The Gospel of Lead
99 problems but the art ain't one
"Roses in the Hospital," "Say Goodbye to Substance," "The Diva Surgery," and "Eunuch Euthanasia" are past exhibition titles conceived of by the young and feisty San Antonio artist Dario Robleto. He'll be in Austin for Talking Art with Dario Robleto and Jeremy Blake at Arthouse's Jones Center for Contemporary Art this Saturday. This is a good bet for a stimulating afternoon, straight from the horse's mouth. These two rising stars on the national scene both have shown at the Whitney Museum are agitators of sorts, with a history of weirdly personal, spicy commentary (spicy in a nice and confrontational way). They create bits of cultural whiplash with acerbic and demanding voices. If you read the title cards for their works, you're rewarded with oddball insights and quirky materials lists. Robleto's found object/assemblage style of sculpture tends to make more sense, too.
Do not go to this talk if you are looking for feel-good decorative art. This is a show that is beautiful in its truthiness it lifts a slice of documentary out of the quagmire of American history. The manufacture of quality firearms is definitely one of our areas of expertise here in the USA. But do we take responsibility for it? Do we own it? Generally no. But Blake and Robleto are serious about this topic, and they share a morbid fascination with the Winchester Mystery House, the Southern California home built by the gun heiress Sarah Winchester. According to the estate's Web site, she felt haunted by the people who were killed with the guns her family manufactured, so she added rooms spontaneously for these ghosts for 38 years. Her house contains 160 rooms, 40 staircases, and 17 chimneys; she was paranoid and manifested this through architecture. That serves as the major motif of this collaboration between these guys, with Blake's video and Robleto's assemblages seeking to relive and reinvestigate the psychology at work.
These two artists conjure their own version of this guilt-ridden freak show. They invite you in (the gallery has added walls to create a disorienting labyrinth) and charm you with their clever titles and kitsch. Then, once you are isolated in a dark small room, they present you with sculptures made of bullets and human bones and videos that resemble blood splatters. What you think then is, of course, up to you. I am not haunted, like some moms and veterans are. Not one bit of sentiment for my hard-earned tax money paying for the shooting of folks I've never met. I got 99 problems, but the gun manufacturing ain't one.
Talking Art with Dario Robleto and Jeremy Blake takes place Saturday, Jan. 21, 3pm, at Arthouse's Jones Center for Contemporary Art, 700 Congress. For more information, visit www.arthousetexas.org.