In a timely followup to EAST, Austin artist David Ohlerking has organized a large group show called the Austin Figurative Project: 30 artists paint the same models, with each model painted from the front, back, left and right by a different artist. It sounds like a terrific way to get to know a bunch of Austin painters at once. Some of the participants who've been on my radar include Felice House, Katy O'Connor, Ohlerking himself, and the usual suspects Chris Chappell and Michael Schliefke.
If that's not enough collaboration for you, Ohlerking is also at work on an upcoming show with Chris Chappell in which they'll each offer their own views of the same subjects.
Once again, there's way too much on the East Austin Studio Tour to see, let alone to blog about. See my Flickr photo set for the handful of things I had the presence of mind to shoot.
Some perennial high points: the privilege of getting invited into Ryah Christensen and Sun McColgin's art-filled home at Pandora Studios; the usual suspects at Bolm (Michael Schliefke, Sodalitas, Cherie Weaver, Travis Nichols); the old Camp Fig crew reincarnated as Okay Mountain.
New to me this time around: Meg Stone's ink networks and Nick Nolte gnomes at Bolm; the Amazing Hancock Brothers' scary prints on fabric; Fred Tabares' mixed-media paintings at Painterly Handsomes; Chris Chappell and David Ohlerking's parallel play; and the way cool temporary space at Stacked Studios.
Tomorrow I'm going to take the girls and go back!
Be sure to see the animation of how they did it.
It would be wonderful if other towns appropriated this idea and recreated paintings that resonate with local landmarks. Austin would need something altogether weirder. With this summer's heat I keep thinking of Dalí's sun-blasted landscapes although Austin doesn't look much like that. I suppose one could half-recreate Le déjeuner sur l'herbe at Barton Springs (or more fully at Hippie Hollow). Any more geographically apt candidates?
I wanted to forgive the Blanton for the sins of the Regents, I really did. It's not UT's fault that the philistines who control its purse strings shot down the museum UT wanted and required a new design devoid of troublesome personality as the Chronicle once put it. It would have been nice to have a building there that made a notable artistic statement in its own right, but hey, I was willing to believe that one could design a good museum within the conservative bounds of UT's venerable Texas Mediterranean style.
Alas, I set myself up for disappointment. Unveiled, the new Blanton is a big anticlimax. I know I've been spoiled by other Texas museums -- in particular the Kimbell in Ft. Worth and the Menil in Houston -- but the Blanton has less flavor than your typical shopping mall food court.
If you look closely at those museums, you'll see materials, even humble ones, used with great mindfulness: in the Kimbell, for instance, Louis Kahn famously anticipated the textures that his concrete would pick up from the wood forms in which it was poured. But if you look closely at the Blanton, you see pink granite and burnt orange plaster (two colors which should never be used together without antinausea medication) and liberal use of putty to hide the sloppy joints between them. The Blanton is as true to its materials as the fake foamboard "bronze" on its neighbor across the street, the Bullock Texas History Museum.
Inside the Blanton aims for Texas-sized drama and fails. After an unremarkable entry, you come to a vast and no doubt expensive atrium which somehow manages to look small and cheap. For lack of anything more interesting to see, the eye rests on the grilles of the air conditioning system. Maybe the intention for the space is to find some proportionately massive art to hang there. Let's hope it's not a Texas flag or a Bevo.
Fortunately the Blanton as an institution is not synonymous with its earthly shell. The 24-hour opening schedule was inspired, even if I didn't get to attend until the family-friendly hour of midday Sunday. What I found was the grand incongruous mix of the classical, the kitschy and the contemporary that the art in the Blanton has always been. It was good to see some of the old favorites that I wrote student papers about 25 years ago settled into their new home, and good to see even better stuff that was new to me.
I didn't expect it but the permanent installation of Cildo Meireles' "Missão/Missões (How to Build Cathedrals)" turned out to be a crowd pleaser -- 600,000 pennies, 2,000 bones and 800 Communion wafers as a hands-on allegory about the inversion of heaven and earth that was colonial Catholicism. Take that, Madonnas! Take that, Remington cowboys and six-guns! Take that, Regents! We'll find a way to sneak in our artistic subversion anyway and we'll even make it interesting to seven-year-olds.
Congratulations, Blanton, and many happy returns.
I love Travis's cartoony art. This show features some of his recurring obsessions (like bunnies that reproduce by budding, and creatures that enjoy being eaten by other creatures) as well as new ones (36 of the monsters were letters and numbers).
Bouldin was cool enough to let him decorate around his pieces directly on the walls. One of my companions bought the one with a guest monster appearance by Cherie Weaver. Fun! Through April 19th.
There's still another day of the East Austin Studio Tour to go so I thought I'd give a quick preliminary report.
The high point for me so far was Pandora Studios (68), Ryah Christensen and Sun McColgin's art house hidden in the maze of deepest East Austin. It's a privilege to meet the artists in their home, covered inside and out with Sun's sculpture and Ryah's fascinating pieces that combine painting and mosaics. Ask to see the bathroom and be sure to open the fridge.
Other noteworthy stops: Katy O'Connor's paintings and drawings that take chance photos and turn them into heightened reality (38); Bonnie Gammill's painted carscapes (74); and as always Michael Schliefke (44) and Chris Chappell (look for Chris's portrait of Michael). If you're interested in printmaking, Flatbed Press is a must but be prepared to spend a while as they explain the process in detail (72).
I was a bit disappointed by SODALITAS' showing this year (44) -- I'm a big fan but they didn't
have much work up that was really representative of what they do.
Maybe they're so successful now that their best stuff is all out in the galleries?
To get the real picture you've got to nose around in their workspace and get them to talk about their collaborative process.
The art event of the season opens November 5th: the all-unicorn show, Will there ever be a Rainbow?
The show is being organized by my main man Michael Schliefke and the gang at Bolm Studios. Michael started spreading the word this summer and soon had a few dozen artists eager to contribute their unicorny goodness. For example, here's Michael's own work in progress, "The Sacrifice of Isaac", inspired in equal portion by the Bible and Precious Moments.
I can't wait...
I was telling Michael once that although I'm a non-musician I know a bit about how it's done, which informs my enjoyment of it. But I know virtually nothing about painting. I had no idea that Michael's paintings emerge from squiggles and blobs like this. The effect was even more striking in a couple of other photo series he showed me once. In those cases, both the composition and the subject changed radically in the course of his work.
Maybe this is all entirely non-mysterious to anyone whose art education continued past the sixth grade.
I like seeing two of Austin's creative worlds collide in this way, although I'd be interested to know what the fans of each of the collaborators think of it. Are there other local music videos which incorporate an artist's existing work like this?
The video is by Jason Archer and Paul Beck, who have done videos for Molotov's Frijolero and David Byrne's The Great Intoxication among others.
They also have a gallery of their paintings and prints available for view.
Stencil Graffiti and Street Logos are two books by UK-based graphic artist and graffiti documenter Tristan Manco. Stencil graffiti is a familiar genre but "street logos" was a new term to me. Here's how Manco describes artists working in the latter:
Fluent in branding and graphic imagery, they have been replacing tags with more personal logos and shifting from typographic to iconographic forms of communication. Subverted signs, spontaneous drawings, powerful symbols and curious characters represent an unstoppable worldwide outdoor gallery of free art.
Yesterday in I stopped by the mysterious South Austin rock garden and saw these two messages in ephemeral stone.
I'm sure the neighbors know who this artist is but I don't. The rock garden is down the street from a sweet art park which he or she may also have a hand in.
I have a half-formed recollection of some painting on the theme of networks back during the quaint old cyberculture craze, but Google doesn't turn up much. Anybody?
The latest fun I'm having with Flickr is to save a bunch of favorites where my Mac uses them for its screensaver.
For these purposes the definition of "favorite" is what looks good in the Ken Burns-style panning of the Mac screensaver. At the moment I'm favoring a lot of street art, squared circle shots, and other images with striking colors or textures. Not many portraits or landscapes. And I'm leaning heavily on Heather Champ and Lunaryuna among others.
So far saving the images is a manual process. What I'd like to do next is automate the grabbing of images from selected groups and streams so the screensaver can surprise me. Supposedly it can be done through the Flickr API but I'm not there yet.
It's for photographers who "have found themselves online, sharing their work, and would like to see that work in print" and apparently gorgeous -- although priced high enough that I'll probably never see a copy (sigh).
In image-sharing news, I'm having a blast at Flickr and am hoping that I can find a way to include the grassroots tagging phenomenon in my studies so I can justify a bit of time spent in the Flickrverse.