Exploring the Central Texas Art Scene

Traveling and moving across country have kept me from posting on my blog over the past few weeks, but it's also thrown into sharp focus all that I have learned, and come to appreciate, about the art scene in Central Texas.  Having only lived there for a year, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface, but none-the-less I will share a few of my (paired down) recommendations: First and foremost, check out www.glasstire.com. They are your artist resource in the region, providing information and commentary about shows, artists, jobs and more.


Despite having a relatively small art scene by some standards, there is actually a lot going on in Austin at many different levels, so I have just made a few selections from my favorites:

Women and Their Work, a non-profit gallery where you will find friendly and informative staff in addition to some very innovative and diverse works, largely installations, by contemporary female artists. They also host a lot of performances, info sessions and social events and are a good place to learn the who's who in the Austin art scene. One of my favorite exhibits from the 2011-2012 season was Laurie Frick: Quantify Me.

The Austin Museum of Art/Arthouse is a mixed experience for me, but with three venues you can definitely find something you like. I suggest the shows at the Jones Center and Laguna Gloria; the latter is located in a French riviera-style house with beautiful grounds and gardens to explore, plus the museum's art school.

Although most people know about the Blanton Museum of Art on the UT campus, which I also highly recommend, it seems the Visual Art Center (VAC) in the middle of campus is less well-known, yet with 5 galleries housed in an impressive building, it has a lot to offer, from both the art department and outside artists.  My favorite this year was Diana Al-Hadid: Suspended After Image.

For something a little off the beaten path and for those of you into contemporary and experimental art, I highly recommend Co-Lab. Primarily run by the amazing and innovative Sean Gallagher, this is a non-profit performance and art venue that always has something good going on.


I only made it to Houston for one day, so despite it being an art hub with many attractions, I am going to simply recommend the  Menil Collection - "A museum and a neighborhood of art. Free of charge, always" as their website so aptly states.  Residing in a quiet residential neighborhood surrounded by trees, it is an oasis great for picnicking in between seeing some fantastic art.  It is home to the Rothko Chapel, an architectural feat and meditation spot open to all religions that houses Mark Rothko's black paintings and was founded by philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil.

Although I loved visiting this peaceful spot, I actually preferred the 6 or so black paintings housed in the Menil Museum that didn't make it into the Chapel.  Among other things, the Museum includes a fantastic collection of Surrealist art featuring mainly works by Max Ernst and Rene Magritte, but also some Yves Tanguy and Roberto Matta, two of my favorite artists from this movement. Behind this building stands the Cy Twombly Gallery, which houses a retrospective of the artist's life works, which really opened my eyes to both the immense scale of many of his paintings and to the subtleties hidden in his brash style.


My brief stay in San Antonio did not allow time for an art tour, however the McNay Art Museum  was recommended to me, particularly for its Post Impressionist collection.

Also recommended is Artpace, which "serves as an international laboratory for the creation and advancement of contemporary art", according to it's mission statement. They do this through their support of established and emerging contemporary artists via international residencies and exhibitions, and through their education programs.


I am sad to state that I didn't actually make it up to Fort Worth, mostly because I missed two amazing shows that I would have loved to see: Caravaggio and his followers in Rome at the Kimbell Art Museum and Lucian Freud: Portraits at The Modern, the latter of which is up through October 28, 2012. These are two artists that I have great respect for, mainly for their very different, but equally impressive, painting styles. Of course I'm talking about Caravaggio's use of chiaroscuro (light/dark) effects and that wonderful deep yet bright red that shines out in many of his paintings; and Lucian Freud's use of thick, tactile paint and bizarre color combinations.


Art shows beating the heat around Austin 4: Multiplicity

Multiplicity: Photography by Malia Moss @ UP Collective, opening TOMORROW - August 11  

Opening reception Sat. Aug. 11, 7-10PM. Open to the public, find out more.

I've already had a sneak preview to the show, so I can vouch for it. Having recently seen some not-so-impressive photography, I have been a bit jaded about young people's photography, but Malia's work is a breath of fresh air. I think this is partly due to her commitment to her very time-consuming and painstaking process of digital manipulation which could very easily become stale and/or mundane, yet it doesn't.  Her use of one subject, whether it be an animal or a human, repeated dozens of times in the same setting becomes a kind of story-telling, albeit a strange one.  By placing herself, just once, in each photograph Malia becomes the omniscient narrator to these tales.

I didn't know when I first saw this series that they were about living with chronic anxiety, but when I found that out I saw how completely Malia has created a sense of anxiety in each frame.

Lastly, I have to add a shout-out to UP Collective, the host of this show. If you haven't been yet, you should. UP is becoming a happening place to view some really amazing emerging artists; and if you have been before, you'll be blown away by the new gallery floors! Hope to see you there.


If I Could Dance and Other Tales: LAST CHANCE to see my work at Jerry's Artarama

Show comes down Monday, Aug. 13th, so go check it out.


Art shows beating the heat around Austin 3: The Blanton

A great way to spend an afternoon and escape the heat (for free on Thursdays) is at the Blanton Museum of Art.  The architecture of the building is impressive with it's fantastically high ceilings and skylights that let in natural light, and then there's the great installation by Teresita Fernandez, Stacked Waters, on the walls as you climb to the 2nd floor.

I always enjoy their ongoing exhibit America/Americas: Modern and Contemporary Art of the Americas, which combines their North and South American collections, and love spending time in Cildo Meireleseery installation, Missão/Missões [Mission/Missions] (How to Build Cathedrals).

The current shows are:

The Collecting Impulse: Fifty Works from Dorothy and Herbert Vogel, through Aug. 12

Untitled (Portrait of the Vogels), 1988

"Our collection is about information. The role of art is to help us find our way in our own time." -Herbert Vogel, 1977

This show is probably most appropriate for lovers of conceptual and minimal art (or hapless art students), but may also interest those intrigued by the Vogel's story.  The couple lived off of Dorothy's salary as a librarian and put all of Herb's income from his postal service job into collecting art. They could only afford early works of many artists who went on to become more successful, with the encouragement of the couple.  The Blanton was the Texas recipient of the 50 works that the Vogels gave to each state when they decided to donate their work around the country (see Herb & Dorothy 50x50). The quotes by the artists included in the show reveal how influential the couple was and how well respected:

"Most of us go through the world never seeing anything. Then you meet somebody like Herb and Dorothy, who have eyes that see. Something goes from the eye to the soul without going through the brain." -Richard Tuttle, 2008

If you want to learn more about the couple and their collection, the museum is streaming the documentary made about them, titled Herb & Dorothy, and it's also available on Netflix instant-watch. Watch a trailer: http://vimeo.com/3069795

The Human Touch, through Aug. 12

Carrie Mae Weems, Untitled (Woman and Friends), 1990

This is a mixed-media exhibit featuring selections from the RGB Wealth Management Art Collection. As such it certainly displays work across the gambit from well-known artists to lesser known ones. I liked Carrie Mae Weems' photographs because, in direct contrast to many of the other works in the collection that stuck to more traditional portraiture, Weems shows an interaction between people, a relationship and a story. I also liked the mixed media and bold colors of Radcliffe Bailey, and the playfulness of Robin Rhode's Bike from Top.

(this is not the image in the exhibit, but gives you an idea of the kind of stuff Rhode does)

Go West! Representations of the American Frontier, through Oct. 14

Jerry Bywaters, Oil Field Girls, 1940

Most of the exhibit doesn't look like this, in fact this painting is in a small room at the end of the exhibit focusing on the end result of the rush west in the form of ghost towns and desolate landscapes. I just find this painting very interesting and moving - I like to look at it. But the rest of the exhibit is good too, and a nice follow up, thematically, to the Hudson River School paintings exhibited in the spring.

Art Shows Beating the Heat around Austin 2: Grafficanos

Young Latino Artists 17: Grafficanos @ Mexic-Arte Museum, through Sept. 9

I think there's some debate somewhere about what it means to bring graffiti into the gallery/museum, but this show gets around that conundrum by stating these are graffiti-inspired works.  I know several of these artists continue to work as street artists, and I think it's cool that they can get both recognition of their achievements and more exposure to their work  through this show. While there are many interesting and amusing works, I particularly liked the work of both Miguel Donjuan and Niz.

In the back gallery you can also check out the Serie Project XIX featuring prints made by artists in Mexic-Arte's Serie Print Project.

Art shows beating the heat around Austin 1: Rigoberto A. Gonzalez

They say summer is a sleepy (i.e. down-and-out) time for art shows here in blazing Austin, but there are some great shows up right now in appropriately air-conditioned settings.  My next couple of posts will feature shows I've been enjoying, here's the first: Rigoberto A. Gonzalez, Baroque on the Border @ the Mexican American Cultural Center, through Sept. 1


Gonzalez is from a small town in Texas and made his appearance on the art radar by being featured in the 2011 Texas Biennial,  followed by reviews in Glasstire and shows in Houston and now Austin.  Well worth seeing in real life, Gonzalez's paintings are made with old techniques reminiscent of Caravaggio paintings to depict the current drug war in Mexico and along the border.  The stunningly beautiful chiaroscuro lighting combined with traditional Biblical-type scenes portray horrific events, from kidnappings to beheadings, as poignant as Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib paintings.

I particularly liked the painting above, titled Levanton (The Kidnapping), because of the emotion on each of the individual's faces and the chaotic motion of the scene, but also because of the direct stare of one of the kidnapper's right out at the viewer, like a challenge: "What are you looking at?" It's chilling and evocative; what can/should we do about this violence? The scale of some of the paintings seems to reinforce the vastness of the problems and the helplessness of it's many victims.

After the heaviness of this show, you can lighten up by visiting the community gallery downstairs featuring Matthew (Rodriguez) Bonifacio's playful show,  Scruffy Kitten.

Leticia Bajuyo: Event Horizon

Art made with recycled items interests me and Leticia Bajuyo's installation at Women and Their Work gallery in Austin (open through August 30th) is no exception.  Featuring over 8,500 CDs, its scale is enough to be profound, while the theremins placed on either side of the gallery add an eery soundtrack to this sci-fi inspired show. An "event horizon", according to Bajuyo, is a boundary in space time, the point of no return, such as the moment right before one is sucked into a black hole, and her twisting vortex shapes that emerge out of the walls of shiny CDs include such moments of in between-ness.

 I like that the CDs create two solid free-standing walls of reflections as you walk into the gallery, enclosing you in this curved hallway. The visual serenity of the reflective walls is broken by two vortex tunnels, one on the left directed up and one on the right directed down, that draw you towards them and yet you cannot climb in.

Instead, you continue around to the backside of the walls, revealing the outside of the vortexes which look horn-shaped, and the titles of all those CDs, discarded and almost obsolete in this digital age.

I was lucky enough to work with Leticia helping to install part of the show, after countless hours stringing hundreds of CDs together with fishing line (and I contributed some of my CDs too). Here's me installing:


(You can see more photos from installation week, including some with the artist, at Women and Their Work's blog: http://womenandtheirwork.wordpress.com/)

During the opening (on June 30th) there were two professional theremin players (I think they were called The Autobots, but I'm not positive). Now, while the show is open, viewers are encouraged to play the instruments themselves, adding an interactive element to the show.