issue # 62, January 27, 2006 Austin, TX

I. From the Editor: Bylines in ...might be good
On View in Austin: Francesca Gabbiani at Lora     Reynolds Gallery, The Gospel of Lead at Arthouse &
    On Others
at Iron Gate Studios

III. With Love From San Antonio: Gradiant at Radius      Building & Nacho Volcano at UTSA's Satellite Space
Two Interviews: Co-Directors Kimberly Aubuchon and       John Mata Talk About Their New Gallery Unit B &
      Ebony Porter Speaks on The Greatest Secrets

V. On the Road: Jason Singleton's Pass Out Dead in NYC      & Chris Sauter's Thoughts on Coal in Some Changes at      the CAM Houston      
VI. Announcements: Getting Personal?

I. From the Editor: Bylines in ...might be good

With the inclusion of bylines in this issue of …might be good it feels like some masks are coming off. In my opinion (and in Catherine’s and Risa’s), this is all the justification we need to know that the time has come to start associating our authors’ names with their writing. Anonymity was never …might be good’s goal; it was just the by-product of developing from a list of happenings into a more full-bodied arts review. It would have seemed out of place to assign authorship to our earliest events announcements, and it seems out of place today not to assign authorship to the thoughtful and candid articles we hope will continue to be the signature of …might be good.

Bylines are not the only new development at …might be good. Beginning in February (or in March if things don’t move as quickly as we’d like), …might be good will begin compensating writers for their articles. Anyone interested in becoming a contributor should send a writing sample and a CV to There are a few more additions we have in the works: more interviews with artists and curators, more images to accompany our reviews and regular dispatches from New York, Japan and Europe by writers with ties to Central Texas. We also hope to increase the dialogue between …might be good and its readers, so send us an email and let us know what you think might be good and what might be better.

~ Caitlin Haskell

To become a contributor to ...might be good e-mail a writing sample and your CV to:

II. On View in Austin: Francesca Gabbiani at Lora Reynolds Gallery, The Gospel of Lead at Arthouse & On Others at Iron Gate Studios

Francesca Gabbiani's Wonderland at Lora Reynolds Gallery
On view through February 25, 2006

Risa Puleo

A cinematic déjà vu permeates Lora Reynolds Gallery’s showing of Los Angeles-based artist Francesca Gabbiani’s cut-paper and gouache collages. In her monumental, uninhabited interior settings, Gabbiani uses cinematic devices to manipulate her viewer with the psychological effects of architecture. Frame by frame, Gabbiani scrolls through horror films to find reoccurring architectural features that recall familiar scenes but cannot be attributed to a single source. She then begins cutting massive strips of colored construction paper to translate these film environments into flat images that can measure more than 6.5 x 8.5 feet but have the reduced geometry and stable palette of a woodblock print.

With a palatial grandeur both in scale and décor, the spaces Gabbiani renders are filled with classical horror film tropes that make even the largest actor appear small and threatened. Liminal spaces like doorways, foyers and staircases—structures that keep viewers at a psychological and physical threshold—are constructed with meticulous attention to detail. The sconces that flank both sides of the central doorway in Preamble (2005) give off a faint glow, while the transparent curtains that adorn the windows are lined with undulating shadows formed by blue and grey hand-torn paper. The works’ titles emphasize the function of each space as a place of transition and the images build suspense through atmospheric tension. For instance, Gabbiani uses cinematic perspectives (again, mostly from horror movies) like doorways approached from an angle—shots that frame another doorway, but may hide lurking figures. The image seems to pose the open-ended question that is the work’s title, On Your Way to Where (2005).

Gabbiani’s fiery landscapes contrast with her cool, detached interior spaces. The sunset scorches the sky a rich, airbrushed orange, and silhouetted trees appear to burn in the foreground. The landscapes’ apocalyptic titles, The Aftermath and The Fall, seem to return to pre-Romantic views of nature when forests were ferocious. These are the landscapes of lost innocence.

The most interesting work in the exhibition, White Book (2005), which rests in a vitrine on a shelf and looks nothing like its colorful counterparts in Wonderland, reinterprets the fairytale in a nineteenth-century industrial setting. The small accordion pop-up book exploits both the childlike enthusiasm and unsavory elements of the carnival with its cut-out Ferris Wheels and sing-songy verse about the serial killer who stalked the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. Like all fairy tales and nursery rhymes, Gabianni’s focus is on the moment when playtime turns to nightmare, wonder turns to fear and vulnerability increases as darkness falls.

As always, Lora Reynolds Gallery makes clever use of its awkwardly shaped space. The show’s titular piece Wonderland (2005), shown above, is hung at the rear of the gallery where its deep perspective in the staircase lures viewers' eyes from the moment they enter. Overactive imaginations can easily concoct scenarios for what may lie behind the gallery’s wall.

Writer and curator Risa Puleo relocated to Austin after pursuing a master’s degree in curatorial studies at Bard College. She writes for ArtLies, is Contributing Editor of …might be good and coordinates testsite, …mbg’s sister project.

The Gospel of Lead at Arthouse
On View Through March 12, 2006

Caitlin Haskell

Dario Robleto’s decision to team with Jeremy Blake in his collaborative exhibition at Arthouse, The Gospel of Lead, has presented Austin with an unlikely pairing of sculpture and video. Given the disparity of their media and styles, it’s hard to imagine the curator who would have paired Robleto and Blake in a two-person show. Robleto, it seems, was interested in exhibiting with Blake because the two had both recently completed extended projects relating to American history. This artistic odd couple is but the first peculiarity for viewers to consider as they enter an exhibition space modeled after one of America’s most mysterious haunted homes.

Continuing the themes of Blake’s Winchester Trilogy, The Gospel of Lead transforms the Jones Center into three rooms and one hallway of Sarah Winchester’s Victorian home in San Jose, California. The exhibition improves exponentially as you understand the gesture of placing art in the Winchester Mystery House. Quite helpfully, both Regine Basha’s and Michael Duncan’s essays in the exhibition catalog address its symbolism. Arthouse’s website also lists 16 links that explore leitmotifs in The Gospel of Lead and spending a few minutes surfing them will help de-fog some of the exhibition’s ambiguity.

In each room, one of Blake’s “durational color field paintings" (18, 21 and 12 minute continuous video loops) shifts across its wall-sized screen with a gradual motion that seems to visualize the effect of an unconscious state coalescing. Within the rooms, Robleto’s sculptures (I’m using this term to describe both his two and three-dimensional works) sit and hang like objects you might find in an antique shop. Though your eyes won’t be able to detect it, Robleto has imbued his sculptures with the essences of aura-filled and evocative contents. The materials list for A Soul Waits for a Body That Never Arrives (2004-05), which appears to be a small wooden rocking chair on a circular rug with a sewing basket and a partially-completed embroidery sampler, includes: cast and carved bone dust from every bone in the body, thread fragments of American soldiers’ uniforms from various wars, wool from combat casualty blankets, melted bullet lead and shrapnel from various wars, and homemade balm from mystical botanicals like resurrection plant, immortal root and eternal flower.

There is an obvious dichotomy in The Gospel of Lead between images that exude and objects that embalm. Based on the artists’ comments from their January 22 public talk, this divide might be bridged by considering both artists’ work as responses to trauma – engagement with the symptoms of violence and war, offerings for the healing. Despite the non-perceptual foundation of Robleto’s pieces, one senses his thoughtfulness and it reads as a salve for collective pain. Though Blake was eager to discuss his work in terms of national tragedies (the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) his animations lack the heft to support such themes. His pixels are displaced and replenished with some aesthetic, but little emotive, return. Their thinness makes Robleto's work seem all the more rich; but I do not suggest this as a motive for the collaboration.

A couple of questions arose at the artists’ talk that deserve to be pressed further. First, when asked about the role of nostalgia in his work, Robleto differentiated between two variations of nostalgia: a commercial view of nostalgia that the artist shunned for its mass-produced and hollow sentimentality and an enduring legacy of objects and ideas that he hoped his work would be associated with. Surely there are more than two types of nostalgia, but working within these terms it seems that Blake would fall on the opposite side of the nostalgia divide, making him an odd partner in this sort of collaboration. The second question (more of a running topic of conversation throughout the hour-long talk) addressed “sampling” or “quoting” another artist’s work, a practice both artists employ. Repeatedly, a DJ mixing music was used as the analogous practice. Though both artists seem drawn to music, the transformation that takes place in Robleto’s work is material. Bearing in mind all the ghosts and spirits that inhabit the Winchester House, substance liberated from form seems important to emphasize in an exhibition titled The Gospel of Lead.

May the next collaboration at Arthouse be just as daring.

Caitlin Haskell studies art history at The University of Texas and is Editor of …might be good.

On Others at Iron Gate Studios
On view through January 28, 2006

Kathryn Hixson

On Others: New Work by Greg Pond, Jack Dingo Ryan, Patrick DeGuira, Melody Owen and Steven Thompson comes to Austin on the third leg of its circuit from Tennessee to Texas. Collecting the works of five artists from five different states, On Others is one of those group shows that attempts to gather a number of disparate works and artists around a vague curatorial premise, gingerly corralling this theme into a unified space. No great assertions are made—it’s not radical to claim that art making is informed by place—and the works either resonate with the viewer as a group, or don’t. Greg Pond curated the show and also included his work in it. Luckily, there is no grandstanding by Pond. Rather, in a short essay, he simply states that he sees some affinities between the works chosen and that there may be some commonalities. Those are never spelled out.

The title, On Others, led me to believe that Pond is ruminating on how the separation of self from others is played out in contemporary representation. One of his works, Objects Possessing An Historical Past That Is Renewed By the Present And Persists Without End, is a pleasing pair of wide-load trailer houses made of wood, metal and acrylic house paint. The all-white models hang vertically on the wall. They face off as mirror images of each other, so that the notion of the domestic self becomes doubled and reflected in the blank mundanity of modern contingency. A more direct exploration of self and other is Melody Owen’s collection of doubled images. She interlaces found postcards from disparate lands so that their combination de-familiarizes both locations, while highlighting their constructed nature. Her tried-and-true collage method is stretched a bit by her goofy cartoon-shaped cuts.

Patrick DeGuira’s relief is blunt in its representation of relationships. Its raised letters spell out: “Please come in I want to hurt you!” Its bland surface wasn’t nearly as threatening. I consider this a metaphor for the aesthetic experience of today. Similarly, Jack Dingo Ryan’s work was difficult to situate. His Symbolist-ish drawings and realistic plastic human skull placed on a shelf high on a wall, looking inward (the rear of its head facing the gallery), seemed to prefer to ignore the “others.”

The most dramatic works in the show were two bizarre costumes by Steven Thompson displayed as if they were in a natural history museum: the folkloric garb of “others.” One is a hunting jacket, matching pants and a hilariously overstated hat with super-warm earflaps. It is decorated with functional buttons and talismanic doo-dads that are purported to be made of mammoth tusk. Thompson seems to be channeling the likes of Big Foot. The second is more Merlin the Magician from the Middle Ages: a large off-white hood sets on top of an imposing robe with arms stretched out. Ribbons of felt drape around the suit and a sort of armor plate marks the chest. This mystical figure is perhaps the Other of the next world or a visitor from another time-space continuum.

On Others never coalesces into a graspable idea, but points around its perimeter allow the viewer as Other to join in the conversation.

Kathryn Hixson is an art critic pursuing a PhD in Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. She is an Associate Adjunct Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is former editor of New Art Examiner.

Lora Reynolds Gallery
300 West Ave. #1318
Austin, Texas

tel. 512.215.4965

700 Congress Ave.
Austin, Texas

tel. 512. 453.5312

Iron Gate Studios
2205 East 5th Street
Austin, Texas

tel. 512.495.9994

III. With Love From San Antonio: Gradiant at Radius Building & Nacho Volcano at UTSA's Satellite Space

Gradiant at Radius Building
On view through March 5

Catherine Walworth

In the last twenty years, the Blue Star Arts Complex has gone from empty warehouses to an art scene megaplex with its own trolley stop. Now its supremacy is being challenged by a new building project with heady ideals. Paul Carter and Randolph Wilhelm have formed the Radius Foundation in support of local creative groups and non-profits. They want to turn their newly refurbished Radius Building (106 Auditorium Circle) into a downtown art center with events at least four nights a week. Folks are buzzing about the former Studebaker dealership that is luring in creative non-profits with free rent. A minor fee (paid by giving free public performances, for example) gets you office space and conjoined presentation areas. With music, dance, a café and plans for a cinema—all it needed was some art on the walls.

Gradiant, the exhibition currently on view at Radius, is a show culled from UTSA graduate student’s studios. Work by Stacy Berlfein, Roberta Buckles, Derrick Durham, Melody Fernandez, Brian Jobe, Mimi Kato, Adrien Ryder, Julie Shipp and Russell Stephenson cover the sprawling walls of Radius’s first floor. UTSA President Ricardo Romo asked gallerist Joan Grona to curate the show. With her shingle hung out a stone’s throw from the UTSA Satellite Space, Grona follows the student’s work and has been quick to recognize and market emerging talent. This exhibition landed Mimi Kato an upcoming solo show at Grona’s gallery in the Blue Star Complex.

Grona chose works with a range of materials with clean, formal variances. The work is attractive—nothing overly challenging or conceptual if you already appreciate abstraction. The in-your-face comic book fantasy, folk art and eroticism of the Nacho Cheese threesome at Satellite Space (see review of Nacho Cheese below) was noticeably absent.

Familiar works still look good, like Julie Shipp’s painted nebulas and Kato’s photographs. Brian Jobe’s Star Floss installation of yellow dragonfly-shaped plastic fasteners is a new take on an old favorite. The piece is hung from filament in a heart-wave pattern made specifically for Radius’ curved wall. There were some new artists that I’ll be watching out for. Russell Stephenson is smearing paint á la Gerhard Richter, but I predict he may use that paint for something really new and yummy soon. Represented by just one painting, Melody Fernandez’ trendy colors—shades reminiscent of candy—and abstract composition suggest that, with more investigation, she’ll be a contender on the contemporary painting scene.

Catherine Walworth, an artist and art historian living in San Antonio, is Contributing Editor of ...might be good and Glasstire, and a freelance writer for the San Antonio Current and ArtLies.

Nacho Volcano
at UTSA's Satellite Space
Closed January 26, 2006

Mario Perez

Nacho Volcano
at the UTSA Satellite Space features the work of Jimmy Kuehnle, JAR Schepers and George Zupp, three M.F.A. students who egg on each others’ antagonistic humor and oversized scale.

George Zupp (a.k.a. Chicken George) works in a folk art vein, which makes things interesting on the contemporary art scene. For Nacho Volcano, Zupp experiments with making architectural shanties out of mousetraps and, oddly enough, he just might be onto something with this penny-ante material. Zupp’s numerous collages are made from cardboard, newspaper, magazines, toothpicks, plastic animals and other scraps and include little studies for his two large sculptures. Text-bubbles cut from newspapers lead us through his collage’s layers, inviting us at times to read his process like a storyboard. Two larger paintings are reminiscent of Texan David Bates’ painterly style with their large, almost cartoon-like, images. In Coming Around the Mountain (2005), animal characters hide in trashcans as a large creature carrying an alligator comes over the hill. These works, not badly painted, are average to look at compared to Zupp’s more compelling mousetrap sculptures.

JAR Schepers uses a more traditional set of materials, clay, wood and paint, and his works show sophisticated craftsmanship. His subject matter, on the other hand, is as bizarre as Zupp’s. In When Will We Cease to be Human? (2005), Schepers' sculpted human heads complete with maggot bodies and arachnid legs are off-putting, but still fascinating. One creature flails on it back like a crab. Each figure is large enough to snatch a viewer up and crush him in its hand-carved jointed legs. Nearby, It Was Never Meant To Be Like This (2005) is a life-sized sculpture of a man who stands on a pedestal, unshaven and wearing the artist’s own ragged clothes. The figure leans back ready to howl. A glimpse of exposed leg through torn pants reveals the same jointed wooden limbs as the arachnids. Strewn throughout the gallery, ceramic heads with bloody eyes that resemble Halloween masks, sit atop pedestals and detract from Schepers’ more developed works.

Two video pieces by Jimmy Kuehnle suffered technical difficulties. His first work, a monitor set high off the floor on 7-foot steel stilts and positioned towards the ground, was supposed to show the sky above the gallery. Instead, it was turned off on opening night. Kuehnle’s second work is a video “seat” formed by two monitors placed perpendiculally. On each monitor a video shows a man, hairy and naked from the neck down. Technical difficulties have hamstrung this piece as well. Regardless, it was interesting as a chair, and left one curiously wanting more.

With the exception of Kuehnle’s sky video, these works are purposefully raw and unsightly. The group’s effort confirm an aggressive male streak—the same one that makes boys read comics, throw fists and blow stuff up. As proof positive, the exhibition's closing party yesterday featured a 48 x 44 x 48 inch volcano that erupted sky-high with three gallons of nacho cheese. The volcano’s exterior was covered with beens, sourcream and other nacho fixings. Just like their work, what should have us all running away was strangely attractive.

Mario Perez is an artist living in San Antonio. His studio was featured in the Automatic Downtown Studio Tour 2005.

Radius Building
106 Auditorium Circle
San Antonio, Texas

tel. 210.227.8111

UTSA Satellite Space
115 Blue Star Arts Complex
San Antonio, Texas

tel. 210.458.4389

IV. Two Interviews: Co-Directors Kimberly Aubuchon and John Mata Talk About Their New Gallery Unit B & Ebony Porter on The Greatest Secrets

An Interview with Kimberly Aubuchon and John Mata, Co-directors of Unit B

San Antonio’s newest independent art space, Unit B, has a fresh coat of paint, rows of newly-planted flowers and a hit show on its hands. Notes to Self, featuring work by Richie Budd and Zach Dunlap, Chris Uphues, and Erick Wenzel, inaugurated the new space, which is located in an empty apartment attached to artist Mark Hogensen’s Southtown home. …might be good caught up with co-directors Kimberly Aubuchon and John Mata both before and during the opening. Notes to Self will remain on view through March 3, 2006.

…mbg: You moved to Chicago to go to the Art Institute and started Unit B there. Where did the name come from? Was it in your apartment?

Kimberly Aubuchon: Yeah, it was always kind of a little dream in the back of my head to have a gallery somewhere, but I never wanted it to be a commercial thing. I always wanted it to be about the art and less about selling it, per se. And there was a particular area in Chicago—Pilson neighborhood—which I found really attractive. There weren’t a lot of galleries at the time. And, you know, there were just some good vibes there because it was an artist community. Every October they would have a big open house and everybody would clean up their spaces, and there were like fifty or sixty places that were owned by the same landlord who at the time was very liberal with his spaces.

…mbg: So was Unit B in an apartment or a house like it is now?

KA: It was in a three-flat house and I lived on the bottom floor. And I moved there specifically because—at the time I wasn’t thinking that I wanted to open a gallery—I just wanted to be close to all that—the sense of community. As soon as I graduated and got a job at the Museum of Contemporary Art, I was like, “I’m movin’ on up to the East Side!”—literally. And I moved into this apartment and the layout of it was just so—a lot of bang for my buck, basically. I had been living in a little tiny place, so I didn’t have any furniture. When I moved in there, I thought, “Hmmm, my room is huge. What am I going to do with it?” And my friend Van Harrison, who now has a place in New York—Van Harrison Gallery—had a little space called Apartment 1R Gallery, literally across the street from me. And there were a couple of other little galleries like Dogmatic nearby and I decided that, you know, I want to play this game, too. So it just seemed like it would be a good fit. I kind of brought everybody together at this big barbecue and said, “Hey, why don’t we open on the same nights?”

…mbg: I’m really interested in your curatorial philosophy because some people do not like theme shows.

KA: I like theme shows. When I first started the gallery, you know I was taking proposals and had a couple of solo shows. And you know, while they’re great—because the space wasn’t that big, and it’s nice to see a body of work by one artist—but most of the time I like pulling shows together. Sometimes I would pull the artists together just by a particular color that they used, and then later drew on the fishing wire that ran them all together, and then formed a show out of it after the fact. And at the time, I was booking my shows a year, year and a half in advance, so I had plenty of time to think about what the show was going to be about. I still like doing that, and so does John. We just want to keep that philosophy going of group shows because more artists are able to get their work out there, more people come to the show, and there’s that sense of community coming together again. And it’s fun pulling it all together—that’s what’s in it for me. I’m an artist myself and I like showing these people’s work.

…mbg: So you met John [Mata] when?

KA: When I lived here the first time and I was going to SAC [San Antonio College], I met John in an art history class. I couldn’t stand him. He was always that guy in class that would be, like (raising hand) “Oh, oh, wait!” and would say something real smart ass. And then we became really, really dear friends. We were in the Art Guild together at SAC and I lived three blocks from there. Every Friday after school, a group of us—like five to ten people—would have what we called the After School Special, and we would all go over to my house and just sit around and read art books and just talk about art and drink beer. And that was where it all started.

…mbg: So why did you leave Chicago?

KA: I quit my job, saved a little money. I just knew that I was finished in Chicago—not in a negative way, but just…I was making a lot of money, but also having to spend a lot of money. And I curated a show at the Wiggle Room for Contemporary Art Month in July of ‘04 and that was the first time I had come back to San Antonio since I left five years earlier, and just kind of fell in love with it all over again. The first time I was here I was getting ready to go to the Art Institute, so I couldn’t wait to leave. I was like, “Eat my dust, San Antonio!” and never really thought about it again. And, you know, it was very depressing because out of all those galleries [in Chicago] that had started with four or five and grown to eight or nine, slowly they just kept dropping off the map. And it went more commercial. I could have stayed much longer, but I didn’t want the gallery to go out like that; to have to close for some stupid reason because the landlord was a jerk. So when I came down to curate the show and was flying back on the plane, I said, “I’m moving back to San Antonio.”

At the opening the next night, …mbg cornered a very happy John Mata outside Unit B.

…mbg: Okay, we’re at the opening, you’ve sold almost all the work, how do you feel?

JM: It’s a little overwhelming for San Antonio. I thought maybe a little more modest, having to deal with the whole issue of commodity and commercialism in the contemporary art world—it’s a little surprising. I have to say I’m dumbfounded as far as San Antonio goes. But at the same time, I’m really excited to know that there are people who are willing to come out to an artist-run art gallery and actually take the work for…not only take it seriously, but take it for what it is. The work that we presented tonight is highly involved with humor and associations that are involved with making relationships between, not only color and image, but between material and image.

Ebony Porter on The Greatest Secrets

On view through January 28, 2006

Ebony Porter’s solo exhibition
The Greatest Secrets opened at Art Palace on January 14. …might be good spoke with Ebony at her opening and invited her to discuss her work in greater detail.

…might be good: Ebony, for readers who might not know your work yet, what would be the best way for us to introduce you?

Ebony Porter: I carry a film or video camera with me as much as I can and I want to film everything. Sometimes I make short visual poems from my archive and other times I build an environment around one or more particular works of cinema. The motion picture is like my tubes of paint. I’ve gone from thinking of myself as a filmmaker to now thinking of myself as a multi-media artist.

…mbg: You work in film, video and installation. You write poetry. As your career progresses do you think you’ll continue working in all of these veins?

EP: I’ve always found myself drawn to artists who were capable of successfully crossing between literature, performance, visual arts and music. Joseph Beuys comes to mind. Stan Brakhage is also a good example. Most people think of him as an experimental filmmaker, but he was first and foremost a painter and also happened to be a great writer. My poetry becomes my films and my films become my poetry. Each informs the other. I think there is a tremendous amount of possibility when we can make unexpected combinations collide gracefully. I’ll definitely continue combining all of the things I’m interested in. I play music too, which has already entered my film and video work. I’d like to extend that even further and develop a way of performing inside my films, inside my installations.

…mbg: How do you see the two portions of your exhibition at Art Palace working together?

EP: Both sections of the gallery show how I photograph people and their landscapes, the forms I enjoy capturing and the colors and perspectives I am drawn to. The installation gives the viewer an opportunity to experience my images in motion and how I choose to present the motion picture when given a space to enter and transform. The opportunity to show film and video stills was exciting because of their original source. Both the video in the installation and the stills were filmed with the same spirit; something wonderful was unfolding in front of me. But, it just so happened that the kids swimming off the coast of Mexico wound up as the centerpiece for the installation.

…mbg: At your opening you had some pretty interesting things to say about how science—or more precisely, our culture’s faith in science—informs your work. Could you talk about that a little more?

EP: I had to wrap my brain around a few simple laws of physics to understand how the projected light was to respond to a reflective surface, in this case the water and mirrors. But while there is a calculated understanding of how certain materials operate, we can’t assume we know everything that’s going on everywhere. That’s where the title of the show [The Greatest Secrets] comes from. We are guided by what science tells us—and one of the exciting things about the installation at Art Palace was getting to throw my own interpretation of the night sky onto the gallery ceiling—but I don’t think there will ever be a final frontier of knowledge.

…mbg: Finally, you mentioned that you were taking off to Australia. What are your plans for that trip?

EP: I’m treating it as a self-made residency. I recently wrote my mother a letter and asked if I could come and stay with her for six months on the peninsula she lives on, to focus on art, writing and music. I’m looking forward to seeing parts of my country I’ve never explored, Tasmania being one of them. I’ve never shot film or video in Australia either, and my dear co-workers recently bought me an antique 16mm film camera and a few rolls to go with it. I’m also looking forward to finding out what’s happening in the Australian art scene, mostly in Adelaide and Melbourne. I think it’s going to be transformative, don’t be surprised if I return with an accent and a fist full of Vegemite!

Unit B
500 Stieren St.
San Antonio, Texas

tel. 312.375.1871

Art Palace
2109 Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, Texas

tel. 512.496.0687

V.  On the Road: Jason Singleton's Pass Out Dead in NYC  & Chris Sauter's Thoughts on Coal in Some Changes at the CAM Houston   

Jason Singleton's Pass Out Dead

A two-week installation at Happy Ending

Lamar Clarkson

Jason Singleton’s Pass Out Dead, on view last week at New York’s Happy Ending (the seedy massage parlor turned swishy Chinatown lounge) couldn’t be farther from the petit mort on the former proprietors’ menu. The subject of this installation of drugstore photos and snack-aisle sculpture is, rather, death on a much grander scale. In glossy color snapshots, Singleton has fused images of pranks played on passed-out drinkers with found photos of Iraqi civilian casualties. The drunks and the dead rest in near-identical poses, so that the shaving cream and beer coasters adorning one figure meld with the blood oozing from another.

The floor below the photos is littered with weapons from the pranksters’ CVS-supplied arsenal: Cheetos, shaving cream, Q-tips, playing cards, cigarettes and a glue gun. Q-tips impale Cheetos in delicate trains, and a cord of toothpaste stretches from the back wall to the tube on the floor. Corn chips are everywhere. The work is encased in a glass-walled room, and the effect is of looking into an observation tank at a mess that no one has bothered to clean up. Next to the photos, Singleton’s prank-inspired sculpture seems like an underwhelming add-on.

Pass Out Dead’s use of drugstore supplies is playful, but its message —beginning with the wordplay in the title—is dead serious. After the Abu Ghraib prison abuses went public, Rush Limbaugh downplayed them on his radio show as “sort of like hazing, a fraternity prank.” Singleton has literalized this comparison and extrapolated it to the U.S. military’s violence against Iraqi civilians. The result: his shaving-cream-embellished photos maximize, not minimize (as Limbaugh intended), the original violence.

Though clever in concept, the photos suffer from the optical cloudiness and incoherence that often take over when two images are blended. Looking at many of them is labor-intensive, and it's easy to get lost in jumbles of limbs. Viewers are left to disentangle Singleton’s images and determine which parts belong with which parent photograph. In one exception, a close-up of a snaggle-toothed Iraqi is overlaid with a drinker’s nostrils and mouth, creating the effect of a face with two mouths. The top mouth is the Iraqi’s, open and revealing a row of exceptionally long, white teeth. The bottom mouth and nostrils, hovering over the Iraqi’s chin, belong to the drinker and are stuffed with cigarette butts. The white tips of the butts jutting out of the drinker’s face eerily repeat the shapes of the crooked teeth in the Iraqi’s open mouth.

Drugstore photos fit with Singleton’s motif, but placed on the back wall of a closed-off room in a dark bar, they are too small and too jumbled-looking to register as anything more than violent close-ups. As is often the fate of art in a bar, Pass Out Dead lacks the signage and supporting materials that would have given Happy Ending’s patrons an adequate context to view the works. Even for those of us who saw Pass Out Dead in person, Singleton’s website is still the best place to view his photographs.

N.B. To hear the audio clip of Rush Limbaugh describing military prison abuses as "sort of like hazing, a fraternity prank. Sort of like that kind of fun." follow this link to

Lamar Clarkson is a writer living in Brooklyn.

Chris Sauter's Thoughts on Coal in Some Changes

Some Changes remains on view at the CAM Houston through April 9, 2006

Chris Sauter
is a San Antonio artist whose work often deals with geological formations. His art has explored various sources of power, including natural and manmade wonders like the Hoover Dam, radio towers and volcanoes. After viewing Glenn Ligon’s retrospective Some Changes at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Sauter was intrigued by Ligon’s use of coal as medium. …might be good invited him to put his thoughts into words.

Coal is Power

Coal is a major source of energy powering factories and plants across the planet. Although it is associated with industry, coal is actually a concentrated form of nature—layer upon layer of sediment, deposits of ancient life compressed for millions of years, coal is a genealogy. This history of pressure transforms life into the rich energy source that has fueled human development for the past two hundred or so years. As such, coal is a potent metaphor for history’s accumulation.

Coal is a recurring medium in Glenn Ligon’s work. In Some Changes, his retrospective at Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum, the medium stands out among his wide range of materials as particularly rich, both formally and conceptually. In Untitled (2002), text taken from James Baldwin’s “Stranger in the Village” (1953), an essay which chronicles an African-American man’s experience living in a Swiss village, is stenciled in black across a large black field. Coal dust is distributed across the surface of the work, thickly deposited in some areas, while other parts are virtually untouched. It not only gives a sparkling, gravel-like texture to the canvas, but partially obscures the text. Words are so thick with the substance that their specific identities are buried. Text that speaks about the weight of Western history on Black experience is now literally encrusted with history in the coal’s facture.

Untitled (Contact) (2002) is a fingerprint of the work described above, a grave rubbing in reverse. The artist placed a white canvas of equal size directly on top of the black Untitled (2002). The two were then compressed, forcing the latter’s contents to transfer to the other, creating a mirror image of the original and a record of contact. The black residue of layered paint and coal stain the surface of the previously pristine, white surface, alluding to the ever-present residue of history on our daily lives. The backward message left by the contact reflects the displacement often felt when one’s own history is overlaid with another.

“For this village, even were it incomparably more remote and incredibly more primitive, is the West, the West onto which I have been so strangely grafted. These people cannot be, from the point of view of power, strangers anywhere in the world; they have made the modern world, in effect, even if they do not know it…” - James Baldwin, "Stranger in the Village”

Chris Sauter is an artist living in San Antonio. Chris' most recent exhibitions include Museum at DiverseWorks, Houston and Big Bang at Galerie Valerie Cueto, Paris.

Happy Ending
302 Broome Street
New York, New York

tel. 212.334.9676

Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston
5216 Montrose Blvd
Houston, Texas

tel. 713.284.8250

VI. Announcements: Getting Personal?

1. SWF seeks short-term affair with pro-woman institution for generous internships, stimulating conversations and impressive exhibitions. Please be easy on the eyes.
(Translation: There is a lot happening at The McNay.)

Paths to the Press: Printmaking and American Women Artists, an exhibition of woman-made prints from 1910-1960 opens at the McNay Museum on Thursday, February 2. This revisionist exhibition places work by local printmakers like Blanche McVeigh and Mary Bonner in conversation with Mary Cassatt and Louise Nevelson as it maps an overlooked history in early 20th century printmaking. Get to the opening by 7:30 to catch Elizabeth Seaton present Crossing Paths: American Women Printmakers, a gallery talk that is sure to illuminate the exhibition.

The McNay is also currently accepting applications for two curatorial internships. The Tobin Internship is geared towards those interested in developing curatorial programs around theatre arts, while The Semmes Internship is more generally focused on curatorial practice. Whatever your interests may be, The McNay has substantial holdings of painting and sculpture, costumes and scenes from the nineteenth century through the present that will serve as invaluable research tools. Plus, they’ll pay you…$20,000 for a 10-month internship. Guidelines can be found at

Lastly, on Thursday, February 9, two people will speak on two completely unrelated topics. At 6:30, Leigh Anne Lester is the next Artist Looking at Art at The McNay. Lester’s own work was recently featured in Women and Their Work’s A Stitch in Time (see ...mbg issue #59) and the artist currently has a show at Sala Diaz. Stick around because at 7:30, Michael Yeargan, from Yale’s School of Drama and winner of numerous awards for his theatre scene designs on Broadway (the one in Manhattan, not San Antonio), will discuss the changes in material and process in his talk "Scene Design 2005: Computer vs. Pencil and Paintbrush."

2. Talk, Talk, Talk: Great gabber seeks same for meaningful discussions on art, philosophy and life. (Translation: There are some great lectures coming up.)

Is a sunset inherently beautiful, or have we as a species assigned beauty to nature as a way of thinking about and understanding the world around us? Can we think about nature in the same terms that we think about art? Dr. Allen Carlson will address some fundamental questions about art, like what is it? and what makes something beautiful? in his lecture: “Art, Institutional Theory and the Aesthetic Appreciation of Nature” at 7 pm on February 8th at Trinity University’s Chapman Auditorium.

Lowery Stokes Sims and Ralph Rugoff are this semester’s speakers for The University of Texas at Austin's Viewpoints series. Once a month, for the next three months, both Sims and Rugoff will present a public lecture about anything they what to talk about in the field of contemporary art. What! Who gets this kind of carte blanche control over the podium? Apparently Sims and Rugoff, who are both sure to present stimulating lectures because both have done some pretty fascinating things. For instance, Sims is the Executive Director of the Studio Museum of Harlem and formerly the Curator of Modern Art at the Met. Rugoff is a curator, critic who writes for Artform and a whole slew of other art magazines and the Director of the California College of Arts. With credentials like those you can talk about what ever you want.

3. Couple seeks new object. Experience the wrapture of being tied up. (Translation: Christo and Jeanne Claude: The Würth Museum Collection opens at Austin Museum of Art.)

At tonight’s opening of Christo and Jeanne Claude: The Würth Museum Collection a few secrets behind this artist duo’s environmental installations may be unwrapped. (Insert laugh track here.) Check out the artists’ early wrapped objects, drawings, collages, photographs and models of their monumental projects at AMoA through April 30th. There are a lot of public events associated with this program and …mbg will keep you informed as they come along.

4. Run away with me ... to Arlington, Cambridge, wherever our hearts may take us. (Translation: Austin artists exhibiting elsewhere.)

If you can’t get to MIT List Visual Art Center between February 9th and April 9th to see Austin local Mel Ziegler and Kate Erickson’s retrospective America Starts Here, don’t worry. The exhibition of this pair’s conceptual, public and site specific projects will be traveling to Austin early next year.

Beloved Austin artist Beverly Penn has a show opening tonight at The Gallery at The University of Texas at Arlington. Bronze-cast plant matter is juxtaposed with architectural elements and tools of scientific probing in Penn’s environmentally-sensitive work. Also, opening tonight at The Gallery at UTA is an exhibition of work by Michael Salter.

5. Starving artist seeks sugar mama to buy me art supplies/food and pay my rent. Will fetch coffee, mow lawn and do other odd jobs. (Translation: Great funding opportunity.)

United States Artists is a new funding initiative based out of Los Angeles that has plans to give $50K to 50 artists working in all mediums and disciplines this year! This uber-foundation has been given seed money by the Ford, Rockefeller, Prudential, and Rasmuson Foundations and aims at remedying the lack of funding for individual artists by the NEA and NEH. …mbg will keep you posted about deadlines as they approach.

6. Young at Heart: Silver-haired cinema-buff seeks younger partner for friendship, movie going and just hanging around the house. (Translation: Film screening announcements.)

Adolescent Boys and Living Rooms, a selection of video and audio works by Harrell Fletcher, Miranda July and others looks at the lonely and nihilistic subcultures of teenage boys. The Aurora Picture Show’s last showing of this program will be held at 8:30 pm on January 30th at Clark’s (314 Main Street) in Houston. Every Monday in February, Aurora has a bit of tongue-in-check fun with our neighbors to the North in their program How to be A Canadian. The laughter begins at 8:30 pm at Clark’s with curated screenings of popular Canadian television shows. Checkout for more info on these and other programs.

In celebration of their 20th year, Austin Film Society has quite a line up going. Forget about the box office hits and check out the mini-retrospective of Werner Herzog’s films, multicultural dramas, local indie, techno-docs, and the Jewish Film Festival instead. Our pick is Official Evil: Political Thrillers and the Cinema, a program of films that will be screened at various Alamo Draft Houses across the city. Austin Film Society’s website has listings and times for other cinema series screenings, including AFS's new weekly program at the Dobie Cinema.

The Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum

Trinity University

The University of Texas at Austin ViewPoint Lecture Series

Austin Museum of Art

MIT List Visual Art Center

The Gallery @ UTA

Aurora Picture Show

Austin Film Society

Image courtesy of Lora Reynolds Gallery.
Francesca Gabbiani, Wonderland, 2005.
78 x 104 inches. Colored paper, gouache on paper

Fluent~Collaborative is a speculative non-profit initiative established to increase awareness of new developments in the contemporary visual arts and the ideas and issues that inform contemporary culture. We are a place where a critical and creative mix of visual, media and performance artists join authors, filmmakers, musicians, architects, poets and other diverse communities outside of the arts to enable a new awareness and sophisticated discernment of changing thought and culture around the world.

…might be good is a bi-weekly e-magazine that covers contemporary art
in Austin, San Antonio and beyond. Written with a critical eye and an
art-lover’s admiration, …might be good is an independent voice that
provides readers an avenue to engage with serious art in central Texas.
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