From the Editor

by Claire Ruud

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      Emilie Halpern
      June 29, 19552010
      18 x 24 inches
      Courtesy the artist and Art Palace Gallery

      The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has reached the Loop Current, a powerful and horrifyingly concrete metaphor for the manner in which this oil is swirling around in all kinds of thoughts and conversations in our day-to-day lives right now. Only one writer, Lee Webster on Marina Zurkow’s Slurb, mentioned the Gulf oil spill by name in this issue, but the crisis seems to lurk below the surface in many other features as well: Kate Watson’s discussion of Cloud Eye Control’s Under Polaris and Wendy Vogel’s review of Cosmos, to name two. When Webster wonders whether imagery that “traffics in the apocalypse” merely increases the emotional distance between viewers and a very real future, when Watson asks Under Polaris to make her “feel more,” when Vogel concludes her thoughts with John Lennon’s entreating lyrics, “wherever you are, you are here; wherever you are, you are here,” these writers are tapping into a desire for sincerity and a longing to feel urgency, and grasping at the relationship between the individual and the cosmos: the infinitesimal and the leviathan.

      Exploration, discovery, the noble quest: these ideas weave throughout the artists’ work discussed in this issue. Hand in hand with these comes an inquiry into the performance of western bravado and scientific objectivity on one hand and bohemian earthiness and earnest emotion on the other. One might boil this down to the performance of certain types of masculinity—think Clint Eastwood, John Wayne and Carl Sagan, to name a few who appear in this issue—and femininity—think Yoko Ono and Joni Mitchell. However, under the artists’ hands, the Clints and Carls begin to look just as sentimental , just as caught up in the romantic and the mysterious, as the Yokos and Jonis. And the Yokos and Jonis become just as sagacious, just as shrewd and rational, ask the Clints and Carls.

      We know it already: impulses to dominate and understand objectively are inseparable from fantasy and emotion. What I see in the work and writing in this issue, though, is more trust in that fantasy and emotion than I’ve heard before. Is it simply the same old romantic impulses that Nikki Moore warns against in "Fencing the Back Forty," or could it be a constructive reclamation of hope, possibility and a future?

      More thoughts on the themes of this issue from myself and the other writers appear in the form of images in a small online exhibition in this week's Artist's Space.

      In other, relatively inconsequential news, but news that will have significant impact on the Austin art world nonetheless, the Blanton announced its exhibition schedule for 2010-2011, and WorkSpace projects—the projects through which the Blanton have traditionally supported emerging artists, and for which Austin-based artists are most likely to visit the museum—are conspicuously absent. In response to my inquiry on this subject, Deputy Director of Art & Programs Annette Carlozzi explained, "we've just completed a new 5-year strategic plan and contemporary art remains a key part of our commitment, as you might imagine from all the talent we have on staff. Thoughtful consideration and program planning must now follow ... As far as the pacing of the WorkSpace projects goes, we need time to examine how we can create other, additional opportunities for artists to be involved in our galleries and exhibitions. And, we want to look at which other spaces in the museum might be suited to projects we invite artists to propose." So I guess we'll just have to wait and see what the Blanton's commitment to contemporary art does, and does not, entail.

      Claire Ruud is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.


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