# 62, January 27, 2006 Austin, TX
the Editor: Bylines in ...might be good
View in Austin: Francesca Gabbiani at Lora Reynolds
Gallery, The Gospel of Lead at Arthouse &
On Others at Iron Gate Studios
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
the Road: Jason
Singleton's Pass Out Dead in NYC &
Chris Sauter's Thoughts
on Coal in Some Changes at the CAM Houston
Announcements: Getting Personal?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
become a contributor to ...might be good e-mail a writing
sample and your CV to:
View in Austin: Francesca Gabbiani at Lora Reynolds Gallery, The Gospel
of Lead at Arthouse & On Others at Iron Gate Studios
Gabbiani's Wonderland at Lora Reynolds Gallery
On view through February 25, 2006
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
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
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
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.
Gospel of Lead at Arthouse
View Through March 12, 2006
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
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
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.
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
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.
With Love From San Antonio: Gradiant
at Radius Building & Nacho Volcano at UTSA's Satellite Space
at Radius Building
On view through March
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
…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
…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
…might be good: Ebony, for readers who
might not know your work yet, what would be the best way for us to introduce
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!
On the Road: Jason
Singleton's Pass Out Dead in NYC & Chris
Sauter's Thoughts on Coal in Some
Changes at the CAM Houston
Singleton's Pass Out Dead
A two-week installation at Happy Ending
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
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
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 mediamatters.org
is a writer living in Brooklyn.
Chris Sauter's Thoughts on Coal in Some Changes
remains on view at the CAM Houston through April
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
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…”
Baldwin, "Stranger in the Village”
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.
302 Broome Street
New York, New York
Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston
5216 Montrose Blvd
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 www.mcnayart.org
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
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
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
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
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
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 www.aurorapictureshow.org
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 www.austinfilm.org
has listings and times for other cinema series screenings, including AFS's
new weekly program at the Dobie Cinema.
Image courtesy of Lora Reynolds Gallery.
Gabbiani, Wonderland, 2005.
78 x 104 inches. Colored paper, gouache on paper
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.
be good is a bi-weekly e-magazine that covers contemporary
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.
Look for us online and in your e-mail inbox every other Friday.
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