntingly beautiful. Alvarez has a very intense pen and ink style that he occasionally expands into larger paintings. His work wrestles with the vagaries of the bottom of life, the struggles. And the work ultimately transcends those struggles. He has a compelling series that builds on the tales of his grandfather’s WWII experiences. The juxtaposition of the war themes against his intense urban style is riveting.
Also in the Michigan Building you will find conceptual artist Jessica Garcia. We climbed up to her third-floor studio to catch her putting together her installation “Just Once More Than Never Again.” Otherwise known by the moniker “Invisible Gallery,” she is a conceptual collaborative artist — a woman in a very male dominated field. She has a compelling personality, and flows seamlessly into whichever space she is occupying. Her day job is with the esteemed Ruiz-Healy Gallery. She is a chameleon.
“Yeah, I set up for the Express-News and I had to take it down. Now, I am just setting up for today.” Ah, the challenges of the conceptual artist. Although she has done CAM for five or six years now, this is her first showing with On/Off Fred. “I just moved into this space in September, and I am really glad to be a part of this.”
The 700 block of Fredericksburg Road is another great gathering of artists in a variety of media from performance to clay, to photography, to painters. You will find the collective of Clamplight Studio, Uptown Studio, the new home of Jump-Start Performance Co., and the studio of public artist and painter Angel Rodriguez-Diaz.
We walked in on a smashing Flamenco performance by Tamara Saj and the collaborative group “Arte y Pasión.” We were on the move, so we only got a taste – fantastica!
That is the challenge of a weekend like this. Our goal was to see and experience as much as we could in a limited time frame.
And unlike the typical gallery experience – which is often absorbed in silence – in this instance you will find yourself in working spaces talking to the artists about where and how they do their work.
Clamp Light is a perfect example. Home to artists Mark Crutsinger, Wesley Harvey, Tom Turner, and Sarah T. Roberts, this is a perfect spot to get a feel for how these working artists are banging out a living. They are all looking forward to CAM and the gallery “exchange” that they will be doing in collaboration with FL¡GHT Gallery. This is an example of the give and take in the arts community in this city. It is vital.
Another plus on this tour? French & Michigan. Don’t get too excited. They are not open –yet. Which is unfortunate. Why a very small, but vocal, group of neighbors chose to take issue with this exquisite concept, I have no idea.
We had the pleasure of chatting with principals Celeste Wackenhutt and Billy Lambert. Along with third partner, Jeff Dersch, they curate a sublime group of artists in their home and intertwined in the design firm. Today one of my favorites, Sandy Whitby, was represented. They have an interesting approach. Each partner has a stable of very different artists that they work with. Each votes on what the other two bring to the mix, and this evokes a compelling curatorial frisson.
Although clearly frustrated with the current zoning contretemps that they find themselves in, she brought a very warm vibe to our conversation. “We are very happy to be able to participate and open our doors today to our friends and neighbors.”
In fact, just as we were leaving, neighbors David and Rachel Martinez stopped by with their little grandson Jaden in tow. So, of course, I had to ask what they thought of this place.
“I wish these guys could stay forever!”
The Martinez family was adamant in their support of this wonderful little design firm.
Rachel continued, “It was always commercial, and was only residential for a while. So it’s back to commercial. This place is GREAT for the neighborhood. What’s the big deal?”
David Martinez quietly added, “I thought neighbors were supposed to get along with each other.” Let’s hope District 1 Councilman Diego Bernal is listening…
Just across the street, is the studio of Rolando Briseño. Another pillar of our local art community, he is a native son that has been continually recognized as among the best throughout his career, with awards from The Rockefeller Foundation, New York Council for the Arts, and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, among many others.
He is a vocal proponent of the concept of Mestizaje – the cultural mix – that makes San Antonio so vital. The space was brimming with paintings, and works in progress, as well as the dominating sculptural centerpiece of his Alamo-based performance art piece “Spinning San Antonio Fiesta.”
By the time we got to Hausmann Millworks, we were reeling – but in a good way.
There was the inimitable and irrepressible Rex Hausmann at work on his laptop (he is currently working toward his graduate degree).
We launch into a discussion of his latest work and the discoveries that he is making within himself as an artist day by day. He shows us some prints that he is working on for the McNay Art Museum. More insight into what is to come.
The Millworks is another full-time collective of studio artists. Since 2006, the Hausmann family has been involved in the transformation of their former furniture fabrication and design studio into a thriving group studio environment. Currently in residence you will find Marilyn Lanfear, Mark Gelatt, Fernando Andrade, David Almaguer, Barbara Fuchs, David Segura, Carla Veliz, and Lalo and Kat Hibri.
We wander into the guts of the place and have the pleasure of running into Marilyn Lanfear, who is preparing for her upcoming show at the Millworks opening March 16th. Lanfear employs various media to give voice to her vision, whether it is carved limestone, cast paper, metals, or any other media she deems necessary.
Mark Gelatt’s most recent work are graceful forms rendered in black plastic with flame. For most, the result might be a horrendous blob, but Gelatt manages a great deal of control evident in his softly undulating forms.
It was also a pleasure to find Fernando Andrade in his studio. His spare and piercing drawings in his series “A Jugar la Guerrita” never fail to reach their mark. It is also interesting to find him working on a series of paintings. The energy is very different from his drawings and I look forward to seeing where they go.
Now, we look forward to another day of On and Off Fred, although Saturday left us exhilarated and drained at the same time. There are many studios yet to visit: veteran sculptor Danville Chadbourne, his son Conan in his first time on the tour with his exquisite drawings, a rare look at David Rubin’s studio, Raul Castellanos, Richard Arredondo, Kathleen Trenchard … We absorbed so much on the first day and I still feel that I have barely scratched the surface.
If you are interested in the arts in this city, On and Off Fred is an experience you should not miss. Studios will be open today from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., with a closing reception, “Say Goodnight, Fred,” at The Woodlawn Theatre, 1920 Fredericksburg Road.