From the Editor

by Wendy Vogel

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      Eric Zimmerman
      So Long To The Good Old Moon (detail)
      2010
      12 page BW newspaper
      Courtesy of the artist

      This holiday season finds us taking stock more soberly. The passing away last week of Peter Marzio, the longtime Director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, tallies another huge loss to the Texas art community. As the year draws to a close, we honor his legacy and accomplishments, along with the work and spirit of recently deceased San Antonio artist Chuck Ramirez and Chicago-based critic Kathryn Hixson, who was completing her PhD dissertation at UT Austin. Their contributions and visions have made a lasting impact on the art world at large.

      On the national radar, the controversy over the removal of David Wojnarowicz’s film A Fire In My Belly from the National Portrait Gallery exhibition Hide/Seek rages on. Last week, following my letter from the editor, Fluent~Collaborative released a powerful statement by Dan Cameron, artistic director of Prospect New Orleans and curator of Wojnarowicz’s retrospective at the New Museum in 1999. Critics have sounded off admirably about the issue, as well, from Blake Gopnik’s moving statement in the Washington Post, to Frank Rich in the New York Times and Christopher Knight in the LA Times. In an even bolder move, the Warhol Foundation threatened on Tuesday to cut its funding of $375,000 to the Smithsonian if Wojnarowicz’s work was not reinstated in the NPG exhibition. The foundation’s president, Joel Wachs, stated in his letter to Smithsonian Director Wayne Clough: “Such blatant censorship is unconscionable. It is inimical to everything the Smithsonian Institution should stand for, and everything the Andy Warhol Foundation does stand for.”

      If the recent political changes in power precipitate another culture war, as the Wojnarowicz controversy seems to foreshadow, we already have some courageous front-line soldiers in high places. I witnessed this personally last night at the Glassell School at the MFAH, where two silent versions of A Fire In My Belly were screened to a packed house. The Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston co-sponsored the event, which was followed by a panel discussion between CAMH Director Bill Arning, MFAH Curator of Photography Anne Tucker and Station Museum Director Jim Harithas. Arning, along with his interlocutors, made a powerful case for the museum’s civic function to sustain discourse regardless of potential fallout, quoting artist and former Akron Art Museum director John Coplans: “A good curator who is not on the verge of being fired is not doing his or her job.” While the panelists’ credentials as culture-war veterans is in little doubt, it was inspiring to see the local turnout of supporters ready to champion artistic freedom and scholarship in an era where the public sphere grows ever more diffuse.

      And so we may approach the new year with sustained focus on the work ahead of us, but not without hope and renewed commitment to cultural production. Here in Texas, we can look forward to a number of contemporary art events in 2011 that are sure to shake things up. We are particularly excited about the Texas Biennial, curated by New York-based art historian and art lawyer Virginia Rutledge, which has just released its list of artists and expanded list of venues for April, as well as AMOA’s New Art in Austin: 15 to Watch, opening in February. Huge congratulations are due to the recipients of Idea Fund grants and last week’s winners of the Austin Visual Arts Awards. We look forward to seeing new work by these talented artists!

      To finish out the year, …mbg’s last issue of 2010 situates Texas and its artists in a larger geographic constellation. The Artist Space includes a conversation between Chelsea Beck and New York-based artist Erin Shirreff. Our review section features coverage of shows stateside and abroad. From Paris, Virginie Bobin covers the solo exhibition of Tomo Savic-Gecan (an artist featured in testsite 06.2) at Jeu de Paume, while Ali Fitzgerald muses on Austin-based J. Parker Valentine’s work at Supportico Lopez in Berlin. From this side of the pond, I discuss the work of Estonian artists on view at Unit B. Also keeping local, Michael Bise discusses the conceptual conceits of Weasel at Inman Annex in Houston, while Lee Webster addresses literal wildlife in the works of Anthropogenesis at the VAC in Austin. And finally, Lana Shafer covers former Austinite Eric Zimmerman’s anticipated solo exhibition at AMOA.

      With that, we hope you enjoy this issue and your holidays. We at …mbg will take a short hiatus, but will return on January 7th with a lineup of fresh content, including a project by New York-based Bryan Zanisnik. Until 2011, we wish you a festive season and New Year!

      Wendy Vogel is Editor of ...might be good.

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