Arts & Culture
Meet the Artists Behind SA’s Most Iconic Restaurant Interiors
Published: May 28, 2014
With increasing frequency, we find ourselves eating in the midst of artwork created by either LA transplant Robert Tatum or SA native Gilbert Duran—two distinct characters who don’t quite fit within the confines of the local gallery scene. While Tatum’s work—which incorporates logo design, outdoor signage and murals—can be seen at Sip, Il Sogno, Umai Mi, The Luxury, Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse Bar-B-Que, Mellow Mushroom, Tuk Tuk Tap Room and beyond (not to mention nearly every local bar named after a big city), Duran’s paintings and giclée prints factor prominently into the interiors of Rosario’s and SoLuna but also hang at Bohanan’s, Bistro Vatel, Bite, Zinc, Taco Haven ... and the list goes on.
Unsurprisingly, both artists had their first San Antonio shows in (now bygone) restaurants. They also happen to be neighbors and have known each other since the early 1990s. Their styles, however, are vastly different: Tatum’s irreverent, street-smart aesthetic, comic use of animals and advertising chops make his pieces fairly easy to pick out. But Duran’s tendency to reinterpret and even localize works by a number of famous artists (including but not limited to Fernando Botero, Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and Pierre-Auguste Renoir) can make his paintings trickier to identify.
We sat down with the California dude turned Southtown rebel and the self-described “artist non-grata,” asked them similar questions and got wildly diverse answers dealing with everything from deviled eggs and mural maintenance to margaritas and the Moulin Rouge.
How would you introduce yourself to Current readers that may have seen your work out and about in San Antonio?
I have been painting for a very long time here in the city. I did take a hiatus to El Paso for 10 years and returned back September 11, 2001, when I opened up my studio, where Studio 911, Rosario’s and Fisher Heck Architects are in the same building. And the Rosario’s restaurant is like a gallery to me, and also a kitchen to me. ... A lot of my art is in restaurants; a lot of restaurants request my work, but it takes an enormous expense in time, you know, to say yes to my friends that own restaurants. And they do buy my work and display [it] ... and I do have favorite places ... like Rosario’s, SoLuna, Bohanans, Boudro’s, Zinc ...
Can you describe what the theme or style is and how it’s different in each of those places?
I can paint in many different directions: abstract, modern art, wildlife, landscape ... and I sculpt, do mosaics—everything. ... I enjoy it and it’s a challenge. I do read the biography of all the artists that I’m trying to interpret. ... There’s Botero, Picasso, Gauguin or Porfirio Salinas; that’s what I do.