81 , January 12, 2007
2007 and The Pursuit of Happyness
Launching a column about moving images by talking about one of the least provocative films of 2006 already seems like a bad idea. But it’s a way for me to share some thoughts about how to watch movies and even why watching movies is still a very relevant form of cultural engagement.
Released on December 15, 2006, just in time for Christmas and family audiences in need of inspirational fare, The Pursuit of Happyness, directed by Gabriele Muccione was way low on my list of must-sees. But the sad truth of the matter is that the films on my must-see list are not playing in my town. So with nothing to do on a Tuesday afternoon, I ventured to the Highland Mall with a pal to watch Will Smith do his best. And his best he did indeed do. I’ve never seen a Will Smith movie (aside from Six Degrees of Separation) that didn’t bore my pants off. But this film validated the experiences of America’s poorest without vilifying America’s wealthiest. Will Smith was nuanced and mature. San Francisco was gorgeous. What more could one ask for?
But the joy quotient only lasted for about fifteen minutes. After that I became acutely aware of the fact that the visual lexicon of the film was no more sophisticated than a mid-eighties movie-of-the-week. And it didn’t really perform at the box office. I wonder if it failed to make crazy number one money because it failed as a cinematic experience. And herein lay my complaints about contemporary movies as well as my hopes for 2007.
All too often a film fails to be a film.
In Hollywood today, the screenplay holds an ever more important role in the development process. Middle-managers cling to the script coverage because it’s all they have; the only proof that their judgment is sound. A talented director? Well talent’s in the eye of the beholder, and everybody knows deep-down that talent and success don’t always correlate. But a script—If the script is good, the movie will be good. Right? Well, not if you shoot everything like a soap opera; favoring close-ups of the star over vistas of human possibility. In Muccione’s movie, that’s exactly what happens. Audiences are left feeling good about Will Smith, but rather bored with the movie itself. I speak of this movie, not because there were great expectations for it beyond Christmas box-office returns, but because it is an all too common experience when one lays down that eightfiddy that the images are smaller than the story.
This year, I’ll be sending ...might be good my two cents on moving images in the theater, in the gallery, in the streets, on your cell phones. So that we can have something more like a conversation. I’m offering you my criteria for things that are great versus things that are a suffocating weight upon the beloved medium of film and video. It is my hope, that in 2007, I won’t be complaining about stumbling into pedestrian films, but exalting in moments of sheer surprise and delight (like Mann’s Miami Vice of last summer).
Rule #1: A movie is a thing to BEHOLD
If I can watch a film with my eyes closed and effortlessly follow the plot, know characters and even anticipate action, then it is not a movie. It is television. In television, even great television, the camera stays close and clever dialogue reveals everything we need to know about the world we are in. This is because that little box can’t really support a panorama shot or a complex montage. When we watch TV we are not waiting to be dazzled with cinematic alchemy. We just want to be TOLD a good story, and told we are. But a film is a thing SEE.
A movie can tell you more with one five second shot than five minutes of cogent dialogue could ever accomplish. You can learn that your heroine’s favorite color is purple, she shops at thrift stores, she smokes too much and is not the greatest housekeeper while watching her walk across the room to answer the phone. This transmission of meta-data happens in the movies, not on your plasma screen. A lot of people miss it, because they are so fixated on their favorite star that they don’t notice that she stumbled over a pair of jeans to get to the phone and they don’t register that she nearly toppled an overflowing ashtray. Well that’s their problem. They should check out books-on-tape.
Let us look at the frame and everything in it. If there is something unsettling happening—like Collin Farrel and Jamie Fox babbling incoherently into cell phones before a scarlet pixel-writhing Miami nightsky—reckon with that. Behold an action movie where action is an after thought and emotional intimacy is central. Radical, man, radical. Put it on your Netflix and behold, yo.
Rule #2: Characters must have more than something to do [plot], they must do it within a system that the filmmaker aims to tackle.
Whether that system is poverty as is the case with Pursuit of Happyness, or the vulnerability of trust as is the case in Miami Vice, a heroine isn’t a heroine unless she picks herself up and engages with the world around her, pushes her own frailties up against it and gets up when it pushes back.
Rule #3: Make me wonder.
When Stan Douglas makes two projector loops intercut, overlap and weave around his own footage and images from Memories of Underdevelopment (1968), directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, I get the sense that my own world is destabilized, and movies are sacred indeed. Where does Douglas begin and Alea end? And what’s that giddy feeling in my belly when their images overlap for a few brief minutes before returning to their separate loops to hold down the screen alone? How is it possible that communist Cuban architecture juxtaposed against decaying colonial romance can tell me so much about a man’s life? Isn’t it amazing the way that black-and-white film alters one’s sense of time, place, pace and space?
I wonder enough to spend three hours at the Studio Museum of Harlem lying on the floor watching Inconsolable Memories. And I’m still thinking about it a month later.
Rule #4: Eavesdropping is a better barometer than David Denby, Manola Dargis, and Elvis Mitchelle combined.
Being a film professor, I have the privilege of hearing about a lot of movies from my students. But rarely do I hear my students passionately discussing a film. Usually, they simply dissect it, taking with them the bits that are useful and forgetting completely the stuff that ain’t. Whenever I do hear them arguing about a movie, even if it’s Talladega Nights, well, especially if it’s Talladega Nights, I go see it. Same thing when I’m in the cheese section at Central Market. If people are talking about a movie instead of cheese, I make it my business to see that badboy. Why? Because it is in fact much more likely that I will hear someone discussing their love of HBO’s “The Wire” (a brilliant show), or getting excited about downloading ABC’s “Lost” onto their iPod. That’s all good, but I am old enough to remember the days when films were important to people. More important than being tethered to the TiVo, fussing over the Netflix queue or making space on the iPod. And I believe, having revisited the movies that made American talk about cinema, that we were a more engaged nation then. Our engagement with the world made us capable of engaging challenging cinema. And so it goes, I listen for those who revel in the challenge of a great film, so that I too can engage movies and, in some small way, the world around me.
Rule #5: Favor the makers who love their materials enough to understand them, or at least make the process of dealing with materials a part of the form and content.
David Lynch did not disappoint with Inland Empire. [You can catch it in Austin, Texas at the Paramount Theatre on January 24. Mr. Lynch will be here in person.] Shaky blown-out digital video teaching and showing, showing and telling. Oh yeah and there’s Michael Mann again, making HD do things its creators never knew it could do. And I have to give it up to Rodriguez for Sin City. Rodriguez executed beautifully crafted imagery for some unbelievably juvenile shite. Dang! He made me embarrassed to have the entire Sin City series on my bookshelf. But thankfully, they let you drink Maker’s Mark at the Paramount, so I was able to float through the tragic storytelling and soak in the rich images along with my booze.
Rule #5 will be re-visited frequently. So I’ll leave off here.
Wishing you life, liberty and happiness in 2007, I’ll talk to you again soon.
The Trenton Doyle Handbook: You'll never look at tofu the same way again
Commingling twin interests in fine art and comic book culture, Trenton Doyle Hancock brings us The Trenton Doyle Handbook, an aptly titled manual for understanding his ever-evolving parallel universe of Mounds and Vegans. Appropriating the layout and style of the classic 1980s era Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe (Marvel Comics, 1982), Hancock’s catalogue is a gut-busting, knee-slapping compendium of the characters and events that make up the richly-detailed mythic landscape he draws from for his work. The 21-page comic book provokes both laughter and empathy, whether you are familiar with previous incarnations of these characters or not. In fact, Hancock’s recently-published hardcover art book Me A Mound (Picturebox, Inc. and James Cohan Gallery, 2006) is enriched and illuminated by the Handbook, which acts both as an elaborate inside-joke for comic-book geeks and a functional work of art for the cover price of a mere six dollars. (Available at www.pictureboxinc.com)
Over the course of describing the fifteen characters contained in the Handbook, Hancock reveals himself to be an adroit storyteller and writer. He brings a touching humanity to characters like the Vegans Baby Curt and Shy Jerry: “Shy Jerry always appeared blissful, but Baby Curt could often be seen scowling. It’s not that he was angry, but he was just smart enough to know that he was stupid.” Both of these characters, incidentally, had been of feeble strength their entire lives, but this changed dramatically when they joined Sesom’s Cult of Color. Sesom, the first Vegan to be visited by Painter and given the holy vision to lead followers in resistance of Loid’s Mound-hating, attempted to restore a bit of humanity to both Vegans and Mounds, which had been lost in generations of inbreeding. Sesom and his followers humanely milked Mounds for their Moundmeat, a precious substance that fuels their color experiments, aimed at freeing the tofu-dependent Vegans from the strictures of Loid’s oppressive rule.
Confused? And I haven’t even mentioned the BeBeaver. Yecch.
The brilliant thing about the Handbook is that by the time you are finished digesting it, the mythology has won you over and carried you along. You will root for downtrodden characters like Bow-Headed Lou, taunted by his youthful peers because of his giant donut-shaped head until it is discovered that the space between his eyes opens a vortex into which anything thrown disappears forever. Unfortunately for Lou, upon joining Loid’s illustrious priesthood, he realizes “...that the only reason he was allowed into the priesthood was to be used as a cosmic garbage can.” Hancock himself appears in this Vonnegutesque multiverse as Torpedoboy. This superhero, based on the artist’s childhood alter-ego, has the power of releasing feces with the combustibility of nitroglycerin. However, Hancock writes that he thankfully refrains from hurling these “Dirty Bombs,” which he deems “too gross.”
By fleshing out characters like the tragicomic Bow-Headed Lou, Hancock’s epic narrative takes on a vivid new sense of urgency. Opposing forces of good—represented by Hancock’s simple, happy Mound characters—and evil—manifested in the reductive and scheming Vegans—battle against the backdrop of a mythic holy war. The Cult of Color is the hero of Hancock’s Handbook. Led by St. Sesom, the cult exposes Vegans to dramatic blasts of pure color in the hopes they will see past the barriers that divide them from their genetic brothers, the Mounds. Considering this story, it’s not surprising that real world parallels crop up: the divisions between (and within) major religions, the differences between races, the split between political ideologies. One begins to wish for a St. Sesom and his Cult of Color to emerge in the Middle East, say, or perhaps in the United States Congress.
Hancock’s narrative is about the basic human desire to heal the deep, inner split that inexplicably dominates so much of our species’ history. He taps into veins of archetypal emotions in his story-crafting and peppers it throughout with humor and elements of drama comparable to the great Greek tragedies, Shakespeare and The OC. So whether you are a comic book nerd who never goes near art galleries, or an art fair-hopping sophisticate (or perhaps like most of us, a little of both), you NEED to pick up this comic book. This is contemporary art that operates on your brain and gets you pondering, as a laugh track rattles along in the background. Cook up some tofu, masturbate into a field of flowers and please read The Trenton Doyle Handbook cover-to-cover.
Radical NY! at AMOA
On view through January 28
Radical NY!, the latest offering from the folks at Austin Museum of Art (AMoA), consists of two separate but related exhibitions: Abstract Expressionism: 1940s-1960s and The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974-1984. The Downtown Show debuted last year at New York University’s Grey Art Gallery under the curatorial direction of Carlo McCormick, Senior Editor of Paper magazine. The exhibition of Abstract Expressionist work from the Grey’s collections, curated by AMOA curator James Housefield, is an Austin-only affair. This piece of Radical NY! strikes me as a mistake. The exhibition of Abstract Expressionist work is neither groundbreaking in its presentation nor particularly relevant to the rest of Radical NY!
Filling two small galleries, Abstract Expressionism is a small selection of seventeen works by artists you would expect to see: Adolph Gottlieb, Phillip Guston and both de Koonings (Elaine and her husband Willem). Jackson Pollock is present as well in a suit of posthumously printed engravings. The curatorial “point” here seems to be that New York City was the locus of not one, but two successive great artistic movements. This fact is confirmed in the introductory panel to Radical NY!, “[Abstract Expressionists and the Downtown artists] made New York the center of an increasingly global art market and the home base in which their lives and art intertwined.” In what way does this framing of two immensely different movements challenge the viewer to think critically? Answer: It doesn’t.
For all its idiosyncrasies, or perhaps because of them, The Downtown Show is an intricate, playful and challenging exhibition. The Abstract Expressionists look pale, as in stone cold dead, in comparison. This wouldn’t be so bad, except the works that Housefield has culled, though smaller in comparison to more grandiose Abstract Expressionist works, are fine examples of the movement. This is really a curatorial problem: how to make the Abstract Expressionists distinct from the Downtown artists and radical-seeming to the viewer? I say radical-seeming because within our contemporary context the Abstract Expressionist movement, like so many other movements in Western art history, has been subsumed into popular culture (Mona Lisa Smile, anyone?). The display of these works at AMoA is like any other museum that displays Abstract Expressionist paintings; the paintings are neatly lined up and hung at a common median line. As the curator Housefield explains in his podcast on the Radical NY! website, the Abstract Expressionists were partially responding to the all-over, (seemingly) arhythmic sounds of jazz. So why hang Abstract Expressionist works in such a careful, and dare I say, “square” way? To Housefield’s credit there is small group of poem/paintings by Norman Bluhm and Frank O’Hara that hang staggered—but why not treat the holy grails of Abstract Expressionism (de Kooning, Guston, Pollock) in the same manner. This freewheeling quality is really what could visually link the two movements, not the simple fact that both movements happened in the same place.
The Downtown Show, is, above all, a portrait of interconnected communities, and it is these communities, not the individual artists and artworks, that take precedence in this exhibition. This is a conceptually challenging framework for a museum exhibition. As such, The Downtown Show is broken up into eight smaller curatorial curios: Portrait Gallery, Broken Stories, Body Politics, Interventions, Salon de Refuse (a pun off of the 1863 Paris exhibition of nascent Impressionist artists, Salon des Refusés), Sublime Time, the Mock Shop and De-Signs. Each mini-exhibition inhabits a gallery and contains roughly twenty to thirty items, sometimes more. Do the math and you’ll discover that there are literally hundreds of items on display.
The works are hung salon-style in giant clusters, but objects and ephemera are also housed in freestanding glass cases, which lends the air of an ethnographic museum. This configuration puts the items on display into direct conversation with one another, a fact which is not lost on curator McCormick who seems to have a puckish wit. Artists who were lovers hang across the room from one another, a series of John Ahearn sculptures appear both on the wall at AMoA and in the background of a Nan Goldin photograph also in the exhibition, a Chuck Close portrait of Philip Glass hangs within earshot of a video artwork which uses Glass’ Einstein on the Beach as its soundtrack. This kind of punning is clever, clever, clever but never distracting. In fact, this may be why the exhibition feels like a fanzine, a letter dedicated to McCormick’s favorite artists and friends. Such an analogy makes sense when we consider that during this moment zines (Xeroxed cut-and-paste magazines) entered America’s cultural vocabulary. This was the “Blank Generation” and the walls are filled with the best of them: Tseng Kwong Chi (visitor, indeed), Martin Wong, Annie Sprinkle (porn star or feminist? Both!), Carolee Schneemann (um... the Interior Scroll), Ida Applebroog, Ana Mendieta (a fiery Silhueta video), Christian Marclay (frighteningly funny), Jimmy DeSana (frighteningly erotic), Hannah Wilke (tiny kneaded vaginas on the march), Colette, Keith Haring, Jack Smith (a recipe for insanity), Adam Purple (urban gardener), David Wojnarowicz (Rimbaud mask and all), Maripol (Madonna jewelry), Nan Goldin, Barbara Kruger, Mike Smith, The Wooster Group and Robert Mapplethorpe.
So what happened in 1984 to end New York’s Downtown movement? The exhibition makes the case that the movement was dying, both metaphorically and literally, almost as soon as it began...AIDS hit and artists began to die, warehouse lofts were no longer cheap and New York continued the process of gentrification. Was New York the better for it? McCormick seems to think not and it would be tough to disagree. The Downtown Show in its most sober moments feels like a sweeping and articulate eulogy for times gone by.
So why Austin? Why is Austin the right venue for The Downtown Show? The obvious answer would be that Austin audiences are “hip” enough to “get it.” We’ve got a lot of New York transplants and plenty of doe-eyed college kids waiting to make their mark in the Big Apple. But there’s another reason, another thread, one that may be more resonant for those of us who have called Austin home for decades. This would be the continual gentrification of Austin—you know those new condos on E. 11th? And the Wal-Mart that plans to move into the long depressed Northcross Mall? What happens when your property taxes are suddenly more than a new car? These things may not signal the end of the world, or even the end of our little world, but they certainly indicate that times are changing and we are not making space at the table for some the very people who made Austin such a desirable place to live in the first place. This alone should be reason for every woman, man and child to get on that bike, bus, moped and yes, even car (hybrid to be sure) and make it down to the Austin Museum of Art to see through the scrim of New York 1974-1984 towards what may, in fact, be a visage not unlike our own, staring us down...hard.
Karen Breneman: Certain Creatures at Lora Reynolds Gallery
On view through January 27
Certain Creatures, on view at Lora Reynolds Gallery through January 27th and curated by visionary gallery owner and collector Anthony d’Offay, is Karen Breneman's first solo exhibition stateside. The native Floridian, who now calls Edinburgh home, has created a group of paintings on wood panel that explore the imagery of dinosaurs, bees, human babies and other "certain creatures." The paintings possess markedly overworked surfaces that exude the frenetic scrawl of a hand almost out of control. If these are certain creatures, then there is also a certain frenzy at work as well; wild, yet always inside a perimeter of self-consciousness.
Although not predictable, marks are also not made with complete abandon. Each painting is a balance of diminutive illustration, exhaustive brushstrokes and deep physical scratchings that recede from the painting’s surface like low relief sculpture. Dull grays and greens mingled with ghostly whites and dirty pinks create a tension between the work’s flat, unmoving palette and the physicality of the scratched-out sections of paint.
The imagery is so personal that it tends to exclude the viewer from coexistence. For example, in Junction, Breneman incorporates the logo of the yoga studio where she teaches as a springboard for geometric and subtle color transitions. Loose beaded forms emerge in several pieces, with little explanation as to their reference, leaving us to associate freely, projecting our own images and narration onto the mixture of spontaneous and highly constructed forms. Not unlike molding passing clouds into recognizable shapes, the viewer’s eyes wander over the textures giving collective identities to individual abstractions. Titles like Bee, Creature and Three Babies give one a certain amount to work with, but ultimately we are left with a large amount of room to dream in.
Breneman's concern with the balancing act of the corporeal and the mental is expressed through the surface of her paintings. The large, domineering stroke is restrained by small constructed forms and ultimately point to a type of sublime exertion, where the mind and body achieve equal force.
Klee and America at The Menil
On view through January 28, 2007
With two weeks remaining before the close of Klee and America, readers who have not seen this extensive exhibition of Paul Klee’s paintings at The Menil Collection should consider doing so. The eighty-odd works in Klee and America, which span most of the Swiss-born artist’s career, reveal his broad interests in medium and diverse approaches to two-dimensional representation. The strength of the work more than compensates for the lame (as in limping) attempt to connect this artist to America through the efforts of his collectors and gallerists.
To begin with a triviality, the title of this exhibition is slightly deceptive. Klee and America does not present a consideration of work that Klee made in America (he never came here), nor does it consider paintings by American artists working in a Klee-like mode. The tenuous American connection comes in the form of banks of black and white photographs of early- and mid-century Klee supporters that divide the exhibition halls. Here viewers encounter figures like Galka Scheyer, a German expatriate who advanced Klee’s cause in California, and east coast collectors like Katherine Dreier, founder of the Société Anonyme, and J. B. Neumann, who introduced Alfred H. Barr Jr. to Klee’s work prior to Barr’s appointment as director of MoMA. I do not discount the importance of these figures. Indeed, their support of Klee during the bleak years when the fascist German government removed the artist’s work from state collections and displaced him as a teacher at the State Academy of Art in Düsseldorf could not have been more important for our current appreciation of his work. My objection is that the significant roles these figures played is poorly integrated with the history of the paintings in the exhibition and as such does not achieve the thorough exploration of “the American exhibition, reception and pedagogy of Klee,” sought by the curators.
None of this matters terribly, however. The experience in the galleries is all Klee and that’s just fine, as the works’ innovative representational strategies have lost little of their original freshness. Among the most surprising aspects of this body of work is the eclectic assortment of supports Klee used. Working on surfaces as delicate as gauze and as coarse as jute, Klee seems to have selected supports that would interject an element of material disruption to his otherwise direct experimentation with color, line and form. A small charcoal drawing from the Guggenheim collection, Viaducts Break Ranks (1937), which consists of a thick, black, linear rendering on a white cloth bearing red, eight-pointed stars (the cloth looks to have been a piece of upholstery), struck me as a particularly impressive composition. Its balance of vertical and horizontal lines and arching and angular forms coexist in tension with the cloth that holds them and the work calls into question the role of pattern as a strictly ornamental element. Pieces like Viaducts, as well as Klee’s Harbor for Sailing Ships (1925), document the artist’s wholesale reconsideration of the relationship between figure and ground, while paintings like his Two Heads (1932) demonstrate the artist’s related interest in representational simultaneity. In Two Heads, in particular, Klee manages to use the vocabulary of Cubism (he paints with a reduced palate and constructs volume through intersecting planes) to create a work that replaces geometric analysis with geometric playfulness. This is one of the most angular works one might ever want to describe as “lyrical.”
Given the surplus of creativity in the paintings collected in Klee and America, it seems odd that the curators would look outside the works to show the magnitude of their effect on American art. One leaves this exhibition fully convinced that Klee’s oeuvre provided a rich store of ideas for American artists, but one wonders why the figures who endorsed Klee should be the nominal subject of an exhibition instead of the work that drew these collectors to the artist in the first place.
LESBIANS TO THE RESCUE!
Already bored with the melodramatic shenanigans seen in the debut episode of this season’s L Word? Luckily, the lesbian artist/activist collective LTTR has just launched an online version of their journal also titled LTTR which provides a dose of lesbian culture that does not include the ever-angsty Jennifer Beals. Previously only available in hard at art bookstores like New York’s Printed Matter, the online version of LTTR features irreverent, edgy and heady essays and artwork by members of the collective and serves as a reminder that sometimes the low budget punk rock alternative is more interesting than the glossy pop culture production.
In the spirit of LTTR, …might be good has a few suggestions for how to infuse the Texas art world—which is crammed with events this month—with a dose of that low budget punk rock.
Do-It-Yourself, or if that doesn't work, get a grant.
Regine Basha and Christopher Ho launch Grackle
Regine Basha, the consulting curator at Arthouse and one of …mbg’s founders, in collaboration with Christopher Ho, a New York based artist, has launched Grackle, an online at-a-glance database of modern and contemporary art exhibitions available for tour.
The Art Matters Foundation Reinstitutes Individual Artists Grants
The Art Matters Foundation has reinstituted its granting program to assist artists in the creation of socially and aesthetically groundbreaking work in visual arts, media and performance. The first grants will be awarded in 2007.
Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai
J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
On view through March 4, 2007
Contemporary this exhibition is not. In fact, Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai contains some of the oldest surviving Byzantine icons. However, this important exhibition deserves mention in …might be good for its multiple connections to Austin. Co-curated by a doctoral candidate at The University of Texas at Austin, Kristen M. Collins (with Yale University’s Robert S. Nelson), and containing catalogue entries authored by UT professor of art history Glenn Peers, Holy Image, Hallowed Ground: Icons from Sinai offers a rare display of works from the remote monastery of Saint Catherine in Egypt, the world's oldest continuously operating Christian monastery. Texas has a particularly distinguished connection to this monastery, which stands on the ground where Moses is believed to have received the Ten Commandments, as Father Justin Sinaites, a librarian at Saint Catherine’s and the only American ever to have been invited to live at the monastery, grew up in El Paso and attended his first Orthodox service in Austin while a student at UT.
Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
On view through April 1, 2007
On view through April 1, 2007 at the Caroline Wiess Law Building at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color, presents a vibrant, color-saturated retrospective of this noted Brazilian artist’s career. Beginning with Oiticica’s Metaesquema series, geometric works in gouache on paper from the late-1950s, and continuing through his years at the Mangueira Samba School in Rio where the artist devised his parangolés, wearable (animate-able might be a better term) works made of cloth, Hélio Oiticica: The Body of Color presents various stages in the artist’s prolonged grappling with the problem of releasing color from its dependence on form. The artist’s experimentations with color begin as a rather clinical effort to free color and transforms into a more emotive multimedia struggle with the same problem. It is a shame that the catalogue for this exhibition, which will contain essays by Mari Carmen Ramírez and Wynne H. Phelan of the MFAH and Luciano Figueiredo of the Centro Hélio Oiticica in Rio de Janeiro, had not yet been published by the time of our visit. We look forward to that publication’s arrival.
1. Bring back riot grrls! Form your own band, craft some catchy songs about gender warfare and give impromptu performances at the following openings…
No American Talent I: Benito Laren
Opening Reception: Friday, January 12, 7-10:00 PM
The first show in a three part series featuring international artists, No America Talent I presents the work of Argentinean artist Benito Laren. One of the key figures of the 1990s “Art Light” movement in Argentina and part of the legendary Centro Cultural Rojas in Buenos Aires, Laren is a key figure on the Argentinean art circuit. Utilizing an array of materials and media to create colorful works Laren’s work combines humor, invention and eccentricity, all framed by an irreverent tone towards the figure of the artist and of art itself.
Workspace: Matthew Day Jackson
The Blanton Museum of Art
January 12-March 25, 2007
Raised on the West Coast and currently living and working in Brooklyn, Matthew Day Jackson makes highly idiosyncratic objects and installations that combine natural, hand-crafted and recycled materials with imagery and allusions that inspire wonder and surprise. For the Blanton, he will create an installation featuring a suite of large and medium-scaled sculptures and photo-based works created in 2006 and 2007. Jackson has received critical acclaim for his works in the influential group exhibitions, Greater New York, 2005, PS1 Contemporary Art Center and the 2006 Whitney Biennial, Day for Night.
Los Cuatro Vientos
Julia C. Butridge Gallery in the Dougherty Arts Center
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 18 from 6:00 - 8:00 pm
La Peña, a nonprofit institution dedicated to offering Austin residents the full spectrum of traditional and contemporary Latino art, presents this group exhibition which is inspired by symbolic, natural and spiritual connotations of Los Cuatro Vientos, the Four Directions. It includes work a number of artists including the internationally acclaimed Cesar Martinez.
The Sirens' Song
Opening Reception: Friday, January 19, 8-10 pm
Talking Art w/ Kelly Baum: Saturday, January 20, 3pm
Curated by Kelly Baum, the Assistant Curator of American and Contemporary Art at the Blanton Museum of Art, this group exhibition combines artists from Texas—including Austin-based artist Ali Fitzgerald and Houston’s Seth Alverson (see below)—New York and LA. This exhibition seeks to understand how artists, in particular painters, employ storytelling as one of their primary expressive devices, not as an end in itself, but rather to meditate on personal memories and collective experiences or to weigh in on history and current events.
Seth Alverson: Ghost Survivor of the Final Plague
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 20, 8-10 PM.
This ominously titled exhibition contains new drawings and paintings by Houston based artist Seth Alverson. Alverson, whose work is also included in the sirens' song at Arthouse, creates narrative paintings that are both intensely creepy and intensely engaging. For some diverting pre-exhibition reading, check out the press release for Ghost Survivor of the Final Plague on Art Palace’s website—it may win the award for most irreverent, yet oddly appropriate, press release.
Rising Stars 3
Opening Reception: Sunday, January 21, 3:00-7:00 PM
Rising Stars Vol. 3 is presented by Studio 107 and the curator Till Richter. Richter's concept for the Rising Star series of exhibitions is to place a bet—as it were—on the art historic and market success of emerging artists. The printmaker Adreon Henry, photographer Fernando Lafuente and painter Alonso Rey could not be stylistically more different. What ties them together is the formal and conceptual quality of their work and their willingness to succeed—sort of like an episode of Survivor.
Telephone: A Collaborative Exhibition by undergraduate students in studio art at UT Austin
Gallery 3 at the Co-op
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 25, 5 - 7 p.m.; Gallery talk at 5:30 p.m.
Including work by Jeannie McKetta, Jenny Mullins, Lia Powers and Nadia Ulghani, Telephone invokes the familiar children's game as a system or template for art production and describes four studio art students' experience of having overlapping schedules, time and again sharing the same classrooms and professors. Each artist chose an existing work of her preferred medium: sculpture, painting, drawing, etc. A second artist used this piece as the subject for a new work in a different medium. A third artist then used the second artist's piece, with no knowledge of the first, as her reference for yet another work in still another medium. As the process continued, each new piece became more and more distant from the first, resulting in four large, collaborative families of artworks on view in the gallery.
Land Arts 2006 Exhibition
Creative Research Laboratory
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 20, 6 to 9 PM
This exhibition includes work from fourteen students produced in direct response to the Land Arts Program. A collaboration between studio art at the University of New Mexico and design at the University of Texas at Austin, Land Arts is a studio-based, field study program dedicated to the investigation of land arts from pre-contact Native American to contemporary Euro-American cultures. Land arts practices include everything from constructing a road, to taking a walk, building a monument, or leaving a mark in the sand. Participating students spent 51 days traveling over 7,000 miles during the Fall of 2006 to live and work throughout the landscape of the southwest. This exhibition is the result of that journey.
Austin Museum of Art—Downtown
On view through January 28th
Radical NY! is a two-part exhibition about distinct generations of New York artists who challenged the definitions of art and re-envisioned the artist’s role in society. The first chapter focuses on the Abstract Expressionist era, with seventeen gestural abstract paintings and works on paper from the 1940s-60s by artists including Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, and Jackson Pollock. The Downtown Show: The New York Art Scene, 1974-1984 surveys the vibrant period when a new, postmodern attitude towards artistic production surfaced in Lower Manhattan.
Retreat: New Paintings by Theresa Marchetta
Women and Their Work
On view through February 17
A graduate of Carnegie Mellon University and a participant in The Cooper Union School of Art Summer Residency Program, Theresa Marchetta has participated in exhibitions in Austin, Philadelphia, Princeton, New York and many other cities. These series of new paintings are densely layered investigations of color.
Artists and Cowboys Should Be Friends
UNT artspace FW
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 20, 6-8:00 pm
Curated by Baseera Khan and Ted Sentina this group exhibition contains work by Michael Berryhill, Ed Blackburn, Mike Egan, Ali Fitzgerald, Paul Giggo, Ryan Hennesse, Jacqueline Klempay, Jim Malone, Reed Posey, Magrit Raczkowski and Alan Reid.
Eric Trosko: Synepet
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 20, 6-9 PM.
Brooklyn-based painter Eric Trosko lays paint on smoothly creating engaging and uncomfortable images. Trosko's singular objects, with such repeating motifs as fur, dermis, bark and grass, are both restrained and absurd. They excrete, ooze, splay and transform while maintaining a cute, clean presence. The artist’s method of mashing together unlikely forms to create empathetic organisms inspires a new word: Synepet.
Introduction 2007: Jonathan Marshall, Margaret Meehan and Eric Zimmerman
Mulcahy Modern Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, January 20, 6-8:00 PM
This group exhibition introduces the three Austin based artists Jonathan Marshall, Margaret Meehan and Eric Zimmerman to the Dallas art scene, and features works on paper, installations and a suite of etchings.
January 2007 Exhibitions at Lawndale Art Center:
Waiting to Explode; Forest Interrupted; Under the Covers (Granny’s Flower Patch), Untitled Landscape Device—HEDGE
Lawndale Art Center
Opening Reception: Friday January 26, 6:30-8:30pm; Member’s-only artist talk at 6pm
Lawndale Art Center begins the new year with a bevy of exhibitions. Waiting to Explode features new performances, drawings, and sculptural installations by San Antonio artists Jimmy Kuehnle and Richie Budd. In Forest Interrupted, Anderson Wrangle investigates how we interpret these historically romantic ideas about nature and use the forest, mountains and rivers for our own personal, material and aesthetic ends. For Under Covers(Granny’s Flower Patch), Benjamin Entner has created a massive quilt based upon the pattern Granny’s Flower Patch and this work spans the entire space of a gallery. Lastly, Mark Schatz’s Untitled Landscape Device—HEDGE is an outdoor public sculpture consisting of hedges that slide and rotate along a single rail into the ground thereby forcing the viewer to focus on the landscape immediately surrounding Lawndale Art Center.
International Artist-In-Residence: New Works: 06.3
Closing January 14
Catch New Works: 06.3 before it closes this Saturday. Katie Pell’s installation of highly customized stoves and toasters hint at a world in which domestic appliances are status symbols is particularly fantastic. Curated by the Tom Eccles, the director of the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, new works by Chiho Aoshima (Tokyo) and Allison Smith (New York) are also included. New Works: 07.1, curated by The Kitchen’s director Debra Singer and including the work of Katja Strunz, Glenn Kaino and Robert Pruitt, opens on March 8.
Suzan Frecon: Recent Painting
Lawrence Markey Inc.
Opening Reception: Wednesday January 17, 5–7 pm
In light of New York based artist Suzan Frecon’s observation: “I think the truth of a painting is the paint itself. All the explanations can’t change what that truth is,” any attempts to describe this exhibition of new paintings and watercolors by the artist seems somewhat futile. Go see the exhibition for yourself.
Unit B (Gallery)
Opening Reception: Friday, January 26, 6:30-10 PM
Curated by the Miami based mega-collector Dennis Scholl, this exhibition includes works by four Miami artists: Natalia Benedetti, Jason Hedges, Tao Rey and Michael Vasquez.
Nothing is Neutral: Andrea Bowers in the Hudson (Show)room
Closing January 28
In Nothing is Neutral: Andrea Bowers, Bowers’ drawings, videos, and text-based installations explore recent histories of art and politics, amplifying questions of democracy and social engagement. Both of the exhibitions’ installations, Eulogies to One and Another (2006) and Letters to the Army of Three Displaced (2005), investigate activism and its relation to everyday life. Read Erin Smith’s review of Letters….
Let Everything Be Temporary, Or When Is The Exhibition?
January 10 - February 17, 2007
Let Everything Be Temporary, Or When Is The Exhibition? brings together the work of artists that explore temporariness or the possibility of instability in the work of art. The selected works diminish, decompose, ripen, lose value and spread throughout the exhibition space. More than that—whether motivated by the political, aesthetic, economic or the intimate—these artworks challenge the idea of the work of art as eternal, unchanging, and aesthetically fixed. Featured artists include former testsite participant Tomo Savic-Gecan as well as Michel Blazy, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Gabriel Kuri, Oksana Pasaiko and Joëlle Tuerlinckx with Boris Belay.
Our Yard in the Future: The Art of Gayleen Aiken
January 11 - February 4, 2007
The exhibition features a rare selection of paintings, drawings, comics, cardboard cut-outs, broadsides and other paraphernalia, most of which has never been publicly exhibited before, by Gayleen Aiken, one of America’s most gifted and prolific outsiders. Curated by artist, curator and critic Peter Gallo, who knew and corresponded with the artist, the show features some of Aiken’s earliest works and spotlights historic examples from the l950s, 60s, and 70s gleaned from the significant collection of works discovered in her apartment after her death in 2005.
Events, Lectures, Etc.
2. Troll for someone to play Nancy to your Sid at the following events and lectures.
Tribute to Honor Marcia Tucker
Tishman Auditorium—The New School
Friday January 12, 3:00 pm
Friends of the New Museum are invited to honor and remember Marcia Tucker, Founding Director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, in a Memorial Tribute to be held on January 12, 2007 from 3-5pm. Organized by the New Museum in association with The Vera List Center for Art and Politics at The New School, the memorial will take place at The New School's Tishman Auditorium, 66 West 12th Street, NYC. A live broadcast of the Memorial Tribute will also be available by clicking here.
Benito Laren: in Conversation
Osborne Seminar Room at the Blanton Museum of Art
Tuesday, January 16, 3:30 pm
Benito Laren is one of the key figure of the 1990s Argentinean generation of the “Arte Lite” movement. His work is cynical and garish, always combining humor, invention, and eccentricity through colorful materials that bring to life the stories behind Laren’s imagination. Organized by the Latin American Department of the Blanton Museum of Art, this conversation compliments the exhibition of Laren’s work on view at Okay Mountain.
Show and Tell Part IV: Digital Slide Jam
Women and Their Work
Tuesday, January 16, 7:00 PM
Come see & hear about the work of four local artists: Justin Goldwater, Andrew Long, Deborah Roberts and Michael Sieben.
Video/Audio Collaborations by Adam Kendall and Bradford Reed
Aurora Picture Show
Saturday, January 20, 8-10:00 PM and Sunday, January 21, 7:00-9:00 PM
$ 5 general admission
The multimedia trio of Adam Kendall, Bradford Reed and their guest musician perform collaborative multimedia pieces stressing improvisation and rules-based techniques. They create and process video and sound in real time, integrating their images and music for a fully immersive experience.
Screening of Inland Empire with director David Lynch
The Paramount Theatre
January 24, 7 pm
The Austin Film Society presents a rare personal appearance with director David Lynch at the premiere his newest film Inland Empire. Tickets are on sale now to the general public through the Paramount Box Office, GetTix or by phone at 1-866-443-8849. AFS member discount available ONLY through the Paramount Box Office. Box office hours are 12 noon to 5:30 pm, Monday - Saturday. Proof of AFS membership (card or email receipt) required for ticket discount.
The Audley Society, Houston
January 24, 8:00 PM
$10 general admission; $8 students; under eighteen, free admission
One of the hardest swinging drummers in jazz and improvised music, Han Bennink has a reputation as an unpredictable, anarchic and electrifying performer. Well known for his physicality and his strange sense of humor, Bennink's solo concerts lie somewhere in the realm of virtuosic percussion performance, Vaudeville Theater and Dadaist performance.
Han Bennik with Arthur Doyle
Ruth Taylor Recital Hall, Trinity University—San Antonio
January 25, 7:00 pm
$10 general admission
Han Bennik returns, this time with acclaimed saxophonist Arthur Doyle whose music combines elements of traditional jazz with gospel and R&B.
I Was Here: Austin I Was Here: Austin, 1974 -1984
Austin Museum of Art-Downtown
Thursday, January 25, 7pm
A companion to the December panel discussion: I Was There: New York, 1974 - 1984 this panel examines the particulars of Austin’s own art scene. Join graphic artist Bill Narum, critic and writer Joe Nick Patoski, Jesse Sublett of Austin's pioneer punk band the Skunks and Armadillo World Headquarters owner Eddie Wilson for a discussion of Austin’s eclectic past and present.
January 26 and 27, 8:00 PM
$8 general admission
This charged performance infuses jazz, poetry, hip hop and acoustic music with a Generation X twist. Narrated by artistic director E. Christopher Cornell, She Speaks features Khalilah Ali, Kelly Love Jones and Renita Walls and forges a new image of women in hip hop. Leaving behind old stereotypes, the performers weave a vibrant, edgy story of contemporary women.
Finesilver Gallery at Arte Fiera Hall 22, Stand 138.
Viale della Fiera 20 Bologna, ITALY 40128
Preview: Thursday, January 25, 3pm to 9pm
Fair Hours: Friday, January 26 to Sunday, January 28, 11am to 7pm
Monday, January 29, 11am to 5pm
Just when you thought art fair season was over! With its motto of Art First, Art Fiera is decidedly lower key than Art Basel but nonetheless has a roster of some heavy hitting-galleries, including the Texas gallery Finesilver. If you happen to be in the midst of an Italian holiday, this fair is a recommended stop.
Opportunities: Jobs, Calls for Entry and Grants
3. As Patti Smith once sang, “Free money, free money, free money.”
CALL FOR ENTRY
New American Talent: The Twenty-Second Exhibition
New American Talent is a national all-media exhibition which will be on view June-August 2007 at Arthouse, and then will tour venues throughout Texas. This year’s juror is Anne Ellegood, Associate Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. Entries must be postmarked by January 12, 2007.
Unsolicited Proposals: Open Call January 1-February 15, 2007
Exhibition proposals will be accepted from January 1- February 15, 2007 for two of the eight shows scheduled the following season. Apex Art welcomes and encourages proposals from all interested individuals. Previous curatorial experience is in no way required, and will not factor into the selection process. Apex Art will provide complete administrative support and assistance. Please limit submissions to a one page proposal (800 words maximum) emphasizing and explaining the idea behind the show. Be sure that your submission is formatted to fit the single side of one page. Longer proposals will not be considered. Please do not submit images, catalogues, resumés, cvs or other support materials—they will not be reviewed. Please note Apex Art does not accept proposals for one person shows and discourages artists who are acting as curators from including their own work in their proposal. Apex Art also cannot accept proposals for exhibitions that have been previously exhibited elsewhere. Be sure to include your address, phone number and e-mail. Please e-mail submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org (MS Word attachment preferred). Apex Art will notify you of the final results by May 15, 2007.
Open Call for the Lower East Side Rotating Studio Program (LES-RSP)
Artist Alliance Inc
Funded through generous grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Greenwall Foundation, the Lower East Side Rotating Studio Program offers two free six- month residency sessions to 8 visual artists a year plus a small stipend to each artist. The Studio Program is open to emerging, mid-career and hard-working artists who fall outside the system. All disciplines including painting, photography, sculpture, video, installation and new media will be accepted. Artists may apply for both sessions. Postmark Deadline: March 15, 2007.
Search for Director of the Graduate Program
Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture, Bard College
The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College (CCS) seeks an accomplished curator, scholar, or critic to direct its graduate program in curatorial studies, one of the preeminent programs worldwide for the education of curators of contemporary art. The M.A. degree program offers an intensive, two-year course of study, culminating in an individually curated exhibition and a thesis. The program is housed in a newly expanded exhibition and study facility that includes the Hessel Museum of Art, comprising 16,000 square feet of galleries for display of the Marieluise Hessel Collection, a prominent collection of contemporary art on permanent loan to the Center; a 19,000–volume research library and archive; and 9,500 square feet of temporary exhibition galleries. The director of the graduate program provides innovative intellectual leadership to the Center’s graduate and research programs; works closely with the CCS executive director to integrate the Center’s educational and exhibition programs and to develop funding for the graduate and research programs; and is responsible for all aspects of the administration of the graduate program, including hiring faculty, developing the curriculum, student admissions, and financial aid. Candidates must have an advanced postgraduate degree (M.A., M.F.A., or Ph.D.) in a field pertinent to the graduate program, close familiarity with the contemporary visual arts and current curatorial and exhibition practice, and significant experience teaching at the graduate level. The director of the graduate program holds a non-tenure-track appointment. Salary is competitive and commensurate with experience and benefits are excellent. Applicants must submit a letter of interest including salary expectations, c.v., and list of at least three references to CCS Search, Human Resources-8906, Bard College, P.O. Box 5000, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY 12504-5000. Further applicant materials, such as exhibition catalogues or publications, may be requested as needed. Applications will be reviewed as received until the position is filled. The starting date for the position is June 1, 2007. AA/EOE.
Curatorial Assistant Position Available
The Las Vegas Art Museum
The Las Vegas Art Museum seeks a Curatorial Assistant to assist with the development and installation of exhibitions, acquisitions of artwork and research. The successful candidate must possess writing skills and have considerable knowledge of contemporary art. This highly motivated individual will bring organization, tact and attention to detail to every project. The Curatorial Assistant will report to the Deputy Director and will work closely with the Curatorial Department staff on exhibitions. She will conduct research on artworks for exhibitions, potential acquisitions and loans. The Curatorial Assistant will help develop and implement the exhibition and installation calendar. She will send reproduction permission letters for publications occasionally conduct tours of the exhibitions, attend infrequent evening and weekend events, screen requests from artists and galleries for exhibitions, and work with the museum's Education Department to develop public programming materials related to the exhibitions. She will draft press releases, wall texts and articles for the museum's bi-annual newsletter. The successful candidate will also organize the annual juried exhibition held every summer. The Curatorial Assistant will correspond regularly with artists, gallery owners and lenders regarding loans of works of art to the Museum. B.A. required. M.A. or equivalent gallery or museum experience preferred. LVAM offers full health and dental benefits. Please send your cover letter, resume and writing sample (publications not required) to Renee Coppola, Deputy Director at email@example.com, or by mail to Las Vegas Art Museum, 9600 West Sahara Avenue, Las Vegas, Nevada 89117.
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