Organized by Kimberly Aubuchon
San Antonio Express
Signs of the times by Elda Silva
“Genovese is a sculptor, but his medium is social interaction. In an ongoing project, Genovese, who worked as a sign painter, approaches street vendors — mostly Latinos — offering to paint their food carts for “Lo que puedes pagar” or “What you can pay.” Genovese is generally met with varying degrees of mistrust, and sometimes outright hostility.
Genovese figures he “wins” maybe one out of 12 carts. His payment frequently comes in the form of fruit. Recently, he upped the ante on the project, building the carts himself and giving them out on the streets. “Sign Language” includes an example of one of the carts made out of lightweight aluminum panels with engraving on the baked enamel finish.
The show also includes aluminum panels Genovese has set out at different venues for participants to cover in graffiti — an etched record of hopes, aspirations, frustrations and confessions that range from the banal to the profound.
“The idea behind this is, ‘What would be different in San Antonio that people write down than people write down in Chicago. Aesthetically, it will be the same, that’s one thing. But the actual content — what is on here, what is not on here, what are people actually hoping for,” he says. “And the scope, we have from mentally challenged kids to artists to poets — it’s like the whole spectacle of society that gets captured on these surfaces.”
ARTLIES: Contemporary Art Quarterly
Sign Language at Unit B and University of Texas San Antonio
Ben Judson Issue #46
“Genovese’s work reveals an artist casting about—looking for different ways to incorporate his background into a contemporary gallery context. As a result, his contributions to the exhibition feel more like a survey than a focused body of work. At UTSA, a fruit cart reading “Corn Piraguas Chicharrones” in Genovese’s distinctive script shares the space with chaotic freeform etchings, leather impressed belts and a rack piled with signs promoting one of the artist’s previous exhibitions. The fruit cart is part of a larger project in which Genovese offers to paint (or repaint) the carts of street vendors for whatever they can afford, or builds a new cart and offers it to the vendor. In a talk at the opening he recounted how often vendors rebuff his offers, figuring him for a con man of some sort. When crossing cultural boundaries, an anonymous act of charity can often be viewed as a trick or act of condescension. Genovese asks strangers not just to buy his art but to have it emblazoned on the vehicle of their livelihood, mingling his professional identity with theirs in a way that demands a certain level of trust. There is a sort of antagonism in this act; the artist is daring strangers to take him at his word. What is not clear is whether Genovese intends to clarify a source of antagonism or demonstrate a kind of positive interpersonal dynamic through charity.
In other works, Genovese seems interested in taking snapshots of human behavior, be they aggressive, generous, intellectual or profane. He encourages viewers to scratch marks on blank metal panels—a kind of uncontrolled “permission” graffiti, which he later presents as an image of the community in which it was created. Completed versions of these etchings are on view at both spaces, along with blank surfaces to record the random thoughts of San Antonio’s art citizenry. This is a reversal of the carts: rather than asking to mark someone else’s property, he’s asking strangers to mark on his work—to mingle their thoughts with his professional identity. Ironically, this feels more like an act of charity than offering to paint fruit carts. I’m not sure that either action gets to the heart of antagonism or charity, but this is partly due to the fact that the exhibits do not fully commit to this exploration. Signs painted with phrases like “We’re all we’ve got” in different languages muddle what could be a poignant journey into social space.”- Ben Judson