Line and color dominate Tony Villejo’s installation of large-scale sculptures at Artpace. Welded metal armatures take the form of animals and human figures, animating the space with their cage-like skeletons. Negative space and strong lines define the forms, which appear like three-dimensional drawings in the space.
The subjects recall everyday experiences in South Texas. The interaction between people and their environment is of great interest to the artist. In Villejo’s iconic imagery, one encounters a group of crazed dogs, a chaotic brawl between men, and a fish one might find on restaurant signage. In one piece, a man is kneeling, his back towards the viewer—it is unclear whether he is being arrested for a crime, offering a prayer, or striking a yoga posture. This ambiguity is typical of Villejo, who explores the impact of the social on human behavior.
Villejo has paid careful attention to the installation of these sculptures. Custom lighting casts dramatic shadows of the pieces on the walls, making for an animated, carnival-like environment. This mood is furthered by the evocative sounds of locusts and crickets’ hum in the space. San Antonio media artist George Cisneros collaborated with Villejo on the sound design.
Villejo’s work as a parade-float builder and theater designer informs the scale and craft of the sculptures. Together, the characters become members of a large-scale repertoire, a celebratory and dynamic production. The effect is a dizzying combination of a whimsical narrative and psychological tension.