On this episode of the Artmatcher podcastMichael Goodman speaks with María Gaztambide, the inaugural director and chief curator of Public Art of the University of Houston system. Maria shares her views on the importance of Latinx representation in the art community, along with how her heritage influences her work. She touches on how she’s integrating technology into the realm of public art, and how she aims to make that art more accessible to the average person.

About Maria Gaztambide

Maria C. Gaztambide, Ph.D., is the inaugural director and chief curator of Public Art of the University of Houston System. Her work over the years has focused on the intersection of art, technology, and the public realm.

Prior to joining UH, Dr. Gaztambide served as associate director of the International Center for the Arts of the Americas at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for over a decade. There her work straddled administration, research, publications, and long-term exhibition projects such as Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975 (2018), Contingent Beauty: Contemporary Art from Latin America (2015); and Intersecting Modernities: Latin American Art from the Brillembourg Capriles Collection (2013). Previously, she was a curator and taught at Tulane University; worked for the Smithsonian Institution (Archives of American Art) in Washington, New York, and Puerto Rico; as well as for the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico during its gestational phase.

Dr. Gaztambide has been at the forefront of deploying digital imaging and online technologies in the visual arts since the onset of related breakthroughs, spearheading landmark projects for the MFAH and Tulane. She also publishes regularly on modern and contemporary art and recent books projects include El Techo de la Ballena: Retro-Modernity in Venezuela (University of Florida Press) and On Site: 50 Years of Public Art at the University of Houston System (Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers), both from 2019. Originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dr. Gaztambide holds M.A. degrees in Art History and Arts Administration as well as an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Latin American Studies (Art History) from Tulane University.

Contesting Modernity: Informalism in Venezuela, 1955–1975

This fascinating exploration of Venezuelan Informalism charts the movement’s history from its beginnings in the mid-1950s to its last manifestations in the 1970s. Essays by an esteemed group of scholars discuss the variety, richness, and complexity of Informalism and examine the ways in which Venezuelan artists embraced many of the abstract, gestural tendencies contemporaneously developed in Abstract Expressionism, Tachism, and Art Informel.

El Techo de la Ballena: Retro-Modernity in Venezuela

The work of the 1960s Caracas-based art collective El Techo de la Ballena (The Roof of the Whale) was called subversive and seen as a threat to Venezuela’s national image as an emerging industrial power. This volume details the historical and social contexts that shaped the collective, exploring how it used the visual arts to expose the depths of injustice hidden beneath the façade of Venezuela’s rapid modernization.

On Site: 50 Years of Public Art at the University of Houston System

The book commemorates the 50th anniversary of Public Art of the University of Houston System, including works by esteemed artists such as Carlos Cruz-Diez, Margo Sawyer, Alyson Shotz, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol. It highlights about 40 of the collection’s most notable works, illustrated with all-new color photography and accompanied by entries written by artists, scholars, curators, and other members of the arts community. The book gives readers access to the nearly 300 artworks on view to the public every day throughout the University of Houston System.

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Episode Transcript

0:00:00.4 Michael Goodman: Hi everybody, I’m Michael Goodman with Artmatcher, the mobile app which will bring innovation to the art industry and is coming to you soon. While we work hard to build and release this app, we’ll be talking art with some of the industry’s most interesting and knowledgeable people. Whether you’re an art aficionado or this is all new to you, we’ll be here to provide valuable insight and hilarious good stories. Hope you enjoy our chat today. Welcome to another Artmatcher, the podcast in the studio joining us. Dr. Gaztambide, can you tell the audience a little bit about yourself?

0:00:41.8 María Gaztambide: Thanks, Michael. It’s a pleasure to be here with you. So I am director and chief curator of public art of the University of Houston system, which is one of the oldest programs and institutions that have been concerned with placing art in the public realm among American universities. And we oversee an enterprise that is spread over something like 130 miles in the greater Houston area and we have four universities that are under our umbrella. And we do, of course, we have a fantastic permanent collection, but we also do a lot of programming and education and outreach and engagement with multiple communities, the academic community, but also the communities outside of the university system. Thank you.

0:01:34.2 Michael Goodman: I want to ask, what got you into art, going back kind of to the history before you got into this large enterprise?

0:01:45.7 María Gaztambide: Sure. So I come from, there’s two artists, well actually more than two artists in my family, but my grandmother was an artist and so is my uncle who still practices in South Florida. And I was surrounded by art growing up and I didn’t know that I could do this professionally when I was thinking about a university major, but I actually first majored in finance, but I did an art studio minor. And as I kind of progressed in my studies, I realized that I did not see myself in finance professionally and I rather saw myself working with the arts in some capacity. So slowly over time, I completed a number of degrees that have allowed me to practice and kind of fulfill that ambition.

0:02:38.8 Michael Goodman: Wow. And so, as you kind of studied, kind of circling it to the public realm of art, what was the transition to that or was you always interested in kind of public art placement?

0:02:55.5 Michael Goodman: I was always, I’ve always been interested in working directly with artists. And over the first, I want to say the first 20 odd years of my career, my concern, I was mostly concerned with opening up representation for Latinx and Latin American artists in and within mainstream institutions. And my work really was about addressing the plurality of American art in particular and that capacity while I was with several important museums nationally. But in 2018, I transitioned into the field of public art when I was recruited to lead public art at the University of Houston system. And it really, I see that as the other side of this, of our field, because it’s really about bringing art to wider and more diverse audiences. So it’s really about access, widening access. So for the long, long part of my career, I’ve been concerned with expanding the narrative and the other side of that, which is what I’m doing now is expanding access to art. And how do you look at the art, kind of the artists that you look for that are appropriate for these projects?

0:04:18.9 Michael Goodman: Well, when our organization was established in 1969, the focus was from the very beginning to bring to Houston, which was an expanding city in the mid-60s fueled by the oil industry and sort of that richness that came with that. The idea was to bring to Houston the best of global contemporary art. So the focus has been very, very broad, always very, very diverse. And our first few artists were Japanese and Japanese American. We had a German artist from the very beginning. And to this day, when we think about our permanent work, permanent commissions, we always want to make sure that we bring in artists who have affinity with the community that we serve. And it’s like I said, it’s not just the academic community, but Houston’s community at large, which is incredibly diverse. So we are always looking for opportunities to bring to our campuses artists who have exceptional trajectory, exceptional talent, but also really interesting life stories that connect with our publics. Do a lot of these artists, do they apply through kind of like, is this a reach out? Is there a call for artists? Our process is slightly different for each site.

0:05:50.4 Michael Goodman: We try to look for artists, like I said, that kind of fulfill that imperative, which is to bring the best of the best who happen to be very plural and have interesting life stories. Right. But we also think about the medium, the specific site and what it demands, whether or not it’s indoor or outdoor, whether or not we are able to, I don’t know, think about a work that is, we think about the potential surfaces, whether or not it’s like something that could go on a window, something that is suspended from the ceiling. Maybe it’s a wall piece, maybe it’s a large sculpture, an installation of some sort. And then from that, we develop short list of artists who we think meet the curatorial standard, as well as the kind of the requirements for the specific site. And then we do have a committee, an advisory committee that works with us to select the artists, but we present a short list of artists who we think would be strong and also kind of complement our collection as a whole. And the selection process itself is democratic and it’s run, it’s through our advisory committee and I have to add that that committee is comprised of multiple stakeholders, ranging from Board of Regents from the university to students of the four universities to community members, faculty and staff.

0:07:17.4 María Gaztambide: So it’s very diverse and it represents really a cross section of the multiple publics that we serve.

0:07:24.5 Michael Goodman: Yeah, I find it fascinating at least my interaction with kind of public art, I look at when I look at a lot of works, whether they’re large scale if they’re large scale sculptures and stuff. I wonder like oh wow what are you know, how do artists get into or have the opportunity to make a work like that. And I’m working with an artist who’s doing a very large mural, and it’s taking a lot of the city’s cooperation. And I’m assuming the involvement with with the projects you’re doing the university gets involved in helping the artists create that.

0:08:05.2 María Gaztambide: Yes, there’s many, many people who that’s the thing about are in the public sphere is that it’s really a collective enterprise so artists cannot do it alone, whether it’s a them working with fabricators and others other professionals who are carrying their vision to fruition to engineers and architects and, like you said, people that will that have to approve the work in some capacity or another, it has, you know, sometimes we have to work with construction, people on at the university to make sure that the foundation for the piece is solid or we have to work with electrical engineers or, you know, it’s many, many, many people have structural engineers or, you know, building like I said the architects for the building or even the stakeholders at each of the colleges that we work with all of them have a say and it’s like I said, a truly truly collective process which is very unique.

0:09:04.8 Michael Goodman: And so when your role as a curator when you’re looking at this. It’s not the traditional kind of wall space. So when you’re looking at works that you’re curating and talking about this accessibility. Are you part of the creation process with the artists or does the artists often have free range or how can you elaborate maybe on that process of how that goes.

0:09:36.4 Michael Goodman: Well sometimes I have to, I have to say that sometimes we do commission wall work. So in that sense it’s no no different from installing a work in a traditional institution like a museum. So that process is very similar. But when we’re doing site specific commissions of which we have a vast number of them. Yes, we I’m not I oversee a group of curators I’m not the only one so we work closely with with the artist and or his in her studio to really think about the, the space, what it’s what what what the use will be for that space, what the artist intention might be and how does that resonate with the public that will see the work so there’s a there’s a lot of dialogue between our team and the artists team. I have to say about about our institution is that because we’ve been doing this for so long we’re one of the oldest public art institutions in the among American universities for sure. We have helped launch many many artists into their sort of art in the public realm path. We’ve given many artists their first opportunities to do work for the public, and some of them are very very very well known, but we, they started with us which is really, really gratifying to.

0:11:00.7 Michael Goodman: I would ask them to be part of one artists, kind of legacy or journey as well, of where an artist gets their start and hopefully they’re contributing back to where they started.

0:11:15.6 María Gaztambide: So that really is sort of being providing a platform for them to expand their range and kind of challenge them into thinking more broadly about their practice whether it’s a two dimensional artists like I said, exploring the field of public art in a new way we always want to provide provide that platform and work with them so that their work can be appreciated by an even greater number of people.

0:11:47.0 María Gaztambide: I also want to talk about your kind of focus on on land next art and and what what makes you kind of interested, particularly in the land art I know you, I think you originally grew up in Puerto Rico. Yeah, I did. Yeah.

0:12:11.4 Michael Goodman: And can you tell me a little bit how that kind of has influenced your life.

0:12:18.0 María Gaztambide: I see myself on many levels, I, because I am from Puerto Rico, I am sort of the, the, the cultural crossroads, because I am American right by birth, all Puerto Ricans are, we are American yet we are also in the middle of the Caribbean surrounded by people of many many different types of cultures and we are very strong sort of culturally identified with the rest of Latin America as well so we are kind of straddled straddled both worlds, and I think that that has been very useful for me over the years, and many, many different roles where I, for the most part work at worked in mainstream institutions in the United States but for. I’ve worked on projects and initiatives that have to do with Latin American and Latin X art, but back to your question I really, I think when we think about what American art is I, I really, many of the things that I’ve been doing over my life have had to do with more fully representing the plurality of art in the United States we’ve been told for many, many years that the history of art in this country has been sort of linear and it’s been sort of a linear projection, which started in, in Europe and sort of the Anglo culture and then the United States has plugged itself into that narrative but we now know that our culture is much more diverse much more heterogeneous, and we really have to think about really what American artists and I think that that Latin X artists, because many parts of the culture of the country are bicultural in the same way that I am bicultural I think that that we are leading the way in really expanding or broadening the understanding of what it means to be an artist working in the United States.

0:14:55.3 María Gaztambide: Yeah, yeah. I think so but Houston is not just the beauty of the city is that it’s not just Latino anymore. It does reflect that that plurality and especially now, especially, I think, current populations of students that are going through our educational systems and will be artists in the near future. There’s no artist, you know, Latin American or Latino. There’s just artists from every, you know, every region in China every region in India, the Muslim world, Africa, all over, all over the place.

0:15:55.7 Michael Goodman: Yeah, for sure. I think with the kind of, we live in a global world right now. And so looking for that cultural I have, I would have friends who had visit from Europe and the first thing they would do is oh let me, let me go to the museums around here and see what the culture is, is what is this about today with with with being a big melting pot in these institutions, I’m sure it must be challenging because you can’t show everything so.

0:16:45.0 María Gaztambide: Yeah, I know and the other big thing is that for the most part having having worked in museums for as long as I have to the other challenge is that I don’t think that leadership has has really reflected. Leadership and major museums in this in this country are reflecting that plurality that that is out in the street. Leadership and a lot of kind of staff as well. I know there’s good intentions to kind of change and challenge traditional representation like I mentioned but there’s, there’s a lot that has to be done and there’s a lot of kind of brave questions that need to be asked about who’s who’s making the decisions who’s who’s sitting around the table, who’s calling the shots, and who’s telling the story what story and for whom there’s there’s a lot of that kind of reckoning that’s happening now in American institutions and we’ll have to see what comes out of it. I’m kind of optimistic.

0:17:53.9 Michael Goodman: With circling into technology I think the way we view art today, it’s accessible we’re right now doing this podcast virtually. How is that kind of influenced I know you’re very involved in tech and the merging of tech and public art. And how do you see that, or what you’re doing to change that.

0:18:22.2 Michael Goodman: I’ll talk about one specific project that we’re trying to launch, which is right now. We’re calling it open art, open our project, and it really is about using technology for to bring in our communities right because we’ve always we what I because of my I’m working with a colleague who is is Asian, and I am Latin American right. And we’re essentially both coming to the United States from the third world or from the emerging world and we are. We have been when we started to reflect about what that project could bring we always thought about there’s this model for technology transfer and it’s usually top of the line right so technology is developed in the United States and Europe so in the kind of in the developed world and then it is brought to the emerging world and sort of talks from that approach but what if we took a what if what if we inverted that and took a bottom up approach. So this project that we’re trying to consolidate really involves working with artists from the emerging world that are using technology right and seeing what their specific models what they could bring and how they could help us uplift communities here in the world that are as underdeveloped as many many parts of the third world and whether or not that could be a kind of a fruitful model for us to move forward.

0:19:52.3 María Gaztambide: And so, we’ve identified sort of three areas that we want to work on. One is the idea of sustainability one is another one is the idea of play and how certain artists especially artists from Asia are using kind of playful approaches to art by using technology and bringing in community and whether or not can help us bring in our immediate communities here at the University of Houston. And then the third sort of model that we or idea that we want to work on is health and how certain artists have are using technology to address health inequality. And the whole idea is to involve different different sections of the community in each of these through each of these sort of nods.

0:20:40.8 Michael Goodman: Is that planning to be like an exhibition is it going to be are they collectively. Are you looking for different artists that kind of fit those when you say play like is are we talking about like theatrics entertainment or could be we’re working on selecting different artists. So we want to work, we want to start with three artists, one who addresses the notion of play one who addresses sustainability and the notion of kind of green space because we also know that in the same way that America has food deserts America also has a lot of food deserts. So we want to work with artists who address these ideas through work that is technological and how they handle how we can bring in kids for example so that the artists that we select for play with is the obvious would be an obvious match for for K through 12 communities and so on and so forth. So this is something that we’re developing. I’m hoping that we can get it done. It sounds great. It sounds like you know there’s there’s a lot of directions that can go into visually. A lot of times when you’re doing when you’re when you’re curating these shows, specifically in the public kind of domain.

0:22:13.1 Michael Goodman: When you guys are thinking about how the viewer is navigating that that all they have is to interact is with either a sculpture or. I’m not sure if there’s anything like traditional in terms of paintings on the outside. I’m sure there are like in terms of murals and minerals, right, but we also have our art is on multiple public indoor public spaces as well so so that’s kind of can think about it in that traditional form.

0:22:40.3 Michael Goodman: So, the complexity of that in terms of resonating with someone who may not have art experience. How do you guys kind of go about you guys simplify, because I know a lot of times even when I go into an institution sometimes if I, if I don’t have something to read me there’s some literature to kind of assist me. I need help and I always, I kind of, I wonder on on some of kind of the public stuff how you guys go about that are you guys using technology then to help like qr codes or we do sometimes and the other thing that you guys are doing so well let me back talk for a moment but one thing that I really really like about public art is that we literally meet people where they are it’s not, we are, we don’t, there’s not a big building that looks like a temple and you’re intimidated to go in like many, many museums are like a castle or a temple of the structure itself is intimidated intimidating with public art and I think a lot of, I think all institutions should be looking at the public art model to kind of forge the 21st century museum, so these works are where people are where people live.

0:23:58.5 Michael Goodman: And so, our work concern our experience has to do with repeated unmediated interactions between our public and the work so that’s an entirely, it’s much more intimate as an as as an experience. And so in terms of how we fold technology into that let me just give you one, one example so last year we we partnered with crystal bridges Museum of American Art Arkansas to bring a show that was on about large, large outdoor sculpture so it was an entirely outdoor show. We had seven contemporary artists, 13 works by seven contemporary artists so when we started to, to think about the presentation of the show in Houston we knew that it was going to be right in the middle of COVID, and so we created our, our labels that were outside by the pieces had a QR code of course and so what that did is that directed our, our public to our website. And because we knew that we were working on that the show would be up during COVID, we really challenged ourselves to produce much content. We invited the artists to do to bring it to send in their sound bites we did a number of programs educational programs and art making activities and conversations with the artists, all of which was available by when you, when you scan the QR code that would open up for each artist or for each work that would open up pages of content that we had created and support of the physical interaction so that kind of the virtual experience of the exhibition and the physical experience of the exhibition were indivisible and one complimented the other.

0:25:54.3 María Gaztambide: And I thought that worked really, really well.

0:25:56.3 Michael Goodman: It’s been like, interestingly enough, result of COVID because COVID has now. Yes, changed kind of the way we we plan things, it was directly result, it was a direct result of COVID, we I know because we opened it before, before vaccinations were widespread.

0:26:18.6 María Gaztambide: And people only experienced the show, you know, virtually, whereas some many people came to see it live, but, but some did not because of COVID fears.

0:26:33.0 Michael Goodman: Was the university closed down during COVID? I know certain states were very different.

0:26:39.3 María Gaztambide: Our classes were virtual but our campus was never closed, so we welcome guests. Of course there were COVID protocols and all that but everybody that wanted to come to see the exhibition and all of our outdoor works were able to come. And that’s across across the system we have four universities so it was all the same at these four universities.

0:27:04.6 María Gaztambide: Are you guys in the virtual, virtual space domain of exhibitions? Is that something that interests the university? Meaning what, just virtual exhibitions?

0:27:17.9 Michael Goodman: Well for me as a as a gallerist, something that hadn’t changed at least the last year was that I do a lot of the trade shows and the trade shows are, they’re in person experiences you come to a trade show you, you experience 100 and some galleries, you’re walking it, it’s a whole, you’re seeing whole different types of walk, life, but at the height of that we can do it we can have that those mass kind of gatherings. So, fairs made efforts to kind of walk us virtually where they, they, they utilize kind of cameras, videos, and that was a new experience I think a lot of people. I don’t like experience some of the work in person, where the materials contextually kind of enhance the piece but a lot of, I think artists kind of changed their approach to art. Okay, well, maybe I have to change this where I had is that visual experience, which is better. Just looking through a through a computer screen or a phone screen. The fairs pivoted like that. And that was huge kind of an influencing the market that we’re seeing right now. Does the you, you kind of coming from an institutional kind of hybrid approach.

0:28:49.4 Michael Goodman: Do you guys look at the end of the market itself the transactions of art and how does that influence kind of what you guys do meaning.

0:29:01.7 María Gaztambide: It directly directly influences what we can do because many artists that we’d like to work with we just simply as as with many institutions we simply cannot afford them anymore. Because of increasing market price for their work.

0:29:17.0 Michael Goodman: So then, and that’s interesting. Those are probably more of the would be considered them blue chip artists now.

0:29:28.4 María Gaztambide: Or mid career artists, for example we we are our collection where unfortunately or we, we work mostly with mid career artists and established artists and less so with emerging artists, and that’s just been a trend throughout the 50 plus years that we’ve bought actively acquired or commissioned work for for our permanent collection. So we’re doing a few things now to kind of expand the artists that we can work with, and specifically focus on emerging artists in Houston, we were just we just launched a program called the artworks where we are taking an emerging artist with Houston connections or Houston groups, and we are helping to create a first opportunity for them to exhibit their work in the public realm and so we’re working we’re now working with a Butler. He graduated from the University of Houston but he’s doing a, an MA in Arkansas, and he does kind of collage and photography work, and he has, we helped him show a piece that is more, more of a public art piece in our campus and so that project has been really exciting and we want to this is something that we want to carry on to the future but we work with take from concept to fabrication and then installation and fruition of the work and help them through the process.

0:31:09.4 Michael Goodman: Do you guys work with gallerists. Often as well, when many, many times because when we, to the extent that we were, we have a number of commissions that we’re working on right now and are we work with the artists, and there’s artists and their studios but also with their galleries their galleries are strong partners for us in the commissioning process.

0:31:32.6 María Gaztambide: So, I’m just wondering what the commissioning of figuring out what the market of fabrication what once we are able to work with it once we have selected an artist that we work with that we’re going to be working on for a commission be it a temporary commission, his or her gallery will also play an important role in, in realizing that commission.

0:31:58.6 Michael Goodman: And then, and formalism in Venezuela. I’m curious to hear your views on how that has affected the, the art world there.

0:32:30.7 Michael Goodman: Yes, so, so you’re talking about a project. I was looking at a book on informalism in Venezuela which was a mid century movement, and if you think about Venezuela so this is before, you know before Chavez more anything like that always on unsteady politically but way you know this is from the 50s through, through the 60s, and this was I was looking at the period when Venezuela really capitalized on its oil reserves and quickly worked to develop the country infrastructure early and architecture early right and so what happened over there was that I’m simplifying, but government and sort of the elites in Venezuela favored work that was produced by geometric abstract artists so artists like Carlos Cruz DS or his so so though, or Alejandro data to just name three. And this was work that was non representational highly structured and ordered, and it really did kind of reflect the version of modernity that they were projecting outwards through this kind of rapid development of the country but what was what happened, not that these, these have to say for the record that these artists social concerns and we’re invested in, in social development as well, but their art was favored and privileged, because it, it was highly ordered like I said and it projected this kind of this version of modernity that the government and the elites wanted to project, but there was an underside of that because that modernity also came with large sections of the population that continued to be marginalized and could not profit from, from development.

0:34:34.7 María Gaztambide: And so the informalist in Venezuela were artists that really were concerned with, with exposing that underbelly that large section of the public of the population in Venezuela that was not brought in to the rapid modernization and that kind of were held back or remained tied to much slower agricultural cycles and so that’s, there was this very interesting dynamic in Venezuela, at that time, where the country was modernizing super super fast and not including anyone, everyone and in my mind that leaving behind of so many people made kind of paved the way for populist, the populist regimes that we now know in Venezuela which have done so much harm to the country under the kind of the language of inclusion, and now we know, 20 years in that people remain as marginalized as they were before.

0:35:41.3 Michael Goodman: Yeah, so then looking, looking at where it is now, do you find yourself like taking a second like, would you reinvestigate that in terms of like, I guess when you had when you were doing this. When you wrote the informalism that was in 2018, more or less, that took me a few years but it was from the 2014 it was like a five year period of research, or less.

0:36:11.5 Michael Goodman: Do you find that your research like looking at in 2021 obviously we’re living in a new world with coven. When you do a project like that you ever find yourself kind of going back and seeing if kind of what is there still stands out the stuff that’s already written in history but kind of your ideas and thoughts on it.

0:36:36.4 Michael Goodman: I think I for this specific project that I think that there’s aspects that I would go back and kind of expand on but I think that it’s still pretty relevant in terms of my thesis which was, again, this idea that that rapid development didn’t necessarily include, you know, everybody that should have been included in, in, in, in the modernization. Do you, is there correlations to that same thing, do you say that’s coming, that’s happening here in the states with the rapid development of kind of where they are split to the art world. I know we’re going to get into more more or less NFT stuff. But technology is obviously very kind of hand in hand with that what’s going on right now. And I was looking kind of you were at the forefront of kind of digital images going back to the technology sector of it. So I wanted to kind of hear your take on on how that kind of influences, like as of what’s going on right now with the images and hitting the market. If you want to share anything.

0:38:00.4 María Gaztambide: I’ll just talk about the group that I studied for this Venezuelan project their name was El Techo de la Ballena and faced with this kind of rapid unstoppable development of their country what they, what they opted to do was to slow down and, and this is almost like an anachronistic way of thinking about culture and creating art so kind of would be the equivalent of today’s slow food but applied to the art. It wouldn’t surprise me if as our current market continues to rapidly evolve. I would think that a reaction to that would be artists who are deliberate in their kind of moving backwards, if you will, to kind of stop that and give themselves time to reflect.

0:38:56.6 Michael Goodman: One of the things I’m faced with with this market from the gallery point of view is because there’s so many voices entering the market and often the voices that are heard often are the most heavily marketed ones. And, and there has been a division in the art world, which I like to say there’s the fine art world, and there’s the commercial art world. But the public or people who may not even consider themselves in the art world, or not. They, they’re exposed to whatever’s. They don’t see the difference they really don’t, and oftentimes the ones that most people in this art world would categorize as commercial art which the definition kind of varies from person to person of what they consider commercial art is a fine artists like Jeff Koons commercial is he fine. I always say artists like kind of like the kind of fall into this blue chips fear as I like to call it. They’re kind of a hybrid of both meaning he did what he needed to do when it needed to be done. So, that that’s something that we’re dealing with and with. We can’t help. It’s hard to slow that down in today’s world, meaning.

0:40:27.6 María Gaztambide: The question is, yes, well a lot of it stick probably not, you know, history, we can learn something from history in that sense but back then they didn’t have the tools we have today, the accessibility, I mean there’s nothing stopping anyone from being heard which is there’s a, there’s a beauty to that and there’s also a con meaning you’ll hear a lot of voices maybe influencing for a negative so I know in the institutional space at least my perception of it things tend to move a little slower because there’s there’s a lot of a lot of decisions that need to be made before something can be made and by then, we might. Somewhere else.

0:41:16.9 Michael Goodman: Right. Yeah, you’re somewhere else. So, with that, with that being. I mean, what are your thoughts on that and maybe how that can be changed. Or do you think we’re in a system where it doesn’t change then the institutions is continue to operate the way they do, unless, unless there’s others smaller, maybe smaller more nimble institutions can kind of move at the pace where the market is, is, you know, at the same pace as the market but for, but for more established and larger institutions and in our case also an institution who uses public money for, for our commissions and acquisitions we have to, we have to work at a slightly slower pace there’s no way, no way around that, like you said there’s multiple, multiple processes and levels of approval and betting that just, you know, it’s just impossible for for for us to move any faster.

0:42:21.5 María Gaztambide: Are the, and I don’t know this but is the university predominantly publicly funded.

0:42:27.8 María Gaztambide: Yes, this is a state university.

0:42:29.4 María Gaztambide: Yeah. And they do accept obviously private donations as well. So for example, you bring up something interesting. In 2018 when I was recruited, we launched a temporary public art program. And that was a result of seed money, private money coming, coming into our, into our institution which has allowed us to move a lot quicker, because it’s the money it’s not coming from the state or the, you know, or the public it’s got its private money coming from a private foundation here in Houston. But to your point, yes, we’re able to move a lot quicker on those projects and we are on permanent commissions and permanent because of the source of the funds.

0:43:20.9 Michael Goodman: I guess that’s what it boils down to is where, where the source of the funding comes in terms of the movement of a project or something that you guys are looking to do.

0:43:32.0 María Gaztambide: But even if we have private support for a project, because we are working in the public sphere, we still have to like, as we talked about before there’s many many people that have to weigh in on these projects, which invariably makes them slower to realize.

0:43:51.6 Michael Goodman: Yeah. I’m looking, I’m looking forward to, you know, talking some more we’re almost out of time. Is there any other subjects you want to touch upon before we conclude our session.

0:44:09.9 María Gaztambide: No, I always, I always just always tell people to go out and see some art, and I want one of the things that I love about work that is done in public for the you know outside or indoors but in publicly accessible spaces, is that it’s always free to see. Or nine out of 10 times. It’s always free to see. So for people who are listening to this podcast that may not be able to maybe go to the museum, go to museums all the time or even go to galleries all the time because of perhaps not feeling comfortable walking into those kind of more sanctified spaces consider consider you know consider public art institutions and work in the public realm, because we are able to provide sort of more intimate experiences with work and it’s a great I think I always see this as a great way to immerse yourself with art.

0:45:07.8 Michael Goodman: And where can the audience, where can you plug them in to see some of your literature and writings.

0:45:15.4 María Gaztambide: Sure, so I would encourage everybody to visit our website. It’s public art, you h s.org again public art. Public art us dot org. It’s a moment of art 20th century 21st century.

0:46:00.7 Michael Goodman: Thank you so much for tuning into the Artmatcher podcast. We had an interesting discussion, a great time, and we hope you did too. Please tune in for next week’s episode and like share and follow. For more information about the app, you can check out our website at Artmatcher.com or look us up on social. Stay safe and be artful

Key Moments

  • 00:30 Getting to know Maria and her work
  • 11:50 Latinx representation in the art world
  • 18:10 Technology and public art
  • 22:45 Making art accessible to the general public
  • 32:05 Informalism in Venezuela
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