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June 11-Sep. 27, 2015

MEL CASAS: The Southwestern Cliches, 1982-1989

Texas A&M University San Antonio Educational and Cultural Arts Center,

101 S. Santa Rosa Ave.

San Antonio, TX

 

Casas believed that artists shouldn’t merely imitate subject matter or painterly styles emanating from Europe or New York, so he made a series of witty paintings he called “Southwestern clichés.” In this series, he made the transition from painting with a brush to pouring and dripping paint. Humanscape 118 (Texas Fantasy, 1982) features a trio of mounted longhorns against a backdrop of cattle brands, suggesting that a cattle ranch is the ultimate Texas fantasy. Humanscape 145 (SW Cliché, 1987), nods to Georgia O’Keefe by taking a bleached goat skull as its primary subject. Humanscape 148 (Texas T’ang, 1988) works on multiple levels. The dripped paint and the equine subject matter refer to the glazes that Chinese Tang dynasty artisans applied to ceramic sculptures.  “Tang” is an abbreviation of “mustang” (derived from the Spanish word mesteño), the term for a free-roaming feral horse. The words “Texas T’ang” also refer to distinctive Texas accents. The bright yellow background color was inspired by and refers to orange-flavored Tang, the powdered fruit juice utilized on manned flights into outer space, which rendered it the quintessential Space Age drink. Thus the stream of Casas’ references in a single painting can extend from ancient China to the moon. Humanscape 150 (Star Gazing, 1989) features a field of stars in the screen image, implying that the Southwestern night sky is the ultimate wide screen spectacle. This nocturnal celebration of nature was Casas’ final Humanscape.

 

    by Cordova, Ruben C., Guest Curator, 2015.