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282Southwestern Historical QuarterlyOctober CapturingNature: TL· Cement Sculpture ofDionicio Rodriguez. By Patsy Pittman Light. (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008. Pp. 152. Color illustrations , notes, bibliography, index. ISBN g78 1585446 100, $30.00 cloth.) Ifyou did not know any better, die first time you set eyes on the Alamo Heights Trolley Stop, an island in die intersection ofBroadway and Patterson avenues, you would think it a delightfully quirky, arboreal shelter for weary travelers waiting to catch a VIA bus to downtown San Antonio. Its diree trunks rise up out of a floor of crosscut logs and their branches prop up a gabled palapa roof—a clever woodworker , you might imagine, roughed out the weathered and sturdy structure. Not until you touched its textured form or sat down on its stump-like benches would you realize that the whole is made out of cement, an artifice that has been known to fool even birds seeking respite after a long day of flight. It took a clever mind, sharp eyes, and steady hands to produce this delightful surprise, one of many wire armature and cement shapes that the legendary Mexican sculptor, Dionicio Rodriguez, brought to life. His trabajo rústico (rustic work) is magnificendy revived in CapturingNature, Patsy Pittman Light's loving tribute to the gifted artist who used once eardien materials to mimic natural forms. Born in Toluca, Mexico, in April i8gi, a young Rodriguez began working in construction, laying brick and experimentingwith cement as a sculptural medium, Light speculates that his artificial-rock fabrications in Mexico City's Chapúltepec Park and faux-bois benches in Monterrey laid the foundation for his later efforts in San Antonio. He arrived in the Texas city in 1924, constructing ornamental objects for die Miraflores estate of Mexican émigré Dr. Aureliano Urrutia, among them the rock facing on its monumental front and an equally imposing rock fountain . Aldiough neidier is extant, additional gates, wooden steps, and a ten-foot-tall, green-tinted saguaro cactus have survived. Urrutia introduced Rodriguez to Charles Baumberger, head ofdie Alamo Portland Cement Co., a fortunate connection. Baumberger commissioned numerous artworks for his residence and workplace, and, as a gift to the community, the Alamo Heights Trolley Stop. The patronage of Baumberger and Urrutia's led to other clients, private and public; among the latter was the city of San Antonio's park system. In Brackenridge Park, for instance, Rodriguez crafted an astonishingly complex, faux-wooden bridge: crosscut planks form the walkway; thirty-three pairs of tree trunks serve as vertical support for intricate branch-like handrails, replete with knotholes, bark texturing, and borer holes; its realism, declared Po^wlar Mechanics (1927), was such that "Park attendants say this bridge even fools the woodpeckers" (41-42). By the late 1 g20S, Rodriguez became more itinerant, with commissions in Houston (a lurid rock fountain in its zoo), Port Arthur (Eddington Court's startling conch-shell gate) , and Beaumont (a graceful log bridge at Phelan Mansion) . Early in the Great Depression he moved to Arkansas, producing an elaborate series of interconnected fantasy constructions in diree North Little Rock parks; most striking was a functioning ten-thousand-pound cement waterwheel for a gristmill and a pedestrian bridge built to resemble a fallen black locust tree widi an entwined branch canopy (gloriously photographed and serving as the book's glossy cover). 2oogBook Reviews283 No wonder Rodriguez reportedly believed these Arkansas sculptures were "his greatest achievement" (81). Because his was painstaking work, and because it required such intense concentration , Rodriguez's craft was only as good as his health; by the early ig40S, suffering from diabetes and with failing eyesight, his ability to travel declined and his productivity dimished. He returned to San Antonio's west side to live in a hollow tree shelter he had built diere years earlier, residing within its embrace until his death on December 16, 1955. In the lavishly illustrated Capturing Nature, Dionicio Rodriguez could not have wished for a more fitting memorial. Pomona CoL·geChar Miller Lost Architecture oftL· Rio Grande Borderlands. By W. Eugene George. (College Station : Texas A&M University Press, 2008. Pp. 136. Illustrations, color photographs , maps, figures, bibliography, index. ISBN 9781603440110, $35.00 cloth.) Gene George has long...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1558-9560
Print ISSN
0038-478X
Pages
pp. 282-283
Launched on MUSE
2011-07-06
Open Access
No
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