Visual Vernacular: Anthony Suber
Antony Suber, “Doyenne Seba,” 2017 (detail)
A lyrical collision of pigments, form, and poetry come together in the latest exhibition at Cindy Lisica Gallery. Masterful manipulator of wood, concrete, and metal, artist Anthony Suber weaves together definitions of contemporary America and African diaspora through a presentation that is both raw and pristine. Association of both the spiritual and the social nature come together throughout the gallery, displaying a reverence for material and concept, strong in visual display and internal meaning. Friday, June 2, the opening night of his exhibition Ritual Redux, features a special performance at 7 pm in collaboration with dancer/choreographer Harrison Guy.
What promises to be an encompassing experience for an audience includes wearable artwork, video, and sound coming together for a piece entitled “Griot Gospel.” As gallerist and curator, Cindy Lisica offers yet again an exhibition that goes beyond the work to include the entire thoughtfulness and concept of an artist. Suber’s work has been featured in a multitude of exhibitions including Project Row Houses, Sculpture Month Houston, and the Houston Museum of African American Culture. He holds a BFA from the University of Houston and teaches Studio Art and Art History at The Kinkaid School. While installing his exhibition at Cindy Lisica Gallery, Suber spoke with Free Press Houston about his background, creative process and the cultural influences in his work.
Free Press Houston: Which people in your life introduced you to art? Is there a particular experience in the arts that made you want to choose that as a profession?
Anthony Suber: I was raised in a home where the arts were definitely appreciated. My grandfather was a woodworker and my father was a painter and a bit of a sculptor. My mother was one of my main cheerleaders and tried to make sure that I had every opportunity to develop my talents and interests in the arts possible. My main experience that solidified my passion for the arts was the time that I spent at HSPVA here in Houston. I’m not sure if, without having that experience, I would have progressed as far as I had by the time I was ready for college, which allowed me to have a more mature perspective of what it meant to be an artist.
FPH: Tell me about your experience as a student in arts education and how it developed you as an artist.
Suber: So again, my more my formal foundation began at an earlier age, attending the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Though I loved making art — mainly drawing and painting at the time — and tinkering, I did not initially know if I’d be a good fit for the school. I wanted to study art but I was also really into science and architecture which back then, I did not see a clear connection. Over the years that I spent in those halls, I met and was mentored by some really insightful and encouraging teachers and working artists. I have often looked back on that time as not only the foundation that set me on a course to be a maker of art but also one who helps young artists realize their potential in the arts, either as patrons or artists themselves.
FPH: What are some mediums that interest you the most and what are some topics that are at the core of your artistic concept?
Suber: I consider myself to be multidisciplinary and a multimedia artist, mainly because I am drawn to various types of mediums and methods dealing with the creative process. Connected to the formal aspect of making, I am attracted to materials that either have a latent history to them, or materials that I can give a history to through processing them. I also have a deep affinity for reclaimed materials and the symbolic significance behind giving something new life. In the same breath, I find connection to topics that have a balance of history, and weight of cultural significance.
FPH: Your upcoming show at Cindy Lisica Gallery offers visual commentary on time, culture, and experience. What is the premise of the show and some of the work that will be featured?
Suber: So the premise of this show is connected to an ongoing conversation that I’m attempting to have with the audience dealing with the different aspects of social interaction but from a cultural viewpoint. Specifically I have been dealing with microaggressions and their deeper impact on how we view race and deal with established cultural norms. When I began my research for this current series, I was drawn to the implicit cultural stereotypes that people of color have to process in order to navigate life. I was also, at the same time, drawn to the connections and parallels with choreographed dance movement and daily routine. Since my work already has an anthropological slant, it was a natural choice for me to work with the idea of masks and vestments as a vehicle for these conversations. There is one piece in particular that drives the show, a wearable sculpture that utilizes arduino technology and sensors to create another layer of experience via sound and light.
FPH: I greatly appreciate the fact that you are incorporating a performance aspect to the work on opening night. How do you hope this performance will resonate with the work present, along with bouncing back from a live audience in attendance?
Suber: Since this has been a part of the concept of this particular series from inception, I sincerely hope that the audience experiences a deep connection with the “activation” of the work through the choreographed movement and the wearable sculpture. Harrison Guy is an amazing choreographer and dancer, and I hope the audience is able to get the full magnitude of the collaboration between him and myself. There will also be a film installation that aides the anthropological aspect of the work, a piece that I have been working on in collaboration to a filmmaker here in Houston named Marlon Hall.
FPH: How has having children affected your work and outlook on the arts, especially in interesting cultural/political times like these?
Suber: Having children presents its own interesting set of challenges and gives you a different perspective on things. It does not matter who you are. As an artist, it has increased my appreciation of the role that the arts play in the shaping of our culture and in the way that our minds think. I think that my daughters are inheriting a world that in many ways is evolving faster artistically than the world that I inherited from my parents. I think that this is largely due to the role of politics in culture, but also to the way that technology bridges so many expanses and makes instant access, which translates to exposure, such a basic thing.
FPH: What is coming up for you in the near future?
Suber: I’m always cooking up various projects that I’d like to work on but currently I’ve been focusing time on a project entitled FREE. It is an outdoor, community based installation that focuses on the characteristics of stress and how individuals from different economic strata and diverse backgrounds handle — or not handle — it. The project is a scaled up version of my wearables and includes a lot of the same technology that I’m using in Ritual Redux via light, sound, and sensors to cultivate a particular experience for the viewer.
Anthony Suber’s exhibition “Ritual Redux” is on view at Cindy Lisica Gallery (4411 Montrose) from June 2, 2017 through July 1, 2017.