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art by Curt Slangal
art by Curt Slangal
"Addictions" (top) and "Global WARning" by Curt Slangal

Critique: 'New Works by Curt Slangal' at UTSA through Dec. 30

By Luis Garza
Student Writer, College of Liberal and Fine Arts

(Dec. 6, 2006)--"New Works by Curt Slangal" encompasses a vibrant look at our current socio-political and quasi-sexual state of affairs in the new world we are faced with. Technically Slangal's work is meticulously clean and refined. UTSA art specialist Arturo Almeida curated this work on display through Dec. 30 at the UTSA Downtown Campus gallery.

His selection of pieces walks a narrative path showcasing the movement of energy between harmony and dissonance in Slangal's work. Visually, Slangal uses primary colors that dominate and throw energy out into the gallery. In addition, Slangal uses a variety of media from organic materials such as hay to silk-screened textiles, acrylic, vinyl, light and other found objects.

Color and design are foremost -- Slangal's signature. In the piece "Shadows of Doubt," he uses simultaneous contrast to illustrate how colors shift at varying distances. The colors don't change, but our perceptions of them do. Red shifts to pink under a blue mesh pattern and yellow shifts to orange under an orange mesh pattern, while the elements of design move your eye swiftly around the canvas.

"Addictions" and "Global WARning" showcase primary colors as well, but introduce another of Slangal's signatures, the half-tube. Following the footsteps of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, the half-tube is used to break up the traditional flat-picture plane and allow sculpture to enter the realm of painting.

Slangal treads his own path by giving the work extra meaning and significance beyond the stoic existentialism of the 1950s. Particularly, "Global WARning," subtitled "War. It destroys everything," is broken in two and with worn-through layers of green paint in several places reveals its complimentary color red seeping out. Although the colors are complimentary, they are only surface treatment to disguise the weight of the destructive forces with which war and violence ensnare us.

Additionally, Slangal provides us with a visual commentary on the war in Iraq and looks at the current socio-political environment facing our nation. Atop a knee-high acrylic table are two half-tubes. Blanketing the table's surface are toy soldiers. The toy soldiers simply and wholly account for "... all the soldiers who have died in the Iraq War," as stated in the subtitle of the piece.

Once more, Slangal uses primary color red, in this instance, to evoke intrigue and antipathy. Next, he focuses on the American ideological symbol, the American flag.

"Vanishing America" hangs from the ceiling prominently but almost invisibly, formed from stitched clear vinyl. On close inspection, there are faint hints of the patriotic colors, red, white and blue. The sense of harmony these colors possess is no longer apparent. The sense of unity and commonality no longer has real substance, as we are worlds apart from the havoc we wreak on others, other worlds away.

Continuing the interest, into what may cause such disillusionment and struggle in our world, the work "Male Aggression" is inquisitive in aesthetic and design. A male bust and torso painted yellow are shackled to a mattress constructed of clear vinyl stuffed with wadded newspaper. The torso is pierced with an axle holding two wheels. Protruding from the torso's hip and crotch area are articles of gun parts.

Sexuality is at the forefront in meaning as is stated in the subtitle to the piece, "The need for man to control and be dominant over others. The mattress is his alter." The male ego is shackled to his desire. He is consumed by his instinct for sexual preservation, so much so that he would resort to violence. The "alter" is stuffed with the fuel of his desire: media, marketing and advertisement, politics and competition. It fuels his ego and all the while he is restrained by it. Despite the overwhelming archetype of this work, Slangal looks at the other end of the spectrum.

"Personal Absolution" reveals his desire to make peace. This non-representational work is elegant, containing more clear vinyl with white splatter marks painting its surface. The vinyl tangles and winds about itself, enveloped by yet another half-tube. Wholly, it is kinetic like the synapses of the neural pathway emitting free-flowing spontaneity. Additionally, his self-portrait, "Receiving the Message," portrays the open and closed duality of the world. This realization allows Slangal to remain open, curious and "... always listening."

Within Slangal's work, we hear a voice that calls out and reminds us of the current state of affairs through visual metaphor. Color and design are the hallmarks that Slangal uses to express his thoughtful messages. Politics, sexuality and peace all have a place and time in this exhibit. Which will overcome is yet to be seen, but if there is a dialogue that must not be allowed to go silent, Slangal is doing his part to keep it alive.

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"New Works by Slangal" is on exhibit in the Downtown Campus gallery, Durango Building Room 1.122. Gallery hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Friday. The exhibit is free and open to all. For more information, contact Arturo Almeida at (210) 458-4983.

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