CAMx (Houston): A Small Exhibit That Packs a Big Punch

Categories: Visual Arts

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(a)Kagan, (a)Ginsburg, and (a)Sotomayor
There are only four pieces on display in "CAMx (Houston): Jimmy James Canales and Lee Michael Peterson," the new exhibition at Redbud Gallery. This includes Canales' live installation, HAW-27 Satellite, which, if you count all of its individual pieces, makes a total of six. However, the installation is meant to be taken as a whole.

HAW-27 Satellite features the San Antonio-based artist walking along a river in his city, telecommunicating with a gathering in Houston... until he trips and takes a hard fall.

"Now was that real or was that staged?" he asks to a giggling group of onlookers.

After Saturday's opening reception, what remains left of the installation is a 1930 Totty trunk, pierced on all sides by 27 7075 Aerospace Alloy arrows. To the right of the trunk sits a TRC-475 40CH Citizens Band Weather radio. Though both the radio and the trunk are from the 1920s, only the radio correlates with the television. Where the radio represents a time when families and friends would gather together and listen to telecasts, the flat screen television, like today's social media websites, is set up for virtual communication, allowing people who may be miles apart to see one another in real-time. That the arrows aim for, but miss the 21st century technology, and instead hit the ancient trunk, while the old radio sits forlornly to the side, shows how modern society has abandoned the cultural tradition of gathering together in favor of separate togetherness.

Surrounding the installation is Peterson's collection. His pieces revolve around influential and infamous public figures. Rather than celebrities, the influentially famous subjects in the exhibit are female governmental leaders Elena Kagan, Ruth Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, titled (a)Kagan, (a)Ginsburg, and (a)Sotomayor. Kagan sits atop a donkey, referencing the Democratic party, while Ginsburg warms up her track runner's legs for a race -- an appropriate look for both, given their enduring treks throughout the halls of government. Sotomayor stands daintily in the background, tights covering her legs.

Peterson's infamous subjects include Chris Dorner, John Karr (now Alexis Reich) and John and Patsy Ramsey, parents of murdered pageant princess JonBenét Ramsey. The infamy of the quartet rests in their run-ins with homicide, as Dorner was charged in a series of shootings, Karr once falsely confessed to the killing of Ramsey, and John and Patsy were at one time suspected of being responsible for their daughter's death.

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(a)John Karr with (a)John and Patsy Ramsey

While (a)Kagan, (Ginsburg), and (a)Sotomayor show three individuals -- more specifically, women; most important, Supreme Court Justice members -- in stages of rigor, (a)John Karr with (a)John and Patsy Ramsey show three people flaunting lazy excess. They stand and sit in relaxed poses, surrounded by cats, animals also infamous for laziness. Contrasting this inaction with the female politicians, who are poised for action, posits feelings of positivity versus negativity, respectively, onto each subject.

In 1986, the city of San Antonio started CAM, or Contemporary Art Month, an annual celebration of San Antonio's best cultural offerings. Originally held in July, the CAM calendar changed to March in 2010. In addition to a slate of events every weekend in March, CAM holds CAMx in July. CAMx partners with a different city each year, sending their chosen artists to said city in July. Hence, Redbud's welcome of Canales and Peterson Saturday evening.

"CAMx (Houston): Jimmy James Canales and Lee Michael Peterson" is on view until July 28. Visit www.redbudgallery.com for more information.


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