Shared from the 10/17/2019 San Antonio Express eEdition

COVER STORY

Celebrating Sebastian

Citywide exhibit honors ‘Torch of Friendship’ creator

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Express-News file photo Downtown traffic streaks past the “Torch of Friendship,” the Sebastián sculpture that has become a San Antonio landmark.

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Joel Salcido “Almendra” is at the Spanish Governor’s Palace. Sebastián is known for steel and concrete sculptures that playi off geometric forms.

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Joel Salcido Sebastián’s “Bola Cuantica” is on display at Northwest Vista College, part of a citywide exhibit of the Mexican artist’s work.

The relatively small holding of works publicly on display here by Mexico City-based artist Sebastian — including the “Torch of Friendship” that has become a landmark since it was given to the city in 2002 — is about to grow substantially.

The city’s Department of Arts and Culture is spearheading a citywide exhibition of the artist’s works, titled “Sebastian in San Antonio: 50 + Years / 20+ Sites / 100+ Works.”

“It’s a retrospective of pieces from different decades and ages of my career,” Sebastian said in a telephone interview, speaking in Spanish with his daughter acting as translator.

It kicks off today with a reception at the Mexican Cultural Institute.

Work can be found at more than 20 sites across the city. There will be at least one piece of Sebastian’s art in every City Council district.

The exhibit grew out of the repainting of the “Torch” earlier this year. The city reached out to Sebastian, who also has a home here, to make sure it was done according to his wishes. He agreed to help with that and also proposed a small exhibit of his work at Centro de Artes, the city-run gallery.

That space wasn’t available any time soon. In the course of trying to come up with a Plan B, Debbie Racca-Sittre, director of the city arts department, learned the artist has a warehouse here that he uses to ship his work internationally. That sparked the idea for a much more far-reaching exhibition.

“For me, it’s a great honor,” Sebastian said.

Arturo Almeida, art specialist and curator for the UTSA Libraries Art Collection, curated the exhibit.

“To be able to experience a large survey of one artist’s work and to be able to take it in over the course of one year is a rare and very special opportunity,” Almeida said via email. “I think viewers of the exhibit will discover new and exciting ways to interpret Sebastian’s work.”

Accessibility was an important part of deciding where to place the pieces. The city wanted to make sure everyone would be able to see it for free. So the work will be displayed in all sorts of public spaces, including college campuses, libraries and plazas.

“It was important for us that each sculpture find a place in this exhibit where the viewer could take in all of the elements that define each individual work,” Almeida said. “A place that could demonstrate, in the best way possible, how the work exists in a particular space especially in relation to the environment it is in. This is particularly true for the works in this exhibit that are displayed outdoors. Those pieces, for example, can be further described by a viewer in terms of how they reflect light or cast shadows throughout the day.”

The renowned Mexican artist is known for massive steel and concrete sculptures playing off of geometric forms — including works in Mexico City, Paris and Jerusalem — though he also creates smaller pieces. The pieces that will be displayed here fall into the latter category.

“All the urban work is exposed so that the people that see it either accept it or reject it,” Sebastian said. “But there is always a principle, so that the public can understand the language of the artist.” dlmartin@express-news.net | Twitter: @DeborahMartinEN

“I think viewers of the exhibit will discover new and exciting ways to interpret Sebastian’s work.”
Arturo Almeida, curator for the exhibit

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