I’m continuously impressed with San Antonio’s art scene. From the McNay, to ArtPace, to (what I’m writing about) Sala Diaz. The skill and dedication it takes to run these galleries is impressive.
Driving to Sala Diaz, I had a certain expectation in my head of what it would look like, even after checking out its website. I parked across the street from two identical houses, knowing one of them was where we were supposed to be meeting. It immediately put a different mood on what I prepared myself to see. The house – and the gallery itself is a legitimate one-bedroom house – is white washed, inside and out, transforming into a frame for the art it holds. This is no Guggenheim Bilbao, a destination for its architecture alone.
Before even seeing what’s inside, we met the artist, Buster Graybill. Seeing him, with a lumberjack beard and jeans, put an idea of what I was going to see –there was going to be no frilly, brittle, lace work of a sculpture here. Noticing the exhibition’s name, Recreational Modernism, on the front window enforced this thought.
The focus is entirely on the mixed-media work that takes up the vast majority of the room. It stands on a pedestal of lime green milk crates held together with bungee ties. The sculpture is hard to describe without context. You’re drawn in by its contradictions. It’s a tangled black mass of solidness and yet still remains weightless, evidenced by its support of milk crates. It’s been stabbed with bright green arrows with enough force that there is only a few inches before fletching shows. There is familiarity with all the materials Graybill uses, even if they aren’t completely recognizable. After a few moments’ consideration, I decided that the main structure of this sculpture must be reshaped from a high quality pool float. As a college student, I’m pretty sure I could recognize a milk crate blindfolded.
His other works throughout the three small rooms of the gallery are similar to this. Some are smaller, more intimate versions of the first work, replacing arrows with neon fishing lures. Others hang on the wall, imitating Frank Stella’s use of lines, though Graybill walks away from academic precedence and uses lawn chair straps in lieu of paint and canvas.
Displayed anywhere else, this exhibition might need a program for background information, but the intimacy provided by Sala Diaz allows the viewers to recede into familiar materials and friendly atmosphere.