Like remnants of an ancient petrified forest blending in with the urban landscape, San Antonio’s cement artworks, faux bois or trabajo rustico, are cherished landmarks. The rough “bark” of the old trolley stop near Central Market in Alamo Heights; the covered bridge in Brackenridge Park; and the entrance to the Japanese Tea Garden has been rubbed to a sheen by the exploring hands of generations of San Antonio’s children.
The craft of creating trabajo rustico sculptures could have been lost for San Antonio following the deaths of Dionicio Rodriguez and Maximo Cortes, but fortunately Maximo’s son, Carlos Cortes, inherited both the secret formulas and the talent to continue to add prominent public artwork throughout the city. Carlos installed a graceful “cypress” bursting through the ceiling in the middle of the San Antonio Children’s Museum; built the Treehouse for the Witte Museum; added a trellis to the River Walk; recently completed the massive Grotto for the river’s Museum Reach; and installed benches in a pocket park.
San Antonio’s connections to the art form of trabajo rustico are explored during an exhibit and related symposium, both part of the celebration of Historic Preservation Month. The Tradition of Trabajo Rustico: Fantasies in Cement can be viewed in the Russell Hill Rogers Lecture Hall in the Navarro Campus of the Southwest School of Art and Craft through May 30.
Speakers at the symposium on the morning of Saturday, May 15, include Patsy Pittman Light, author of Capturing Nature: The Cement Sculpture of Dionicio Rodriguez. Following a box lunch, there will be a bus tour of some of San Antonio’s faux bois landmarks and a demonstration by Cortes at his studio.
The morning session is admission-free. The fee for lunch and the afternoon bus tour is $25. For more information, telephone the San Antonio Conservation Society, 210-224-6163.
January 16, 2013, Update: San Antonio’s faux bois art and artists are featured on KLRN ARTS.