Faux Bois Sculpture in San Antonio

Cement "palapa" built by Rodriguez ca. 1927 at Broadway and Patterson; still used as a bus stop.

Streetcar stop built by Rodriguez ca. 1927 at Broadway and Patterson; still used as a bus stop.

When I was reading about Miraflores Park a few weeks ago the book Capturing Nature: The Cement Sculpture of Dionicio Rodriguez
was frequently mentioned.  I found the book  at the San Antonio Public Library.  The author, Patsy Pittman Light, spent 10 years researching the book, tracking down relatives and friends of Rodriguez.  The book’s beautiful color photographs show Rodriguez’ work in San Antonio and also in other states including Arkansas, Tennessee and Michigan

From 1924 to the early 1950s Rodriguez traveled through eight states creating reinforced concrete sculptural works that imitated rocks and wood.  The art form has several names including faux bois (imitation wood) and trabajo rustico (rustic work).  

Rodriguez was born in Toluca, near Mexico City, in 1891.  In about 1924 he moved to San Antonio to find work.  Rodriguez’s first client in San Antonio was Dr. Aureliano Urrutia.  Rodriguez created at least nine cement sculptures for Dr. Urrutia’s gardens (now Miraflores Park).  Rodriguez completed many other cement sculptures in Brackenridge Park, Stone Werks Cafe in the Quarry Market, Alamo Heights and the Shrine of St. Anthony of Padua.  The best-known works are the gates for the Japanese Tea Garden and the footbridge in Brackenridge Park near the Hildebrand entrance.  

Footbridge in Brackenridge park; built ca. 1925 by Rodriguez

Footbridge in Brackenridge park; built ca. 1925 by Rodriguez

Before reading Light’s book I didn’t make the connection between Rodriguez’ various projects and the newer faux bois projects in San Antonio.   According to Light, Maximo Cortes collaborated with Rodriguez on many cement sculpture projects.  Cortes’ son, Carlos Cortes, is now continuing the family tradition creating faux bois sculptures in San Antonio.  Carlos Cortez is also Rodriguez’ great-nephew by marriage. 

In his studio at 1101 South St. Mary’s Street,  Carlos Cortes creates custom faux bois pieces.  His works include the Witte Museum HEB Science Treehouse, a pavilion on the grounds of the Landa Public Library, and the grotto in the Riverwalk Museum Reach extension.   

Articles about Cortes have appeared in the San Antonio Express-News, The Austin Chronicle, Rare Visions Road Trip, Glasstire, Old House Interiors, Texas Highways, and Martha Stewart Living.  MySA videos also has a video of Cortes working on the Riverwalk grotto.  

Update: Additional pictures of faux bois sculpture available on this post. 

"Palapa" in Landa Park built by Cortes

"Palapa" pavilion on the grounds of the Landa Library built in 2008 by Cortes


Treehouse at Witte Museum built by Cortes

Treehouse at Witte Museum built by Cortes in 1997

Grotto at the Museum Reach Riverwalk Extension; built in 2009 by Cortes

Grotto at the Museum Reach Riverwalk Extension; built in 2009 by Cortes


6 responses to “Faux Bois Sculpture in San Antonio

  1. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for Faux Bois Sculpture in San Antonio « Urban Spotlight [urbanspotlight.wordpress.com] on Topsy.com

  2. Although my creations do not have the scale or complexity of the creations pictured I also design what some have called ‘art’ using cement as the medium. Rodriguez and Cortes are way out of my league’ though. Just in case, here’s my site if you’d like to take a look: centerstone.wordpress.com.
    Thanks for the photos … very impressive work.
    Ed B.

    • Ed: I took a look at your site. I really like your arches. And your yard looks so green and inviting. I hope you keep working with cement. It look pretty difficult to me.

  3. Thank you for the info on all the fantastic work in San Antonio. I both sculpt and teach Ferrocement Faux Bois and anyone wishing to learn more about this old and very nearly lost craft is invited first to visit my studio site at… http://fauxboisinconcrete.blogspot.com/. In fact, I will be teaching a class in June of 2011 in San Antonio at the wonderful old Southwest School of Art. My good friend and colleague Carlos Cortes and I were invited to participate in the first public symposium ever presented on this esoteric subject last year and when they invited me to teach a course there, I couldn’t say no. As you no doubt know, San Antonio is Mecca for all things Faux Bois and El Trabajo Rustico so I was at once both honored and humbled by their invitation.

    And as a PS…Ed B. is a member of my craft discussion forum and an absolutely extraordinary craftsman. His work is at once inspiring and worth of study by any and all who treasure unique garden constructs.

    Thank you again for sharing!

    • Thanks so much for your comment. The art on your website is beautiful. I hope your class in June goes well.


  4. Great works in concrete, I did some research and found out that mister Cortes is not 3rd generation like everybody says, is second by his father Maximo. excellent works!

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