Ironically, the kite that best encapsulates the intent of LIFT: An exhibition of kites, which opened Thursday at Artpace, has a traditional dime store diamond shape and trailing tail unlike most of the other kites hanging on the gallery’s walls and from its ceilings.
Exhibition co-curator Stuart Allen concluded a preview of the show in the Artpace conference room Thursday morning where the kite, constructed with holographic sheets, invisible thread, and clear acrylic rods, shines below a skylight as though in celestial flight. Its creator is artist Holly Veselka and the kite is titled to make the invisible visible.
“She designed it to get you outside and look up and think about larger spaces and larger issues,” Allen said, which relates to the concept of LIFT. “A kite generates lift and also lifts our spirits and perspectives.”
LIFT will continue through Dec. 31. Artpace is located at 445 N. Main Ave.
Allen is something of a kite scholar, having studied and used them in his artwork for more than 20 years. He also has curated wind and kite-related exhibitions and lectured on the connection between kite-making and sculpture. His artistic enterprise Bridge Projects, developed with Cade Bradshaw, launched the exhibition by challenging 12 San Antonio-based artists to use kites for artistic expression. They are Richard Armendariz, Justin Boyd, James Canales, Megan Harrison, Jennifer Khoshbin, Ashley Mireles, Ansen Seale, Molly Sherman, Hiromi Stringer, Ryan Takaba, Holly Veselka, and Jason Willome.
The exhibition also includes works by artists from Canada, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Japan, Germany, Korea, Malaysia, and China.
While Allen is interested in a kite’s relationship with the sky, not a gallery, the variously shaped aerodynamic artworks function well on walls or suspended from ceilings and express their makers’ preoccupations. Molly Sherman’s work, A Kite for Collective Action, connects flat panels printed with a list of books about social justice and action. The clincher: the kite is attached to 12 spools of string, not one.
Ansen Seale, an artist best known for his photography, is also a tinkerer interested in nature and science – and in generating electricity from lightning, à la Benjamin Franklin. The panels of his circular kite, imprinted with lightning strikes and keys, are turned by the breeze of an electric fan and generate enough power to light the kite’s tail, woven with LEDs.
The exhibition continues in the Hudson Showroom with kites expressing their cultural and artistic heritage. Masaki Satoh, one of several famous Japanese kite-makers featured in the exhibition, is represented by two kites abstractly resembling bugs. A piece of cassette tape bowed across its back causes the “bug” to buzz as it flies.
In another corner of the gallery, a long, languid red cloth hangs mysteriously from a rafter. Influential New York kite-artist Tal Streeter made it to reflect the ephemeral mark a kite tail makes on the sky, Allen said.
As part of the exhibition, Allen and Bradshaw put out a call for kite stories on the Artpace website and held a community workshop to produce a kite installation imprinted with the stories. An especially poignant one came from Fernando Valladares in Madrid, who wrote of the joy a kite festival had brought to children in Chile after a major earthquake struck.
“The simplicity of a piece of string and a piece of fabric dancing in the air made a miracle,” he wrote.