Like a lot of establishmentistas in Texas – you know who they are – mixed-media artist Benito Huerta is above criticism. Not a discouraging word uttered outside the pages of maybe ArtForum would leave the tiniest smear on his past, present, or future. Definitely, nothing we plebes could say would take away the Artist Legend of the Year award that he received from the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art in 2002 or his associate professorship at the University of Texas at Arlington or his co-founding of the muscle-car-‘n’-bikini-model quarterly ArtLies. (Just kidding. ArtLies delivers some of the most insightful art criticism in the entire Southwest.)

But since criticism also serves another master, history, let’s go on the record as saying that Huerta tends to mistake the simplistic for the purely simple. The result is work that’s openly institutional in both scope and execution: a lot of often esoteric, pseudo-edgy symbols, a lot of neatly arranged imagery, a lot of, well, boring colors, nothing vibrant and shocking, nothing unnaturally – and enticingly – ambiguous. In other words, a Huerta is perfect for above the sofa or behind a branch manager’s desk.

The establishmentista’s latest show, Grand Illusion, at William Campbell Contemporary Art until early February, tests the limits of the Yawn-O-Meter. Nearly all of the images are the same: a map (or simulacrum of a map) of a portion of the Texas-Mexico border, a photocopy or real piece of U.S. or Mexican paper currency, found images of Hindu iconography, and great, monochromatic plains of hollow hues. In burlesque, the tease is arguably the most important part of the show – our imaginations are allowed to fill in the, uh, blanks. In art, a tease, especially one predicated on apparently random symbolism, is borderline cruel – and not in a cathartic, early Andres Serrano way.

Grand Illusion
Thru Feb 7 at William Campbell Contemporary Art, 4935 Byers Av, FW. 817-737-9566.

Grand Illusion is an odd title for a show that offers little to no retinal effects. Two similar pieces opposite each other in the gallery’s small room have zero impact on the space. They don’t shrink it. They don’t enlarge it. They’re just … there. The show’s title clearly refers to the wall texts: The pieces, “Sin Titulo #1: Declaration of Independence” and “American Notations #14,” are priced at – don’t laugh – $13,000 each.

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