Dec 2, 2011

REVIEW | Jeff Williams: There is Not Anything Which Returns to Nothing, Artpace, San Antonio, TX

Jeff Williams, Tension and Compression, 2011
 This was my first visit to the Artpace gallery in San Antonio which happened to be on the day after three new exhibitions opened.  Since I was unfamiliar with the space a kind employee guided me around the building and explained that the gallery runs a residency program with three artists, (one local, national, and international), displayed at a time for two months.  As I explored the gallery and interacted with the newly displayed exhibitions, I began to notice there was something intriguing about Jeff Williams' work that kept calling me back to his space.

Jeff Williams, an Austin artist, is the Texas artist currently participating in Artpace's Artist-in-Residency program.   Williams received his MFA from Syracuse University in New York in 2002, and his BFA from Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio in 1998.  In addition to his formal education, he has displayed his work in many galleries throughout the United States as well as abroad.

There is Not Anything Which Returns to Nothing is composed of three photographs, two sculptures, and a video all of which deal with structure and architecture and the materials involved.

When you enter the gallery space, a small flat-screen tv faces you and plays a non-audible video loop.  The video displays a CGI mockup of a skylight rotating 360 degrees horizontally.  Starting with the external facing finishes of the skylight, the image rotates and reveals the materials and how they are composed to create the final design.

Jeff Williams, Configuration (Architectural Materials Library), 2011
Opposite of the video wall are three high resolution photographs each displaying various materials used in construction or even construction materials composed of nontraditional components.  The combination of materials in each photo increasingly grows more complex.  The first appears to be a pairing of a wooden cinderblock with yellow square plastic tubing.  The second is a pile of various metallic builder items resting on a ceramic bathroom floor tile and the last photo depicts a peculiar arrangement of various stone based items.

Two sculptures placed on the floor take the most attention of the exhibition.  The first, Conservation, is a large chunk of excavated rock placed in a plexiglass tub.  Within the rock, a piece of fossilized bone can be partially seen near the top.  A gentle water mister constantly sprays down which slowly erodes soil.  The water is collected and pumped back to the mister to keep the constant flow.  This use of water process is often used in artifact excavation because it is one of the least damaging removal methods.

The other sculpture titled Tension and Compression consists of four slabs of concrete balanced upon each other and supported by steel rods anchored to the floor.  The slabs are laid out in a cross with the bottom two clearly fractured and bowing just waiting to crumble and fall out from underneath the the top two pieces.  This piece appears it designed to fall apart throughout it's time on display.  Since I was viewing the sculpture the day after it opened, I could not see any evidence the sculpture was falling apart yet.

Jeff Williams' exhibition is a great experience not to be missed during its brief stay at Artpace.  While the photographs and video are static pieces in the exhibition, I am excited to see how the sculptures will change and evolve through their delicate and crumbling existence.

-Blake Williams


  1. ContributorDec 2, 2011 08:35 PM
    I enjoyed this review. I am also now interested in visiting this exhibit to see if you are correct that the large sculpture is expected to fall apart as the exhibit is on display.

    I was wondering if the artist had any explanation of his work or why we would want his sculptures to deteriorate over time.

    -Vanessa Stuart
  2. ContributorDec 4, 2011 07:04 PM
    I particularly enjoy pieces that change throughout their life in an exhibition space. Jeff Williams is definitely on my list of artists to follow now. Great review.
    -Blake Knox
  3. KristaDec 5, 2011 09:38 AM
    I would have liked to see pictures of Conservation. That piece sounds fascinating. I guess I will have to go see it myself. I was also curious as to what the building materials of Configuration were. Those look like rare earth metals. I'm intrigued.

    - Krista Quiroga
  4. ContributorDec 6, 2011 09:46 AM
    Nice review. Does Jeff Williams usually deal with one than more medium or is he primarliy a sculpturists? It's always good to hear about local artists.

    ~Jill Ewing