The lush landscape frostbitten, art commands centerstage at Umlauf Sculpture Garden

charles umlauf poetess

Above, Charles Umlauf’s 1956 “Poetess” represents a tribute to his wife, Angeline Umlauf (1915-2012), as his muse.

Charles Umlauf, Neal Douglass, 1951, Austin History Center via The Portal to Texas History

Born in rural Michigan, Karl (Charles) Julius Umlauf (1911-1994) was the sixth of eight children of a family of impoverished European immigrants. The family moved to Chicago when Umlauf was eight years old, and it was in elementary school there that a teacher spotted and began nurturing his artistic talents. The teacher helped him earn summer scholarships at the Art Institute of Chicago. Upon graduation from high school, he was able to study at both the Art Institute and the Chicago School of Sculpture.

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Artist and architect collaboration creates “red” home for contemporary art

Ruby City, designed by architect Sir David Adjaye Obe

I like to collaborate with artists that see space and structure as integral to their work. It involves a merging of skills and aesthetics to create something that has more potential than either discipline can achieve on its own.

Architect David Adjaye

That desire must have made Linda Pace (1945-2007) an ideal client for the architect of international renown, for the passionate collector of art was an artist herself. Writing for The Guardian just prior to the October 2019 opening of the Linda Pace Foundation’s Ruby City in San Antonio, Adjaye noted that Ruby City is an:

…example of how place and history are always important. Linda… had cancer and it had just become aggressive. She knew she was starting to go down. She became fascinated with dreams and their interpretation…. Then she drew this place she called Ruby City. Her drawing looks like a shining city on a hill or a Russian Orthodox church. For her it was a vessel, a hope…. a hope that her disappearance would have an impact.

I became fascinated by it. Red had become so important to her that I wanted to use that as a start point. From discussions we had, I looked at San Antonio and the missionaries who came to the region and the structures they built, the incredible monasteries. I also looked at pre-colonization America and Mesoamerican culture and their relationship to making architecture out of mud and raising these incredible citadels all over that part of Texas and New Mexico. The commonality for me between the monasteries and citadels is that they’re both about religion but also about death and communing with the afterlife – and they’re habitation spaces. Those ideas, mixed with her idea of the form, became an idea about architecture articulating light as a revealer of different facets of her art collection….

So the Ruby City building is about Linda, Texas and the collection.

Linda Pace left behind a collection of more 900 works of art in the hands of the foundation that bears her name. The immense collection will be displayed in rotating exhibitions in the new Ruby City and her former studio and Chris Park across the street. Entrance to the campus and galleries is admission-free.

For now, Ruby City addresses the back service vehicle parking lot of an inartistic branch of the United States Post Office, but that dismal view will be dramatically changed as part of Phase Two, now in the planning stages, of the San Pedro Creek Project.