The cyclical narration of Bradford’s installation TRAVIS expresses ideas of displacement and transition, tracing such changes back through history.
In keeping with the artist’s ongoing investigation of the relationship between communities and the changes to their physical surroundings, Bradford’s Artpace project explores the history of a building adjacent to Artpace–the Travis Savings and Loan Association. Through primary research—from interviewing local people to consulting archival newspapers and photographs—the artist has deconstructed the enigmatic history of the bank building, using it as a window onto broader events in San Antonio. Drawing attention to the interactions of politicians, community leaders, and national events on a local scale, Bradford reveals underlying dichotomies in the building’s past.
The east wall of the exhibition comprises a large-scale wall installation featuring a decorative pattern found on the exterior of the Travis Savings and Loan Association building. The geometric grid, sketched on top of layers of plaster and newspaper, was created using a metal die-cut stencil. Though the stenciling method implies compositional precision, Bradford allowed imperfections to remain, emphasizing the artist’s hand in the process: elements of the underlying newspaper emerge from beneath the design, and several of the stencils are off-kilter or drawn in reverse. These flaws reflect the convoluted (and often chaotic) history hidden beneath the surface of the seemingly austere Savings and Loan building.
Designed by California artist Millard Sheets in 1967, the edifice draws on myriad architectural sources, including Indian, Persian, and Islamic design, while highlighting local historical events through interior and exterior landscapes and murals. The building’s name–after William Barret Travis, who commanded the Republic of Texas forces and died at the Battle of the Alamo–is chiseled over the original main entrance. Using the same font, Bradford has inscribed the name “Travis” on the west wall of the Artpace exhibition space. Once again, the realization is less than perfect, appearing incomplete and decomposed, as if fading into oblivion from prolonged neglect, mirroring the legacy of the bank.
Bradford’s strategies of historical excavation are clearly defined by the stacked copies of the artist-designed newspaper situated in the corner of the gallery. The newspaper includes a compiled selection of factual newspaper articles written about the building that outline a controversial real estate deal and the discovery of lost historical documents. Images of the building, taken by the artist, comprise the centerfold, while an enigmatic interview with Millard Sheets acts as a footnote. The newspaper also reveals the less glamorous aspects of the edifice by documenting its everyday life, highlighting the history of the people who have lived around, worked in, and used the building.
–Emily Morrison, Curatorial Assistant and Lori Salmon, Graduate Intern