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For several years, First Friday gallery openings have been a mainstay attraction for people who want to check out the latest contemporary art exhibitions in the Blue Star Arts Complex. Seasoned art lovers and newbies alike expect to see nonprofit and commercial galleries’ curations, but they may not always be aware of additional opportunity that are on view during these monthly art celebrations.
With so many artists living and working in and around the complex, it is not uncommon for an artist to open his or her studio to showcase not only their own work, but that of others as well. On Aug. 5, artist Deborah Keller-Rihn did just that, turning over wall and table space to Rachael Lynne Acosta and Ron Palos, two relative newcomers to the San Antonio art scene. Acosta earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2014, and Palos is currently a senior in the same program.
If you missed the two-person exhibit The Little Split Show last month, it will be open for viewing again Friday night at Keller-Rihn Studio (Upstairs Studios, 1420 S. Alamo) from 6-9 p.m.
Over the past few years, Acosta’s paintings have appeared sporadically in group exhibitions, and she is rapidly becoming known for her lush abstractions that visualize colorful, animated sections of cosmic or cellular matter.
The daughter of a former middle school biology teacher, Acosta has long been interested in organic growth from a scientific perspective and, as a collector of vintage microbiology textbooks, her images are often inspired by educational book illustrations.
Much like her subject matter, Acosta’s painting process is itself fluid and organic. Beginning with the articulation of simple shapes and colors, Acosta applies several layers of paint until globular or cellular forms come into play, taking on an aesthetic life of their own.
While painting Rudimentary Expansion (2014), the artist used the origin of an organism, when cells divide and reproduce through mitosis or meiosis, as inspiration. In Entheogen Unearthed (2016), her abstract imagery reminder her of the corridors of the brain and the connections between the physical mechanics of mental activity and altered states of consciousness.
For those already familiar with Acosta’s paintings, one of the delightful surprises of the current exhibition is that she has embarked on a new direction with a series of small scale collages. Seeking to better understand the source material for her painted imagery, Acosta began making the collages around 2013 by cutting out and rearranging scientific illustrations along with other images culled from magazines and atlases.
With more recognizable imagery entering into her visual lexicon, Acosta found herself analyzing new topics such as the spread of disease, which she addresses in her collage Germification (2015). In this work, microscopic illustrations of food scraps and germ varieties infest the parts of Texas where Acosta and her relatives reside, a reference to the idea that diseases travel from people to people as they move from place to place.
In Snotion (2015), which was inspired by a textbook illustration of a sneeze, a similar conglomeration of germs and food substances seems to spin playfully before the viewer’s eyes, as if ready to spread malaise to another victim.
In another tiny collage, Pinealatonin (2015), Acosta takes on the subject of insomnia by superimposing a photo of a sleeping man and an insomniac woman, cut from a medicine advertisement, over a kaleidoscopic array of images that could fit into a pleasant dream or might alternately disturb and torment a person who’s trying to fall asleep.
With her most recent collage Inviro (2016), which is also about the spreading of viruses, Acosta added yet another effective element to her repertoire of materials. Housed in a kitschy frame with inset fake jewels – a format that recalls the early ’90s cross paintings by John Torreano – the work stands as a dazzling yet humorous caricature of Acosta’s paintings, and suggests that she has opened a most fruitful new door, worthy of further exploration.
A different type of disease, mental stress, is the basis for a photographic series by Palos, who muses on a number of topics in staged photographic tableaux in which he himself is often the model/performer.
In Anxiety – The Body 1 & 2 (2014), Palos uses his torso as a drawing board for a conversation about obsessive compulsive disorder. In the first image, he shows his body as normal and healthy; in the second, he has drawn repeating sequences of numbers onto his flesh. In a third version, he shows us his open hands, ink stained and completely covered with random writings that refer to the constant thought processes of an overly restless mind.
In other works, Palos addresses topical issues that have become prominent during the current presidential election cycle. In Business Savvy 1 & 2 (2015), Palos expresses the distance he feels from the men in business suits who control Corporate America. In one example, a performer wears a mask of a green alien; in another, he dons that of a chicken, an idea that originated while the artist was thinking about the worldwide ubiquity of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
In hindsight, the artist acknowledges that the most frequently expressed comment viewers is that the figure bears an uncanny resemblance to Donald Trump.
In a related series, Palos lampoons the political power of evangelicals, calling attention in satirical fashion to the control they exercise over the Tea Party and its many followers. In (Mis) Leading the Blind (2015), he and Acosta take center stage as televangelists, with Palos as a blindfolded preacher depositing his disciples’ money into a piggybank held by a haloed Acosta.
Acosta and Palos also appear in Palos’ short video Time Is (2015), which is a captivating fusion of images and sounds. Accompanied by the ticking of a metronome, the video takes the viewer on a journey that seems to move back and forth between the finite and the infinite, and there is no time wasted in the viewer’s investment in watching and listening to this beautiful philosophical inquiry into the meaning of time itself.
If you cannot attend this evening’s viewing, the exhibition will be up through the end of the month and can be seen by appointment. For further information contact Deborah Keller-Rihn at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top image: Ron Palos, (Mis) Leading the Blind, 2015, digital print. Image courtesy of Ron Palos.