The Pabst Brewing Company arrived in San Antonio last year with fanfare around its commitment to local culture and ambitious plans for producing events. Seven local artists are the beneficiaries of this attention in an exhibition of installation art opening Friday at the Aztec Theatre downtown.
The exhibition is the work of Wide Awake Creative, a Chicago- and San Antonio-based team of artists and event producers led by Paloma Cortez and Pamela Rachél. Titled In Living Pixels, the show will focus on interactions between the digital and natural worlds, and will feature the work of Chris Sauter, Natalia Rocafuerte, Alan Weissling Pallares, Charlie Kitchen, Domeinic Jimenez, and Ryan Hunter.
Cortez and Rachél collaborated on a project for the new Hopscotch immersive art space near Travis Park and brought along Jimenez, an artist and fabricator they worked with there, who introduced them to Pallares, a fabricator colleague.
Sauter’s work in the Immersed exhibition at the McNay Art Museum in 2018 stuck with Cortez, and she had wanted to work with the artist since. Similarly, she had seen Rocafuerte’s work at the 2020 Xicanx exhibition at Centro de Artes and Kitchen’s work at Presa House gallery last September.
“It’s important to us that we highlight San Antonio artists and work with people who we knew were very talented,” Rachél said, adding that she and Cortez are grateful to Pabst for providing the opportunity.
In engaging those communities that helped revive the once-flagging Pabst Blue Ribbon brand, the company wanted to give back by supporting creative communities around the nation, said Seamus Gallagher, Pabst’s senior brand manager for culture.
“We’re a brand that, for as long as I can remember, has been associated with arts and music, mainly because that’s who our consumers were,” he said.
The coronavirus pandemic brought new challenges to creative professionals already facing the traditional challenge of remaining economically viable, and Pabst responded with the “1,000 Creatives” initiative to commission 1,000 works of art and design during the pandemic year, including the project with Wide Awake.
The company’s longstanding relationship with event promoters Live Nation led to the opportunity to activate the dormant Aztec Theatre in this unexpected way, Gallagher said, by using its lobby as the backdrop for a set of immersive art installations.
The focus will be squarely on the art, not the brand, Gallagher said. “If you come out to the show, you’ll notice there’s no real branded elements throughout. That’s not really our objective, to put a logo every six inches or anything like that. The NASCAR approach works for some brands, but really our staff are here to celebrate creativity, not dictate it.”
Cortez and Rachél not only celebrate the work of the artists, fabricators, and designers they appreciate, but encourage them to explore the full range of their creativity. Kitchen, for example, had never done an immersive installation before, but with the encouragement of Wide Awake he has brought his approach to manipulate nature photography to a new level.
As they worked on the installation Monday, Rachél said, “We’ve seen peeks and small insights to his work that he’s already producing for the show, but we’re really excited to see it come to life.”
Kitchen’s work will join the neon flowers, vintage TV sets, mirrors, and video animations of In Living Pixels, opening at 4 p.m. and running daily 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through April 15. A bar will operate during open hours on the theater’s upper deck, with music by DJs from Midnight Swim.
Face coverings are required, and time slots must be reserved to limit capacity. Free tickets can be reserved online in advance.