Faces, Found Objects and Rough Riders
Artpace San Antonio - Gallery Notes: Ulrike Ottinger - New Works
About the project
To gather material for Faces, Found Objects, and Rough Riders, Ulrike Ottinger attended festivals, processions, and cultural events in and around San Antonio, taking over 800 photographs along the way. The installation comingles photographic portraits, drawings, and ephemera from the area to investigate the foundations and practices of local cultures.
Presiding over the gallery is a large-scale photo covering the back wall with nine smaller images adorning those adjacent. Most of the photos are black and white portraits staged for the camera; some record ritualistic or cultural practices such as the charreada (rodeo); others capture their subjects unaware. The only color image depicts a bright red heart with angelic wings nailed to a pole - a local relic whose motif Ottinger has imported to objects in the center of the gallery.
The photographs provide a loose contextual frame for the centerpiece - a shrine-like area fashioned out of found objects, some manipulated and some untouched. The colorful display incorporates fabric, feathers, crafts, and symbolic tokens from primarily Native American and Mexican cultures. On display is Ottinger's sketchbook for the project-a kind of storyboard that juxtaposes drawings with pictures, notes, and ethnographic postcards from the 1930s and 1940s. The central "altar" unifies the project, casting doubt on the assumed authenticity of the surrounding photographs.
The scrapbook-like form of Faces, Found Objects, and Rough Riders is appropriate. The installation is in large part an account of Ottinger's exploration of San Antonio, a place rich with the creolization of German, Spanish, and Native American cultures. The project reveals not only how the medium of photography can simultaneously document and manipulate its subjects, but also the ways in which cultures change, influence, and borrow elements from one other. Through compelling juxtapositions, this work, like Ottinger's others, exposes the complexities in notions of cultural difference.