# 49, July 22, 2005 Austin, TX
Hits the Mark with New Work: 05.2
II. They'll Give
You Fever at CRL
be good Celebrates
Contemporary Arts Month
at The Wiggle Room and The
IV. Camp Fig
10 of Mexic-Arte's Young Latino Artists
On view through September 11
Artist in Residence program at Artpace often feels like theater. The behind-the-scenes
work is a rehearsal no one but stagehands are allowed to see and the artist
dialogue and reception create an intimate opening night. The latest exhibitions
by Jorge Macchi, Anton Vidokle, and
Hills Snyder, strike bull’s-eyes as both critical
and popular successes. Appropriately, the house was packed July 7th for
a discussion moderated by Gabriel Pérez-Barreiro,
curator of Latin American Art at UT Austin’s Blanton Museum of Art.
Pérez-Barreiro, who chose the artists, distinguished his role as
selector more than curator and modestly called this residency the best
exhibition he never curated.
Jorge Macchi has seduced San Antonio with his cerebral,
yet beautiful, barely-there artworks that speak a musical and metaphysical
language. He had a busy summer residency, during which he also represented
Argentina at the Venice Biennale. For that project he collaborated with
musician Edgardo Rudnitzky on La Ascención.
A trampoline is placed beneath a church vault painting of the Ascension
of the Virgin so that, in effect, everyone can ascend. At Artpace the
stream of thought continues and Macchi imports his musical scorebook,
La Ascensión, which has empty bars. One by one the bars
float to the top of the page. The “score” crescendos into
a heavenly feeling without the need for actual music, or even notes. In
another flipbook, Ten Drops, punch holes appear one by one, like
rain on water. Once they come into view a circle radiates outward, wavelike.
In works such as these, simple moments become profound and are expressed
quite simply again. Both books rest on a table with television monitors
embedded in its surface. The screens continuously repeat the last moments
of various 1940s black and white films—no color appears in any of
the works. Macchi stitched together their epic soundtracks into something
that continually builds rather than fades—just like the rain and
the scoreless music.
Anton Vidokle’s Artpace project was attempted elsewhere
twice before, but the host organizations were put off by his need for
sixty-six television sets and accompanying gadgetry. The artist credits
Artpace with allowing him to complete the final work in a trilogy based
on a single building at the Salto del Agua metro station in Mexico City.
Significantly, this building was constructed in 1968, a year with an amazing
confluence of international political uprisings, as well as the Mexico
City Olympics. Vidokle has already painted the building red, a color that
ties it to Russian Constructivism (the artist is Russian by birth) and
reinforces the building’s utopian architectural style. This bold
color is also a sad reminder that the utopian dream was never realized.
For his latest project, Vidokle infiltrated the building for the first
time and filmed a single workday in each of the offices, pointing the
camera out the window. Typewriters click, cars zoom past, and colors have
an outdated patina. At Artpace, scaffolding frames the televisions into
the Salto del Agua's original wall of windows—six high and eleven
across. It is not just a simultaneous view; it is a valentine to the building
that has driven the artist for three years of successive projects.
Hills Snyder is an erudite artist, and his work refuses
to talk down to the viewer. If this were another age, he might, for example,
be a Rosicrucian, drink absinthe, and talk about music with Erik Satie.
But this is Texas, so he merges a priest-like symbolism with gritty reality.
Snyder’s installation Book of the Dead was a well-kept
secret and on opening night each visitor was allowed in at spaced intervals
in hopes of compartmentalized moments of deep impact. For Egyptians, the
Book of the Dead was a series of chapters that guided the deceased through
the Underworld, provided magical spells, and helped them to find their
way to a happy afterlife. Snyder’s gallery works in a similar way,
“killing” you, making you wander, and giving you something
else to live for. (We won’t give it away, but we wouldn’t
recommend going by yourself because you’ll want some good friends
in the afterlife.) On opening night, Snyder was there, playing a white
tuxedo-clad deity ready to welcome you home with a glowing shot of tequila.
Even without the artist, however, the finale is strangely divine. It shares
Macchi’s continual buildup and Vidokle’s nostalgic colors
of harvest gold and green. It is probably the most heavenly spot in San
Antonio right now, too.
North Main Avenue
San Antonio, TX 78205 1441
They'll Give You Fever at CRL
On view through July 30
sultry lyrics, “you give me fever” have been sung by many
an amorous soul. This summer, Alex Codlin, Laura
Lindenberger, Breanne Robertson, and Edwin
Stirman, warmed up their curatorial voices to this familiar tune
in collaboration with 13 University of Texas at Austin MFA students. The
result was their own “lovely way to burn,” which the curators
and artists share with us in Fever.
July 9, Fever offers some steamy pieces. Ali Fitzgerald’s
monumental canvas, Poker Alice and the Maverick Madonnas, (detail
shown above) is a first-rate painting. Spanning 18-feet across the far
wall of the CRL gallery, this painting sets a tone of story telling and
summer debauchery, Lone Star style. Closer to the gallery entrance, Eric
Benson exhibits a clever social commentary on the bottled water
craze by displaying anti-water postcards and a few dozen bottles of his
own beverage, “thirst.” The piece resounds with the over the
top sarcasm of an Adbusters spoof. Raising the gallery’s temperature
with bodily connotations of fever, Erin Cunningham’s
cast bronze removable love handles dangle tantalizingly from the ceiling,
inviting viewers to try them on …and then coyly take them off. And
Dave Woody’s 30 x 40 inch photograph of a car ablaze in
a Pflugerville parking lot practically warms its half of the gallery.
Other artists took the fever theme less literally, but most of the works
share a light-hearted spirit that makes them sufficiently “summery.”
Need we remind you, school’s out.
2005 marks the fourth consecutive year of collaborative summer exhibitions
within the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas
at Austin, and the tradition appears to be gaining steam. A case in point
is this year’s unprecedented participation rate. Of the 27 returning
studio and design graduate students eligible to participate in the exhibition,
25 chose to contribute. 13 artists show in Fever, and 12 artists,
whose work is a bit cooler and more ponderous than the title Fever
implies, will show one month from now in Shade. On the art history
side, the curatorial tetrarchy was joined by eight student writers who
composed catalog essays for each exhibiting artist. This impressive commitment
to department-sponsored exhibitions speaks to the high reputation and
professionalism of past CRL summer shows. However, the need to integrate
13 different artists’ work in the CRL brings that space to its saturation
point. If this trend continues, it seems likely that 2006 will have to
be the first summer of juried shows. Alternatively, a third exhibition
could help relieve the inevitable disjuncture that comes with showing
so many artists’ works. Which ever solution is chosen, publishing
a small catalog for each exhibition is a tradition that should continue.
Not only did the booklet help Fever’s theme coalesce, a
number of the essays offered fine insights on the work.
Though some readers may be leery of the quality of a student-curated and
student-created show, Fever won’t leave you cold. See Fever
now and save the date for Shade, which opens August 13 at
be good Celebrates CAM in San Antonio
Contemporary Arts Month (CAM) runs through
the month of July
The Wiggle Room
Review of the July 13th performance
In San Antonio, locals experience the close connection between art and
music. Seth Johnson’s recent show Dead Void
Heretic at Cactus Bra featured work that connected Tantric Buddhism
with Death Metal and punk music. The local band, Buttercup,
stages Happenings, such as lead singer Erik Sanden’s
Dial-A-Song/PET-ABLE where he played the same song on request over the
phone for 24 hours. And artists like Hills Snyder and
Cruz Ortiz weave encyclopedic knowledge
of music into their themes. This July, Contemporary Art Month gave us
a little wider exposure to art rock with a night of performances by Le
Flange du Mal, Ezee Tiger, and Bunnyphonic,
all formerly or currently San Francisco-based acts.
Bunnyphonic (a.k.a. Michelle Gonzales-Valdez) began the
evening, alone on stage with a huge pink bunny head and pink bunny feet,
a plaid housedress, and an accordion. Her props were a mixture of nostalgia—a
wooden electric keyboard on a 1940's bamboo end table, a suitcase strung
with Christmas ornaments and vintage bunny book designs, and the word
“Bunnyphonic” pinned to the curtain in birthday party banner
letters. But this rosy pinkness was La Vie en Rose with a dark
side. The Amelie-esque accordion music and lighting was melancholic
and the tone carried throughout the Wiggle Room where a large painting
of the late Ram Ayala, the Tacoland owner and San Antonio icon who was
recently killed while closing his bar, hangs in the center of the stage.
Above Ayala's head floated a plastic baby Jesus illuminated by string
lights. The mood on stage was of the lost art of cabaret, where sadness
takes on universality and begins to mock us. We admit to being swept away
by the voodoo of a performance that, in other hands, might have gone terribly
Ezee Tiger (a.k.a. Anthony Petrovic) followed with his
own one-man storm of sound that progressively increased the evening’s
decibel level. Anthony, who sipped fluorescent blue Mad Dog from the bottle
all evening, is like an urban Sasquatch. When we asked him how he does
his tricks with looped sounds, he simply answered, “I’m perfect.”
Point well taken. We admire his nihilist streak. Throughout the clash
of guitar, bass, drums, and vocals, there was still a melody that made
him easy on the ears.
Le Flange du Mal is a group of artists that express wild
discontent but are so talented, you can’t help feeling hopeful.
Jason Stamberger (electric keyboard), Liz Allbee
(electrified trumpet and vocals), Chris Rolls,
(vocals, keyboard) and Chris Cones (drums) performed
in front of the stage rather than on top of it. The music world has so
many new terms it can make a person feel perfectly Amish for not keeping
up, but it seems like the most comprehensible words for what Le Flange
du Mal does are “noise-jazz” and “dance-metal.”
The drums drove it all and Allbee’s trumpet varied from haunting
to ragged. She and Stamberger both wore orange plastic masks over their
heads with ghostly holes for seeing and breathing. It’s a look that
has gone from Halloween to Abu Graib. When everything supposedly clean
and good is revealed as a sham, it’s okay to scream about it.
¿Seis Who? at the Alameda Theater
On view through July 29
San Antonio’s beautiful Alameda Theater was built in 1947 as a venue
for Spanish language entertainment—vaudeville, dance, music, and
film. Known for its rare, fluorescent murals that come alive as the stage
lights go down, the Alameda is home to an Emerging Artists Series and
occasionally hosts solo and group shows in its hauntingly vacant spaces.
For CAM, artist Chuck Ramirez
was given the
run of the theater, where he
curated a group show with five
other (notably all male) artists of Latino descent.
Ramirez himself has two text installations in ¿Seis
, as well a silk-screened poster that he designed as
the show’s announcement. The first text is applied directly in vinyl
lettering to the storefront window of the Alameda’s corner gallery.
In this work Ramirez excerpted quotations from speeches by President Bush.
Ramirez “exposes” the already known fact that the President
has difficulties speaking grammatically. The text sounds religious, self-righteous
and politically misguided. Even though this is not new information, it’s
welcoming to see an artist take on political issues so directly. In Ramirez’s
Innovations for the Good Life
we find the same vinyl lettering
stuck to the surface of a mirror that reflects the viewer. The text includes
phrases like “expect more pay less,” “the right insurance,”
“designed with you in mind,” and “good taste is easy
to recognize.” Sound bites and company slogans that are meant to
give comfort to the consumer continue down the full length of the mirror.
The manner in which Ramirez constructed this text piece fits with the
concept: promises and comforting words are projected (and reflected) upon
you the consumer, but in the end only the myth remains.
In the Alameda's foyer viewers will find an installation by Beto
. Gonzalez stacked fourteen televisions of various brands
and eras into a tall circle. Nine of the screens contain images derived
from Atari classics like Space Invaders. Here, pixilated aliens merge
with design patterns reminiscent of the Aztec and Olmec cultures of Mexico.
Other screens show only static “snow” and one screen is tuned
to the station Aztec America, but with the volume muted. Surrounding the
television installation are large prints on wooden easels. Each print
relates to the video image by way of color or design. Titles such as Aztec
, No Breakout
, and Textile Command
the works both to video game imagery and to complicated cultural issues
such as border control, immigration, and labor. Socio-political readings
are tempting to extract, but the artist’s intentions remain unclear.
If political commentary is Gonzalez’s intention, it would be more
powerfully acheived with less ambiguous content.
In the central theater space surrounded by the Alameda’s famous
black light paintings, three works by Jesse Amado
on the floor where rows of theater seating once were. Composed largely
of found objects and titled, Make Love not Art
, they are refreshing
examples of an established artist willing to take risks. The third in
the series has two life-sized, stuffed toy dogs facing off on a wooden
platform. One of the two is covered in political buttons that read, "make
love not art" while the other has no such adornment. Both face each
other as if reflecting on this emphatic proposition that seems to call
into question art and art viewing. In Make love not art #1
dog balances a wooden cross on its back while the four ends have wooden
letters compressed face to face—signature Jesse Amado of the recent
past—that make up the words of the title. While the four poles feel
like points of a compass, there may be a Christian reference to the cross.
Overall, the work lacks the conceptual focus and aesthetic rigor we have
come to expect from Amado’s work. Yet, we remain hopeful that these
new and unexpected installations point to new materials and methods in
On another part of the theater’s floor, several pink balloons wobble
about. A white, cartoon bunny is printed on them with the word “Sueños”
(dreams). These images are smaller versions of Andy Benavides
huge, inflatable pink bunny that holds another large, helium-filled balloon
on a string. Despite the marked contrast of the ominous forty-foot inflatable
vinyl bunny and the cute accessibility of the drifting little balloons,
it is unclear what Benavides wanted to say to his audience. The work took
great spatial advantage of the large, high-ceilinged auditorium, but one
can only “dream” of a more interesting conceptual solution.
Aside from being somewhat visually interesting, it just seemed full of
On the second floor, John Mata
installed two videos and
a sculptural work. In Without Notice
, the viewer is bombarded
with an incessant video loop of cartoon explosions and accelerated entropy.
Text fades in and out every few seconds while a droning voice reiterates
the thoughts. In an Old English font the words “I believe...”
appear, followed by phrases like “in others,” “in illusion,”
“in a world of good,” “in plagues,” and “in
trade.” A bland, monotone voice juxtaposed with colored explosions
produces a heightened sense of anxiety. Together, the dark mood of the
audio track, explosions, and unsystematic text make a strange, internal
belief system public. Mata successfully makes viewers question their own
socially and culturally constructed values and beliefs.
Next door to Mata’s piece is a video by Juan Ramos
Unlike his previous video works, this one avoids his signature drawing
style. Ramos disrupts a filmed performance by the band Gut with a support
pillar from the now-closed Tacoland superimposed directly into the middle
of the video. Tacoland was, until recently, a Mecca of underground music
in San Antonio. Both these images—the band and the pillar—were
filmed at the music venue, but at different times. This sense of temporal
and spatial displacement, architecture as icon, and somber memorial all
came together in a mix of hard driving punk and sobering reflection. One
shortcoming of the piece may be that only a particular group of people
are going to understand Ramos' reference. Regardless, it kicked us in
2301 S. Presa, San Antonio
318 W Houston St, San Antonio
Camp Fig is BIGASSLIFE?
On view through August 6
night, at about 10 PM, Camp Fig’s opening for BIGASSLIFE was as
packed as any club in downtown Austin. This appeared to be a great sign
for an exhibition space that we are eager to embrace. It would be fantastic
to have a contemporary art space with a young and utterly un-academic,
“anti-gallery” feel on Fifth Street. And in some ways, Camp
Fig has already achieved aspects of this goal. Their current show, however,
is a real disappointment.
Camp Fig’s last exhibition, which ran through June 25th and featured
some interesting works on paper, was called “A Clever Name for a
Drawing Show.” This time, they had a name, but came up short on
the art. In place of clever works, Camp Fig exhibited a bizarre amalgam
of de-skilled sketchbook schlock and magic marker mark-making. Hung in
a haphazard bulletin-board style, the works appeared to strive for a shocking
effect, but merely sputtered bad taste. To give a rough idea of what viewers
will find, one corner of the small exhibition space included a pen and
ink contour drawing of a woman giving head. To its left a Polaroid photograph
presented a reclining nude male torso (presumably one of the artists)
with his genitals displayed prominently. Above them, a fuzzy stuffed animal
had been transformed from cartoon androgyny into a sexualized child’s
toy with the appendage of two makeshift testicles and a penis.
Give a quick three-sixty around the gallery and it’s clear that
these artists are waiting for someone to chastise, “This is inappropriate!”
We’ll save our breath. The exhibition says nothing that deserves
amplification. More precisely, BIGASSLIFE says that Austin is still a
long way from having an artistic underground.
Year 10 of Mexic-Arte's Young Latino Artists
in its tenth year, Mexic-Arte Museum’s Young Latino Artists exhibition
presents an annual opportunity to recognize recent work by Latino artists
under the age of 35. YLA 10, which opened last week and will run throughout
the summer, features a cross section of media and styles by artists hailing
from as far away as El Paso and Juarez, and as close to home as San Antonio
and San Marcos. Curated by Ben Fyffe, this year’s
exhibition gives viewers a well-rounded introduction to a few young artists’
work, while sidestepping the urge to provide a comprehensive view of Latino
art in Texas.
On view through September 4
the motif of trite southwestern sunset vistas and souvenir postcards,
Ricky Armendariz’s (San Antonio) landscape paintings
were among our favorite works in the exhibition. Armendariz’s paintings
are a pleasure to look at and his ability to blend regional kitsch with
a firm grasp of cultural heritage was particularly skillful. In terms
of scale, Armendariz’s work strikes a middle ground between Claudia
Rojas’ (Juarez) intimate etchings and Jason Villegas’
(Houston) monstrous, but playful, installation that engulfs three walls
and a few feet of floor space. While Armendariz, Rojas, Villegas, and
Brandon Gonzalez all employ either figural iconography
or text (and sometimes use both), Nick Muñoz stands
apart for his quiet geometric abstraction. Though he works with spray
paint and commercial roofing disks, Muñoz’s finished works
defy their blue collar media with delicate chromatic play.
After viewers have had their fill of the works in YLA 10 they should be
sure to take a look at Mexic-Arte’s Serie XII exhibition. Located
in the small gallery toward the museums’ east side, Serie XII shows
serigraphs (silkscreens) by both established and emerging artists. The
works on display take the popular political medium in some surprising
directions and will become part of the museum’s permanent collection
when the exhibition closes.
Gallery Talk with Glenn Fuhrman and Jim Torok. From 6 to 8 P.M.
Saturday, July 23, Lora Reynolds Gallery will hold a reception for their
summer exhibition Jim Torok: Artists are Great. Torok, an artist
who works out of Brooklyn, will be joined by the show's curator, Glenn
Fuhrman. Doors open at 6 with Furhman and Torok to start speaking at 6:30.
2. The Texas Monkey Project. Progress Coffee (500 San
Marcos St., Austin) will host a benefit art show for Primarily Primates,
a sanctuary that provides rehabilitation, retirement, and lifetime care
to over 600 primates that were once used in the entertainment industry,
in laboratory research, or were part of the exotic pet trade.The benefit
opens July 23 with a reception from 5 to 9 P.M. and will run through August
20. The project will feature work by Helen Altman, Sharon
Bright, D'Ette Cole, Steve Dubov,
Heyd Fontenot, Traci Goudie,
Melissa Grimes, Rachel Koper, Christia
Madacsi, Edmund Martinez, Michael
Sieben, Karen Sorensen, Andrew
Yates, and testsite 03.1 artist Faith Gay.
Courtesy of Ali Fitzgerald. Detail of Poker Alice and the Maverick
Madonnas, 2005. Acrylic and mixed media on canvas. 8 x 18
See this painting and others at Fever
through July 30.
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