By Gabriel Diego Delgado

Hither and Thither
A Curatorial Juxtaposition of Environment vs. Aesthetics
Artwork of Darrell Roberts and Candace Briceño

-San Antonio, TX. Hither and Thither, a two person exhibition at Joan Grona Contemporary Art Gallery that opens Sept. 1, 2011 and runs through the month is the brain-child of Guest Curator and San Antonio talent, Ana Fernandez. Her first guest curatorial endeavor, Fernandez eloquently weaves a web of playful pictorial deceit with a color and theoretical apposition of environment acting as leading contextual elements in a comprehensively critical and analytical exhibition. Working on several conceptual levels, Hither and Thither takes the viewer through an overwhelmingly quantitative world of heavily textured paintings divvied with incongruously drawn and dreamy, Neverland-channeling artworks.
Darrel Roberts, inspired by the ever present construction-site landscape of the “Urban” spread of Chicago, creates works of art that successfully attempt to capture that unrelenting buzz and hum of the inner city Chicago heartbeat. On the other hand, Magic Hat #9, a drawing series is a composite of 24 works on paper that metaphorically mimics the late evening and nocturnal sensibility of rural Vermont. Fernandez couples this visual display of pure painterly emotion with a new and fresh, but border-line poignantly playful and garishly distorted Wonderland-esque landscapes by Austinite Candace Briceño.
Taking all aspects of view-ability into account, Fernandez captures a kind of curatorial cornucopia, doing justice to these two unique artists by finely walking the ultimate and questionably ethical art based curatorial role of when does the “organizer” stop being a Curator and cross that hampered line to Installation Artist. Fernandez’s ability to analyze audience demeanor plays a concrete role in her aesthetic decisions of how and why to hang the overall exhibition. Working with 50 plus paintings by Darrell Roberts, Fernandez’s decision to anticipate a right to left viewing enabled her to think conceptually and intuitively when hand-picking the individual paintings. Then expressively designing an exhibition wall composition reminiscent of what she visualizes as a whimsical explosion of a dandelions blowing in the wind; a concentrated curatorial effort to display an asymmetrical but fairly random alignment. This is all achieved by building up the arrangement of canvases to a larger cluster of overpowering and multi-layered cityscapes, popping in very small and randomly placed paintings. These miniscule artworks are subtly different than their immediate company, in that at their core they exist only to capture a few moments in time when the artist’s eye rests for a minimal amount of time on arbitrary peripheral elements like building facades, water reflections, horizons and other miscellaneous banality.
Roberts makes sure we are all well aware of his coveted artistic lineage to the historical forefathers of Abstract Expressionism-with his deliberate color soirees; emotionally driven abstract paintings that take on aspects of sculpture, but hold true to a two dimensional security. Roberts comments on his ability to “condense the Macho Man” of the Abstract Expressionist era and micro-size the scale, but maintain the signature expressive attributes of overall composition and gestural flare.
Featured on the right wall of the gallery, Candace Briceño’s art has trouble holding ground to such adjacent color explosions. However, her minimally hued agave sculptures convey an organic responsiveness to the exhibition; that up until now was an absent artistic contribution. Her simplistically brilliant and ephemeral sense of nature is only reinforced by her material choice. Felt, a fabric lending itself to a distinct look and feel is the perfect selection for sculpture- albeit an entirely opposite characteristic of the real deckled leaf features of this native plant. White, with one color accents, these carefully constructed Oldenberg-ish sculptures are a breath of relief and a much needed visual break in this color saturated environment.
On pedestals placed through-out the gallery sit Briceño’s mushroom sculptures; eloquently contrasting the garish and gritty paintings of Roberts. Potentially threatened by his overpowering and parasitically pigmented painterly pieces, Briceño’s clean linear seams and meticulous constructive qualities of the fungi prove to be key components that highlight the artist’s intention on overall presentation. Evident is her intuitive understanding of artistic gestalt; fluid are her aesthetic decisions concerning such cartoony and suggestive low-brow subject matter.
Solidifying this first curatorial effort is Ana Fernandez’s choice to create a visual juxtaposition on the immediate left wall of the gallery space. A wall never used to capacity previously, Fernandez is able to maximize spatial limitations while creating an environment that changes the meaning of both artists work into a curatorial derived environment. Roberts’ drawings from the Magic Hat #9 series make up a pictorial grid- now construed into a visual assimilation of an all too familiar skyscraper facade. Systematically placed in front of this wall is the larger of two agave plant sculptures, titled Agave #1. Now more decorative landscaping and curb appeal aesthetic than artist owned imagery, this Austin based sculptor’s intent is assimilated into an overall visual cue- organized by one curator’s vision.
In the end, a one local’s curatorial revelation plays a solid hand against two poker faced artists, each grappling with a hidden sense of communal acceptance and environmental analysis; eluding to a distorted but inviting artistic paradise.