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Afternoon Delight: One Art Museum's Cool Trailer

by Jerome Weeks 24 Mar 2011 1:05 PM

Quite a few art museums have created video trailers for an exhibition, but San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum has done a lovely job for a smart, witty and accessible show (it runs through May). The sculptures recreate ordinary objects with ordinary materials and they recall everything from miniature Claes Oldenburgs to sort of a demented Marcel Duchamp readymade.


Afternoon Delight is a daily diversion for when you’re just back from lunch, but not quite ready to get back to work. Check back tomorrow at 1 p.m. for another one.

This trailer — for the show, New Image Sculpture, currently at San Antonio’s McNay Art Museum through May 8 — is one of the more fascinating, illuminating and just fun art museum exhibition trailers I’ve encountered.

That’s partly because it’s a backstage-installation and artist-interview video. We see the artists assembling their often complicated mixed-media works; we learn a bit about each sculpture, each artist — enough to intrigue us, at any rate. It’s partly because the entire video is handsomely edited, shot and scored (kudos to Mark and Angela Walley, who were commissioned by the McNay). And it certainly doesn’t hurt that chief curator Rene Paul Barilleaux is able to explain the thinking behind the whole show cogently and compellingly.

But it’s also because Barilleaux just found a wonderfully playful trend among contemporary artists: sculptures that recreate mostly ordinary objects (bathroom, violins, farm tractor, convenience store racks) but with non-traditional, do-it-yourself materials rather than conventional sculptural media. The show shuffles together elements of folk art, Pop Art, Dada and even Arte Povera. The works recall everything from miniature Claes Oldenburgs and Arthur Ganson’s kinetic contraptions to sort of a demented Marcel Duchamp readymade. And quite a few have a mix of whimsy and home-made craftsmanship that’s immediately accessible but also makes one re-consider the ordinary object in question.

As one of the featured artists says, a cool thing that art can do is “change somebody’s walk down the street.”