A profound change is underway on South Flores in the Lone Star Art District. Gallista Gallery as it existed, is no more. Back in 1998, owner Joe Lopez took the chance and moved from his original gallery on Alamo Street at the suggestion of Andy Benavides, who is right across the street at One9Zero6. Ever since, Lopez – with wife Frances by his side – has provided exhibition space for his fellow Chicano artists, with studio space for about 10 artists, a thrift shop, a cafe and a lounge. Long before Second Saturday became a hip destination, Joe was bedrock in the SoFlo community.
But now it’s time for the next generation to take the reins. New owner Sergio Martinez closed on the sale, and Lopez celebrated with his many friends and admirers at his last Sabado Segundo in March. Now, as Lopez relocates to a studio space a few doors down Lone Star Boulevard in the Bill Fitzgibbons complex, Martinez is making quick work of getting his new gallery – Freight – up and running for its grand opening on May 9 at 6 p.m.
The name is inspired by the railroad tracks that run adjacent to the building, rumbling with the noise of freight trains in movement throughout the day and night, the music of San Antonio.
The first show out of the gate for Freight? Scott Ball, staff photographer and chief photo editor at the Rivard Report.
When we stopped in to visit with Martinez, he had just finished up a meeting with Alamo Architects. The building is in a state of disarray, the hustle of movement and rearrangement evident. Most of the artists who currently call the complex home – including arts incubator 3rd Space Gallery, run by Kim Bishop and Luis Valderas – will stay for at least six months, but this proud new owner is also anxious to begin to make the place his own and has hit the ground running.
Martinez was born in Mexico City and grew up in San Antonio. His mother is an artist, Yolanda Manzanilla, still based in Mexico City. After many years of living in Austin and working in the nonprofit sector, he and his wife moved back to San Antonio a few years ago. He explains, “I grew up with art, and I always wanted to open my own business and do my own thing involving art, music and food because they are my three favorite things in the world,” he says with a laugh. “We were looking for something that would fit that vision, and when we saw that this place was for sale it just seemed like the perfect place to bring those things together.”
There is an earnestness about Martinez which is refreshing and reassuring. He is a young man making the investment in his dream, and willing to work for it. He should fit into the community well, because it is this kind of energy and tenacity that has made this neighborhood hum, with leaders in the scene like Alex Rubio, Shek Vega, or more recently, Bill Fitzgibbons. An example of this work ethic is that he was so serious about his cooking, he volunteered to work in the kitchen at Jason Dady’s Tre Trattoria, one of the leading restaurants in the city. That is ballsy.
“My vision is to maintain an art gallery, but update it and be at the forefront of taking the Lone Star Arts District into the next 20 years.” This is a bold statement, but Martinez isn’t your average new kid on the block. Remember, he grew up here, his mother even taking classes with the beloved artist Albert Mijangos just across the street when he was a kid. “My mom even rented a space from Andy (Benavides) for a while.”
He goes on to say, “Another factor that made me want to buy this place is that the community here all seems to be pretty tight-knit, kind of having the same vision or goals for this area. So it just seemed like a great opportunity to join a cool group of people to do something special for the city of San Antonio.”
Cut to Scott Ball. Martinez discovered Scott just after the last Second Saturday in April, while perusing the Sunday wrap-up edition published by the The Rivard Report.
“I came across the article announcing his new position, so I went to his website and his blog and saw all his work. I fell in love with it, I thought it was great. The photos of San Antonio that he has done really capture the city, the vibrancy and diversity of it. Also, the grittiness that maybe a lot of people don’t get to see.”
Although Scott Ball and I have essentially worked together for more than a year, this was the first time that we had actually met. Such is the reality of the internet-based cubicle. It was a blustery afternoon at La Tuna, getting together with our colleague, Page Graham, also a contributor to The Rivard Report.
Ball has done photography, off and on, for about five years. His camera of choice is a Canon EOS 6D full-frame digital camera and a Fuji X100T. As Page and Scott delved into photog-geekspeek, waxing poetic about prime lenses and such, I began to gain the measure of the artist, although he wouldn’t refer to himself in this way.
Page turns the conversation to the use of “depth of field,” a signature technique that Ball uses to advantage frequently in his work for the Rivard Report. We are both surprised at the revelation that he is attempting to move away from this a bit. “My very favorite images don’t have shallow depth of field. I feel that I use it as a crutch a bit too much. You’ll see that the images that I use in this exhibit won’t use too much depth of field.” Ball favors the use of the Fuji as a much more discrete tool in his arsenal in the realm of street photography, his “secret weapon.”
Ball relates that Sergio Martinez became intrigued with him and his work due to an introductory article that Ball did when promoted to his new position on the Rivard Report.
“He actually saw the bio that I did myself, and the work in it, and reached out to me through my website.” The bio that Scott refers to was raw and heartfelt – the photographer, usually behind the lens, revealed a great deal about himself. One comes away feeling that you just learned a great deal that you never knew about an old friend. A nice piece of writing. Click here to read it.
Martinez invited Ball to exhibit, and it so happens that the inaugural opening of Freight will also be Scott’s very first exhibition for art’s sake.
“It’s really overwhelming, and right now I am in the middle of selecting which prints I want to make and working with the printer. It’s a large task.”
“I feel like my taste is very different from others. Like the depth of field thing. I think that is what people like to see because of that ‘wow factor.’ But my taste is different than that.”
I point out that he doesn’t shoot “his taste” for the Rivard Report. That gets a laugh. He reflects, “I hadn’t thought about that before, but yeah, there’s ‘Rivard Report’ mode and ‘Scott Ball’ mode, and it’s different. I have to separate myself from the two.”
Everyone will have a chance to see these two firsts during the next Second Saturday, May 9 at the exhibit titled “Lasting Impressions”. Come out to the SoFlo-Lone Star Arts District and get a feel for what’s going on. Yes, the adventure that Scott and Sergio are igniting at Freight is exciting. However, you should come expecting to dig into what is going on with all of the studios that make Second Saturday relevant to the San Antonio art scene.
Freight Gallery, 1913 S. Flores, does not yet have a website or Facebook page. Just show up in the SoFlo/Lone Star Arts District on Saturday evening starting around 7:00 pm, May 9. There’s a lot going on. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Always interesting.
Featured top image: “A street portrait of a man on Ash Wednesday in downtown San Antonio. Photo by Scott Ball.”