IMAGE ABOVE: Catherine Opie. Untitled #10 (Surfers), 2003. C-print. Linda Pace Foundation.
Pace Gems, the inaugural exhibit at the Linda Pace Foundation’s SPACE, presents highlights from the extensive contemporary art collection assembled by the late San Antonio artist and founder of Artpace. A drawing of a red crab by Linda Pace is included in this exhibit in the former auto garage that was once her studio and then became offices for her foundation formed in 2003. With skylights installed and walls removed by architect Jim Poteet, SPACE is an airy, light-filled, 2,000-square-foot gallery located in the northeast corner of the lushly landscaped CHRISpark.
But questions hang over this small, somewhat crowded show because Maura Reilly, the foundation’s director and co-curator of the exhibit, abruptly resigned in late March, less than a year after her hiring. Predictably, everyone involved is close-lipped, including Rick Moore, foundation president, who wrote an email saying the board plans to delay a new director search to “engage in a transition period of re-visioning for the future.”
Reilly’s departure is all the more lamentable because Pace Gems indicates she tried to steer the foundation in the right direction. Before SPACE, Pace’s collection was only open by appointment in the founder’s luxury high-rise Camp Street condominium. While novel, it was intimidating to most people; SPACE, which has regular hours noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, is far more accessible. But SPACE was only intended as a stop-gap until the foundation can build a $10-$15 million contemporary art museum. Before her death in 2007, Linda Pace commissioned British architect David Adjaye to design a 12,000-square-foot facility, which Reilly hoped to open in 2017. Now all the museum’s plans are in limbo.
Andrea Bowers’ Memorial to Arcadia Woodlands Clear-Cut (2013) is the exhibit’s largest work, acquired while Reilly was still on board. Resembling a giant, green chandelier, it’s made of paracord and rope accented with clumps of wood shavings salvaged from Bowers’ act of non-violent civil disobedience in 2011 when she “occupied” a native oak woodland habitat in Arcadia, CA, which ended up being chopped down. Annette Messager’s wall-piece 7 Dissections could be a cynical response to Bowers’ idealistic activism. The French artist “dissected” stuffed animals and nailed the cloth “skins” to the wall in the form of a cross, perhaps symbolizing how childish hopes and dreams give way to adult fears and conformism.
Reilly was the founding curator of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, so it’s no surprise most of the strongest works are by women. Catherine Opie’s Untitled 10 (Surfers) shows a line of wet suit-clad surfers peering into a mysterious fog bank that completely obscures the horizon line. Dorothy Cross cast two finger-pointing, accusatory Arms in silver. Teresita Fernández, who designed CHRISpark, created a cloud-like floor piece, Twin, with swirling gray clouds sprinkled with glittering glass beads. Wangechi Mutu’s Living through strange times personifies postmodern angst. Marilyn Minter shows the dirty side of glamour with her large-scale photograph of sequined high heels, Runs, splattered with mud. Indeed, Pace Gems isn’t as sparkly as its title would have you believe.
—DAN R. GODDARD