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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

In/Visible Is Up: Hey Dario, I Just Got Your Woolly Mammoth Hairs In, Give Me A Call

posted by on May 21 at 14:00 PM

San Antonio-based artist Dario Robleto has two shows up currently at the Frye Art Museum, but that’s not why In/Visible decided to do two podcasts with him rather than only one. It’s because he’s too interesting to cover everything in one sitting.

In part one, recorded and posted in late April, Robleto talked about his personal history in and around hospice and honky tonks in Texas, and about his philosophy of “attainable magic.”

The wild materials he uses in his artworks are all real things in the world, as far-fetched as they sound—for example, there’s trinitite, glass produced during the first atomic test explosion from Trinity test site, when heat from the blast melted the desert sand.

In part two, recorded May 15, Robleto focuses on his materials, explaining how he gets them and what they mean to him. (Here are a few examples of what he uses: bones from every part of the body, ground seahorse, men’s wedding bands excavated from American battlefields, residue from female tears of mourning overlaid with residue from male tears of mourning, pain bullets, tracheal extractor, ground pituitary gland.)

His latest find? A multimillion-year-old blossom, perfectly preserved, and a multimillion-year-old raindrop, caught in amber. Those objects will be part of an upcoming group exhibition (called Human/Nature: Artists Respond to a Changing Planet) with Mark Dion, Ann Hamilton, Xu Bing, and four other artists at the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego. Robleto is also in a group show called Old, Weird America (the title comes from Greil Marcus’s take on Dylan’s basement recordings) at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.

His 10-year survey, Alloy of Love, opened last weekend at the Frye in Seattle.

Click here for the new podcast.

Below are two of the many works in the show.

Sometimes Billie Is All That Holds Me Together (1998-99), hand-ground and melted vinyl records, various clothing, acrylic, spray paint. Several new buttons were crafted from melted Billie Holiday records to replace missing buttons on found, abandoned, or thrift-store clothing. After the discarded clothing was made whole again, it was re-donated to the thrift-stores or placed where it was originally found.

Detail from A Color God Never Made (2004-05), cast and carved de-carbonized bone dust, bone calcium, military-issued glass eyes for wounded soldiers coated with ground trinitite (glass produced during the first atomic test explosion from Trinity test site, c. 1945, when heat from blast melted surrounding sand), fragments of a soldier’s personal mirror salvaged from a battlefield, soldiers’ uniform fabric and thread from various wars, melted bullet lead and shrapnel from various wars, fragment of a soldier’s letter home, woven human hair of a war widow, bittersweet leaves, soldier-made clay marbles, battlefield dirt, cast bronze teeth, dried rosebuds, porcupine quill, excavated dog tags, rust, velvet, walnut

RSS icon Comments


I got junk, too.

It's when I look at it and write about it a lot that it becomes junk++.

Posted by PC | May 21, 2008 2:21 PM

Saw the show and Dario's lecture last weekend and was blown away. I'm still rolling his ideas and imagery around in my mental tumbler. Very highly recommended; listen to these podcasts (or take them with you on your iPod) and then go. Bonus: the Frye is always free, soothingly hued and temperature controlled, and welcoming.

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | May 21, 2008 2:46 PM

A Color God Never Made is striking, and I can't explain why.

Posted by Wolf | May 21, 2008 3:07 PM

Look, I don't disdain this stuff. I appreciate the obsessive adherence to detail and the sheer commitment of the artist.

I just don't think the realized work is that striking.

And I don't think mental gymnastics -- even perfect 10's -- are art.

For me, these pieces are like overwrought French entrees in some grand hotel restaurant in Europe begging to be appreciated for their parts but falling short of a sum; like Soviet grandees on Lenin's tomb, medal bedecked...or, as the Emporer said in Mozart, "Too many notes." I make my point, n'est pas?

I'm not averse to nutty shit. Hell, I've got a Charles Krafft plate that may have human bone mixed into the ceramic...I haven't wanted to ask.

But, like using every crayon in the 64-count box, it just becomes a muddle.

God knows there are people out there who feel this art is exceptional. I am glad for them and would be very interested in hearing their points for approbation.

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | May 21, 2008 3:20 PM

Surely you don't agree with the Emperor's assessment of Mozart, Cornball?!

If so, stop reading, as there is no hope for you.

If not, go see the show and realize, just as every note was there for a reason on Mozart's page, the sums of Robleto's parts will cripple you with their underlying themes of love, loss, history, meditations on and ramifications of war, the earnestness of his inquiry, and the poetry and precision of his selections.

So very far from simply "nutty."

It's only "mental gymnastics" if you think reflecting on being human is strenuous.

It's only a "muddle" for the lazy and unfeeling.

If you are a sentient being (and I must assume this considering your ability to hit the "post" button with some part of your flesh and bone on a daily basis here), Robleto's work will move you and shift your paradigm in terms of an artist's responsibility of making art in this day and age.

Heck, you might even discover that underused byway between your head and your heart.

Posted by LP | May 21, 2008 4:10 PM

@5 -- My dear LP:

I have no hope. Lazy to human self-reflection. Unfeeling. Merely sentient. Devoid of the capacity to marry thought to dream.

You've told me I cannot be anything but this if I do not celebrate the work of Robleto. I'm inclined, against the evidence, to be more charitable to you.

I don't agree with your adulation, but if you sense the earnestness, the poetry, the ability to move you, then I wish to be the first to congratulate you for loving art. The fact you can do that much leads me away from hurling epithets and just quietly away...

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | May 21, 2008 4:25 PM

...and sometimes battlefield dirt is - well, battlefield dirt. Like when I randomly throw my rouge cloth on the floor and it lays there insentiently but descriptively shapeless, someone (not me) said that's art.

Posted by NOT MOAT'S ART | May 21, 2008 4:26 PM


All I'm saying is quit your Aeron chair criticism, go out and actually experience the work and get back to us.

No call for universal celebration. If your limited jpeg-inspired theories about why you don't like his work still hold water, you win and I just quietly away...

You win either way actually.

Posted by LP | May 21, 2008 4:47 PM

@9 -- I took this week off work. Saw the show. Also wasted lots of time on Manhunt. Hush...

Posted by Jubilation T. Cornball | May 21, 2008 5:04 PM



I don't believe you.

Prove it.

(that you are, in fact, human, not that you actually went to the exhibition).

You're telling me that the pigeon didn't get to you?! The boots?! The matches?!

Wow, I'm as stunned as you are a stone.

Posted by LP | May 21, 2008 5:14 PM

I have to agree with LP in his assessment of Robleto's work, the descriptions are a little grandiose, but the heart of it is there.

I haven't seen the retrospective yet, but I'm pretty excited to check it out given how thoughtful and mature "Heaven is Being a Memory for Others" is. I got the opportunity to see Dario speak twice on that show and was very impressed by him on both occasions.

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