From the Editor

by Wendy Vogel

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      Christian Marclay
      Still from The Clock, 2010
      single-channel video
      24 hours
      ©Christian Marclay. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

      It’s no secret that I’m an amateur astrology buff. So it’s no coincidence that the title of this week’s issue of ...mbg, plucked from Mike Osborne’s textual collage review of Christian Marclay’s The Clock, features a quote from poet Walt Whitman—who shares my birthday. The phrase comes from “Sparkles from the Wheel,” part of his literary masterwork Leaves of Grass. In the poem, Whitman fancies himself a sort of American flâneur, “effusing and fluid—a phantom curiously floating” among the crowd bustling along the city street.

      I found this evocation especially poignant when reflecting upon the events over the past few weeks in Austin. In very sad news, UT Professor Emeritus Kelly Fearing, celebrated artist and art educator, passed away at age 92 on March 13th in Austin. Fearing began his mature career when he moved to Fort Worth in 1943. There, he joined a daring group of artists embracing abstraction and surrealism that would later be known as the Fort Worth Circle. He began teaching in the budding UT Austin art department in 1947, retired in 1987, and remained an active fixture in Austin’s community until his death. American-Statesman writer Jeanne Claire van Ryzin’s touching tribute to the artist can be found here and Gaile Robinson of the Star-Telegram shares her thoughts here. For those who are curious to learn more about the scope of his work, Madeline Irvine’s 2009 review of Fearing’s retrospective mounted at the University of Texas’ Bass Concert Hall is a wonderful read. A memorial service honoring the artist’s life and work will be held at the Austin Museum of Art - Laguna Gloria, 3809 West 35th Street, from 5-7pm on April 23.

      In related University of Texas news, the Department of Art and Art History announced its search for a new Department Chair, appointment effective from the start of the 2011-12 academic year. The position is currently occupied by John A. Yancey. A detailed description of the position opening can be found on The Chronicle of Higher Education. The search will be chaired by Ann Reynolds, Associate Professor in the Department of Art and Art History and the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. We look forward to bringing you further developments.

      In broader art news, Austin is gearing up for some stimulating cultural debate in the coming weeks—and I’m not just talking about the gossipy aftermath of the music, film and interactive arts festival SXSW. In our previous issue of …mbg, Claire Ruud wrote an incisive review of Michelle Handelman’s queer-themed video piece Dorian, a cinematic perfume that is currently on view at Arthouse. This weekend, a powerful article by Noah Simblist appeared on Glasstire that blew the lid off the politics of display surrounding this work. Dorian’s queer-themed content, Simblist writes, was reportedly considered “lewd and pornographic” by a board member, leading to institutional self-censorship. The work has presented with disclaimers, has been subject to restricted screening times, or even shut off completely while the museum is open to the public. Simblist argues passionately for a rigorous reflection on these policies of silencing queer and sexually provocative work, and for a larger cultural conversation:

      “…Austin is growing into a nationally recognized urban center and a magnet for those interested not only in new forms of music and film but also contemporary art. But as Austin comes of age it must also recognize that bricks and mortar are not enough. It must also develop the sophistication to deal with difficult issues in an open and transparent way. Arthouse will start this process with a panel discussion on March 24 about Handelman’s piece and the issues of queer sexuality and censorship that it brings up.”

      Along with Arthouse’s Associate Director Elizabeth Dunbar, Simblist has organized the panel discussion “Inflammatory Images and the Politics of Sex”. It will be held next Thursday at 6:30pm at Arthouse. Along with Simblist, panelists include Michelle Handelman, Andy Campbell, Ann Reynolds, Rose Reyes and kt shorb. Dunbar will moderate.

      As a follow-up to the panel, …mbg will feature a text by Michelle Handelman in our April 1st Artist’s Space. As always, we encourage feedback from our readers. Do you think that all artwork is appropriate for all ages of viewers? Do you see the Arthouse censorship controversy as indicative of a larger trend of cultural conservatism? We urge you to participate in the conversation on March 24th, and in the meantime, to reply with a comment sharing your views.

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

      Editor’s note: We wish to acknowledge and correct a factual error that was printed in our interview with Peter Doroshenko on November 12, 2010. In the interview, it was stated that Sturtevant had never been the subject of a major survey exhibition in the U.S. In fact, Sturtevant’s comprehensive museum exhibition, Sturtevant: The Brutal Truth, which was originally organized by Udo Kittleman and Mario Kramer for the Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt, traveled to the MIT List Center in 2005. The interview text has been modified to reflect this information.

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