Critics’ Picks

Gary Sweeney, Sin Cuenta (detail), 2005.

San Antonio

“Spanglish”

Artpace
445 North Main Avenue
October 26, 2005–January 22, 2006

Originating in South Texas, Spanglish is a hybrid dialect that provides the title and concept for an exhibition, deftly curated by Kate Green, that features eight San Antonio-based artists. The works on view address ways in which geographical barriers are regularly transgressed, not only by illegal immigrants, but also by American culture's gradual infiltration of the rest of the world via mass media and consumerism. Sin Cuenta (all works 2005), one of the more arresting pieces, uses three freestanding sections of chain-link fence. By inserting plastic cups into the fence holes, artist Gary Sweeney created designs that offer subtle commentary on border politics. The first segment, placed at Artpace's street entrance, depicts a large eye, while in the upstairs gallery the next two segments read in Spanish, consecutively, “How many undocumenteds are there?” and “Sin Cuenta,” which roughly translates to “without number.” Beto Gonzales's vinyl decals show a famous image of Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes) wearing a sombrero, slyly hinting at how signifiers of cultural identity such as the iconic Mexican hat are repurposed for mass consumption. But the most powerful gesture comes in the form of twelve power horns installed in a grid on the wall that emit police radio transmissions recorded on the Laredo/Nuevo Laredo boundary by artist Luz María Sánchez. The persistent feedback is an appropriate simulacra of a tense, complex situation, and the noise is unpleasant and impossible to ignore.