Rex Hausmann's 'Ithica' paintings are about basics of art, culture, identity

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Painting by Rex Hausmann

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(July 1, 2011)--Constantine Cavafy's poem "Ithaca" speaks of a sailor's trip and return to port, nourished and wizened by the journey. The poem resonates with artist Rex Hausmann, who splits his time between San Antonio and Brooklyn. Despite his travels, San Antonio gives Hausmann a sense of place and identity.

Hausmann will share his "Ithica" collection as part of the Texas Contemporary Artists Series at the Institute of Texan Cultures, July 2 to Oct. 30.

Thematically, Hausmann's "Ithica" is about returning to the basics of his art, culture and identity. The title piece of the series was the first time in three years he put oil on canvas, having come off a series of installations featuring concrete, chalk, hay and found items.

For Hausmann, picking up the paintbrush and reverting to classical training conjured memories of growing up in San Antonio. He remembered the places that made an impact on him: Cool Crest miniature golf, Kiddie Park, the ButterKrust Bakery, the Olmos Pharmacy and other landmarks.

"The memory is probably better than the reality," said Hausmann. "ButterKrust and Cool Crest don't exist anymore. The Olmos Pharmacy changed and Kiddie Park is just making a comeback. My childhood is gone, so at least I should try to remember it."

"Ithica" was introspective for Hausmann, the result of several six-hour sessions alone in the studio. In that solitary state, Hausmann grasped at the essence of his memories. The experience could easily have turned abstract, but he said if artwork is too much about the artist, no one is invited to share the experience. The power of the series comes from its accessibility and collective memories shared with thousands of San Antonians.

"Do I want to get this deep?" he asked himself. "Yes. I needed the catharsis. I needed to remember what really mattered. It's crazy things like putt-putt and eating paletas. It's not until later that you realize that all these things make you who you are."

Arturo Almeida, curator of the UTSA Art Collection and the Texas Contemporary Artists Series, selected nine paintings for the exhibit. Also selected were two of Hausmann's personal mementos -- crocheted plushes -- including a cupcake and Tommy the Tank, which are repeated in the paintings.

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The Institute of Texan Cultures is on the UTSA HemisFair Park Campus, 801 E. Durango Blvd., a short distance from the Alamo and the River Walk. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday-Saturday; noon-5 p.m., Sunday. Admission is $8 for adults (ages 12-64); $7 for seniors (ages 65+); $6 for children (ages 3-11); free with membership, UTSA or Alamo Colleges identification. For more information, call 210-458-2300.