MBG Issue #115: The Art of Entitlement

Issue # 115

The Art of Entitlement

February 6, 2009

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Carlos Rosales-Silva, Untitled, 2009, Gold helium-filled balloons. Courtesy the artist.

from the editor

Yesterday, Leah Ollman (of Art in America and the LA Times) and Phong Bui (of The Brooklyn Rail and P.S.1) offered a few gems of wisdom about art criticism to those who attended the first in a series of three Viewpoint 2009 lectures at UT Austin. Four of the most memorable moments from these lectures follow. You might say the first two are about "critical taste," and the second two about "critical discourse"...

Bui: "What are you painting?"
Audience member: "Whatever I feel."
Bui: "That sounds so spoiled."

Ollman: [clicks to a slide of an Elizabeth Peyton portrait] I don't like art of entitlement.

Bui: There's a Vietnamese proverb, "when you argue with a smart person, you can't win, but when you argue with a stupid person, you can't stop."

Ollman: "Criticism is an antidote to the language of the quantifiable."

Ollman and Bui will be back in Austin in late March to give their second set of public lectures. You really want to be there.

Claire Ruud is Editor of ...might be good.


Teresita Fernández

By Claire Ruud

Teresita Fernández, Stacked Waters, 2009. Courtesy of the artist and The Blanton Museum of Art.

Artist Teresita Fernández recently revolutionized The Blanton Museum's atrium with her semi-permanent installation Stacked Waters. ...might be good caught up with her by email last week to talk about her transformation of the space.

...might be good: I’ve heard rumors that you’ve called Stacked Waters your most significant work. Can you elaborate?

Teresita Fernández: I don't think of my own work in those terms but there are certainly some works you learn more from than others. To me it is a significant work in that it unapologetically (and with a kind of poetic aggression) dissolves the space. In this sense, it literally defaces the atrium with a kind of subversive beauty. The work seems to layer itself over an existing spatial situation but in fact it undoes it.

…mbg: In Austin, there's been some dissatisfaction with the architecture of the new Blanton buildings—particularly the façade and the atrium of the museum. You’ve completely transformed the atrium, and people are bubbling about the wild success of your installation. Can you tell me about the process of coming up with Stacked Waters for the space?

TF: The space completely alienated museum-goers. I began to see the space as a volume that I could fill with water; I wanted to create an arena for the experience of submerging and emerging. The horizontal lines became water lines, levels that mark your depth within the space. As you walk up the 50 steps, the level lines mark your shifting ascension until when you get to the second to last step, you literally "step" out of the water. The surface of the acrylic is highly reflective so that the piece becomes like a real-time cinematic projection of the activity in the space. The tone of the work changes dramatically throughout the day and seasons, becoming quite dark and somber when it's overcast, and reflective and active when there is bright daylight. I think of the piece almost like a portrait of the changing Texas light. A museum is a place that is revisited and so it was essential to me that viewers might see it differently each time they visit. The title is a reference to Judd's stacked pieces. Even though Stacked Waters completely embraces illusion, I also felt like I was putting the viewer on the inside of one of his glowing stacks.

…mbg: Reviewers often hint at an erotic or seductive quality in your work, but I haven’t run into one brave enough to really interrogate that sensuality. What’s your take on the place of eroticism in your work?

TF: I have always been interested in the relationship between the tactile and the visual, the "eyes of the skin". I am not interested in deconstructing the sensual within some theoretical discourse—we simply don't experience the world that way. But I am fascinated by how the visual seduces a viewer into caring about an idea. The conceptual is put into practice by a perceptive, engaged, seduced viewer, fully aware and willing to comply. In 1996 I made 2 large installations that referred to empty swimming pools. They were partially based on a 1920's design by Adolf Loos for a house for Josephine Baker. The house (never built) was to have an indoor swimming pool with skylights above and darkened corridors around it with windows that looked into the depth of the pool. While my piece dealt with the act of looking, a kind of voyeuristic delight, it was incredibly sensual in its allusion to water moving over skin. Stacked Waters is a bit of a return to that in that there is an implied freedom to roam, to activate the space by indulging in its imagined water.

…mbg: We’ve been having conversation at …might be good about the aestheticization of perception, the isolation of sensual experience and the potential for detachment from social and political context, (for example, see Lane Relyea on Olafur Eliasson’s work in issue #114). What is the critic missing about your work when this kind of critique gets leveled against it (for example, a review in June 2007 Artforum called your work “a hermetic sublime, a bit too reminiscent of a corporate lobby”)?

TF: This sounds sort of ridiculous to me, as though the buzzer goes off to start "perceiving" the second you face an artwork. More problematically, it implies that it is the sole responsibility of the artist (or artwork) to inspire or prompt perception, engagement and to guarantee meaning. A viewer's response can be just as "stylized," or "isolating" as a work. I, too, depend on a thoughtful, willing viewer to complete the circuit of meaning in my work.

If a work has an audience and people are questioning or criticizing its validity I'd say it has created a forum—a clear manifestation of a social/political context. I also think that both exaltation or disappointment in a work are overtly politicized moments that say as much about the viewer/author as they do about the measurable materiality of what we call art. In fact, I would say that it is this internal dialogue, this fantasy of how one projects what one has experienced that is at the core of my concepts.

Claire Ruud is Editor of ...might be good.

Matt Stokes

By Kate Watson

The Motards, Kings of Blues Album Cover, rip off records, 1995.

We’ve heard a lot about Austin punk in the last year, with projects exploring the topic at such varied locations as Gallery Lombardi, Fluent~Collaborative’s very own testsite and, most recently, Arthouse. Is Matt Stokes just riding the zeitgeist? Not exactly—Stokes has been mining the topic for over a year now, visiting Austin multiple times, exploring the city and delving deep into our city’s unique cultural and musical heritage. Punk just…happened in 2008, in part because Stokes has been gathering people together around the topic with his matchmaking and sweet, accent-tinged charms. …might be good had opportunity to sit down with Stokes on several occasions and pick his brain about his process for developing new work and the unique relationships that he has formed during this ambitious project.

…might be good: Can we start by talking briefly about how your interest in very specific musical subcultures evolved? For instance, how did you find out about the Northern Soul scene that is the subject of Long After Tonight or the rave subculture which is the subject of Real Arcadia?

Matt Stokes: In the beginning of most projects, I don’t have any preconceived notions or ideas about where anything is going to lead. For example, with Long After Tonight, I went through a period of research where I tried to find out more about what was happening in terms of music in the city; I met with a range of people including people in rock bands, people who were promoting music, people who were in choral groups and amateur classical orchestras and pipe organists. It was through these conversations that I met with a group of friends who were part of the Northern Soul Scene. (In a nutshell, Northern Soul is African-American music, primarily from the 1960s, that found its way to the UK. “Northern” refers to the north of England.)

This group of friends and I started talking about how the Northern Soul scene developed in Dundee and the venues where Northern Soul nights were held in the 70s. The first venue to hold Northern Soul nights was the social hall at St. Salvador’s, a functioning church. I thought about the roots of soul music in gospel, and it seemed like a natural thing to bring the main use of St. Salvador’s—Christian services—together with another use of that building—Northern Soul Night. So I filmed a Northern Soul Night inside at the church, but for the filming, we held the event in the sanctuary instead of the social hall.

…mbg: It sounds like nostalgia plays a role in your work—a nostalgia for a particular music scene and the community it formed. How much does nostalgia—both your own nostalgia and the nostalgia of those you are interviewing—factor in to these projects?

MS: I feel like nostalgia is seen as a dirty word—like it’s bad to be nostalgic—but I think it’s quite good to be nostalgic. We almost use nostalgia as a way to reevaluate things we have personal attachments to. But I try not to make nostalgia the main focus of my work. I’m trying to introduce a different perspective on something that’s familiar.

…mbg: Like a lot of other artists today, you have chosen to focus your work around engagement with a variety of communities. What is the relationship you see between your projects and the communities they involve?

MS: I think it varies from community to community—and I use the term “community” in the loosest sense—quite often the communities I work with are not established or organized. I generally come across these communities by accident. In creating these projects, I want the people involved to feel a kind of ownership of the project or an attachment to it. What I produce offers an opportunity for them to re-evaluate or look at the scene in a different way. And it also gives a chance for people outside the scene a chance to experience something they don’t know much about.

…mbg: So what was your starting place with the Arthouse project in Austin?

On my first visit to Austin in March of 2008, I spent two weeks just going to music venues, going out every night to a real mixture of stuff, to get a sense of what was happening and to get a feeling for a city.

…mbg: After you got a “feel” for the city, how did the work transition from the interviews and research to the final show, film, etc?

For this project, early on I would go to the Austin History Center, or to the Center for American History at UT; I was looking at various materials that were linked to the music scene here. I looked at everything, including the development of country music, but I felt from a very early stage that I didn’t want to look at anything that people might usually connect with Austin.

…mbg: How did you make initial contact with those involved in the Austin punk scene?

On my second visit to Austin, I met Tim Hamblin, who looks after the video archives at the Austin History Center, and I mentioned the Austin punk scene to him; the archives didn’t have anything on it, but Tim had a lot of stuff himself. He’s a Brit who came across in 1978, so he knew a lot of stuff that was happening in the punk scene over there as well as what was happening here. And so he gave me a whole list of names to contact and I met Tim Kerr right at the end of that visit.

Actually, my first knowledge of Austin punk was through the 90s scene, which didn’t get the recognition that it deserved. I listened to a band called the Motards, who had one record album cover with a picture of the band pissing on a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn—that said so much. I knew nothing about what came before at that point, so I started with the 90s and then I went backwards and realized there was this really great history here.

Once I started meeting people here, they began opening their garages, taking out things from boxes that they hadn’t looked at in years and years—flyers, vinyl, t-shirts, random stuff. And the more I saw, the more I thought that this was an amazing collection of stuff that people had hidden away. I was interested in the idea of gathering as much of that as possible to put in the gallery.

…mbg: What’s the role of the ephemera in the Arthouse exhibition?

MS: I’m collecting all of the ephemera, but not in a comprehensive way; I’m not labeling very much, just showing what it is. Some of it has become very fragile as well, so it has to go behind glass. I get a kick out of it—this material was never intended to be seen behind glass, in such a formal way! The immediacy of the objects is really apparent and formalizing them in this way is strange. In a way I really like it, because it was so not what the material was about.

In July, I organized an evening at Arthouse. I emailed all the people that I’d been in contact with. Probably forty people turned up, and a lot of them brought stuff and left it for the exhibition as well. And so I decided to split this show into two parts—one that is very archival and one that is a film work.

…mbg: And the film?

MS: The film work is much more rooted in how the original ethos of the Austin punk scene has influenced what’s happening now, how it’s been taken up or abandoned…and whether the scene now is like a reenactment of the “original.” The film came out of wanting to organize an event like what the Big Boys and the Dicks were doing in the late 70s, early 80s—essentially putting on a free, all ages show—an event that, in a way, had no restrictions.

…mbg: At the show, could you feel the presence of those that were contacted about it through the Arthouse mailing list?

MS: I wasn’t incredibly interested in the invitation going out on the Arthouse mailing list, because that’s not really who the event was for. Putting it on, part of it was about seeing who would turn up: is there still that energy and that appetite for something like that happening in Austin? It turned out there were lots of punks there, but there was also a hardcore and metal contingent.

During the show, the place was packed and the crowd just went for it. The footage focused on the audience and their interaction with the bands the whole time. We took a rough cut of the footage and gave it to a band made up of various members of Austin punk and hardcore bands and got them to respond by creating music, reversing the usual band/audience relationship. But we wanted to do it in a way that was fairly spontaneous—and they pretty much had twenty-four hours to respond to the footage of the audience. And then we recorded that track at Sweatbox studio. It was as “un-music video” as possible—camera and tripod—as raw as possible.

…mbg: To wrap up, can you say a little about how your work has evolved from project to project? How does one piece feed another?

MS: There are certainly threads that run throughout the recent projects I’ve done. One main thing is the idea of religion—an alternative to a traditional religion—how communities form around a happening or something that binds all of the people together, usually through music. I’m specifically interested in how music scenes outside of the mainstream form and how they shape peoples’ lives. Often, the people that I meet continue to work with me—Tim and Beth Kerr will be some of those people.

Kate Watson is testsite Coordinator and an assistant editor of ...might be good.


Enrico David
Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Basel
Through May 3

By Quinn Latimer

Enrico David, How Do You Love Dzzzt by Mammy, 2009. Courtesy Galerie Daniel Buchholz, Köln/Berlin and Cabinet Gallery London.

“I can only trade one opacity of experience with another,” Enrico David has written of his work with a kind of sly finality. Yet the Italian-born, London-based artist’s admission takes on a note of defensiveness in light of his current show at the Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Basel. How Do You Love Dzzzzt by Mammy? offered an experience so opaque that the galleries had the feeling of expertly rendered vacuums of meaning, in which a kind of blanket unintelligibility reigned. This is unexpected, since David has made his sizable reputation on deft drawings, embroideries, sculptures, and installations that mine a carousel of art, design, and literary influences: Arte Povera, Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, André Gide. Those references then build to ends that are insistently self-reflexive, with Davis’ works invariably exploring the self: its physicality, emotionality, and memory. And How Do You Love… does go there, delineating an autobiography out of nods to the Wiener Werkstätte, Dora Maar, and Gide, but what was made of those allusions seems random and, at times, uninspired.

Exceedingly modest in size, the show consists of just two installations. The first—a set of screens, black on one side, white on the other—zigzags across the gallery. Each of the surfaces are mounted with a large-format image, the most intriguing of which are staged color photos of small children playing a toy piano. Press materials told me that one of the children (the one in the bowl cut and a saffron-colored turtleneck, is my guess) was the artist himself, who appeared in advertisements for toys when he was three years old. The other images included a few culled from sex-toy catalogues, in which men exhibited enigmatic grimaces; an undated seal’s head delicately carved from driftwood by native Greenlanders; and a Dora Maar photo collage from 1935 called Vieille femme et enfant. In it, the artist, poet, and famous muse of Picasso depicts an otherwise empty baroque room, in which a boy rubs himself against an old woman in long skirts, her arms fallen open, her pose oddly Christ-like.

Bookending these screens are a pair of identical sculptures that look like Mr. Potatoheads on skis. Wrought from wood, wire and paper, the egg-shaped figures sit atop spindly wooden legs, their design cribbed from a toy made by Koloman Moser (for the aforementioned Werkstätte) in the early 20th century. But their pixilated faces come from the sex catalogue, and their hands cover genderless crotches like a soccer player awaiting a free kick. The wooden objects (toy or otherwise), coupled with the images of males at play (of both the child and adult variety), give off a distinctive whiff of boyish adolescent angst, but it is dampened by the innocuousness of the works themselves, whose craft and consequence seem debatable.

The second part of David’s show is the more successful. Previously shown at the ICA in London in 2007, the room-size environment, Ultra Paste, recreates Maar’s surreal collage of molestation, but sets it in David’s childhood bedroom. Its ’70s décor—the green grid of walls, lurid fluorescent light, and pale linoleum floor—replaces Maar’s original setting, and, in one corner, a photograph of the artist is rubbing up against a wooden doll, a brown stain spreading at their feet, replaces Maar’s figures. The weirdly alarming tableaux evinces wonder and eroticism mixed with menace and shame, functioning as an effective objective correlative for the memory of childhood. But in both galleries there is a familiar man-boy fantasia at work, one that seemed stalled in the very inarticulateness of adolescence. This lent the exhibition the quality of being underwater, with meaning never quite breaking the surface.

That David himself has challenged the necessities of such meaning does not in the end absolve the show’s shortcomings, though it might explain them. For although David has found refuge in the “opacity of experience,” that very “opacity” must be articulated in such a form that his viewers can gain access to it. In the past, the aesthetic pleasure of David’s work coupled with its ready emotional content has provided that access point; here, however, both craft and concept seem less willfully obscure than simply imprecise and not fully realized.

Quinn Latimer is a poet and art critic based in New York and Basel, Switzerland. Her poems have appeared in the Paris Review, Boston Review and Prairie Schooner, among other journals, and her art and literary reviews regularly appear in Modern Painters, where she is an associate editor.

Warhol and the Shared Subject
Fort Worth Contemporary Arts
Closed February 1

By Alison Hearst

Douglas Gordon, Self Portrait of You and Me (Warhols), 2007, Smoke and mirror, 37 ¼ x 37 ½ inches, (Tony Scherman, Lincoln as Himself, 2008 reflected in mirror). Photo David Wharton.

It’s true; we’ve seen a lot of Warhol lately. Trying to count the recent Warhol-centric exhibitions is a bit like counting sheep. The Andy Warhol Foundation’s recent unloading of Warhol’s Polaroids to various universities kicked off a plethora of show-and-tell exhibitions. Most of these shows simply slapped these polaroids of well-known luminaries on the walls, attracting the ever-curious masses by playing into our cultural obsession with Warhol and his celebrity entourage. A reprieve to this cult-of-the-celebrity mania, Warhol and the Shared Subject at Fort Worth Contemporary Arts, curated by Gavin Morrison, takes a fresh, expansive approach to Warhol’s portraits. Presented here are several of Warhol’s Polaroids—mostly of unfamiliar patrons that were recently gifted to TCU—installed democratically to intermingle with portraits in a variety of mediums by contemporary artists Rineke Dijkstra, Douglas Gordon, CS Leigh and Tony Scherman. Here, the days assuming that a portrait can accurately represent a person’s true character are long gone. The works in the show bring into focus the various external influences at play in portraiture, such as the artist, the viewer and popular culture. Although diverse, the contemporary portraits build on Warhol’s approach to portraying his sitters—an approach steeped in ambiguity and artifice. By doing so, the works lay bare the contrivance inherent in portraiture—and our self-presentation more broadly—exposing the cracks in the time-honored genre’s ability to capture an authentic persona.

Stylized and iconic, we can practically recognize Warhol’s portraits with our eyes closed. More often than not, we also associate Warhol’s oeuvre with his superstar cohorts. The same goes for Warhol’s Polaroids, in which the sitters’ glamourized poses and cosmetics make them look like something they are not: celebrities. Untitled (Shaindy Fenton) (1980)—two Polaroids of the Fort Worth art dealer donning a Cleopatraesque wig—demonstrates this masquerade. In these photographs, Warhol captures Fenton as Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra. Clearly posing, Fenton emerges as slightly more than a charlatan, but, perhaps, the same could also be said for the photographs of the famed. We really know little more than the façade.

Rightfully installed next to Warhol’s Untitled (Shaindy Fenton) are two Polaroid self-portraits of the artist Douglas Gordon in drag, Staying Home and Going Out (2005). Directly quoting Warhol’s Self-Portrait (in Drag) series, Gordon adopts Warhol’s charades to mask his true identity; Gordon is himself, Warhol, man and woman, all conflated in one snapshot. Like Untitled (Shaindy Fenton), Gordon’s identity fluctuates based on our recognition of his references.

Hands down the most abstract portrait in the traditional sense, but perhaps the most illustrative of the exhibition’s overriding theme, is CS Leigh’s installation EXHIBITS A – K FROM THE DEBRAY FILES (2008). The piece offers tiny puzzle pieces regarding Andreas Baader’s hiding out in Regis Debray’s Parisian apartment while he awaited sentencing for a crime. An undeveloped historical footnote, as the artist describes it, Baader’s portrait leaves much room for abstraction—even his physical features are unknown. Like many of the other portraits, EXHIBITS A – K is wide open to the projections of the artist and viewer.

While portraiture carries a stick-in-the-mud stigma, the well-rounded works in Warhol and the Shared Subject enliven and challenge the genre by subverting conventional roles: the viewer as spectator, the artist as sole creator and the sitter as subject. The contemporary works successfully extend the artifice in Warhol’s portraits to suggest that self-representation is inauthentic and unstable, and also, in a constant state of revision.

Alison Hearst received her M.A. in Art History from Texas Christian University and is a freelance writer living in Fort Worth.

Imaginary Spaces
Menil Collection, Houston
Through March 1

By Alvaro Ibarra

Vija Celmins, Constellation-Uccello, 1982, printed 1983, Etching and aquatint (4 colors), 27-1/4 x 23-1/8 inches. The Menil Collection, Houston. © Vija Celmins.

Imaginary Spaces, currently at The Menil in Houston, consists of seventeen artworks selected from the museum’s permanent collection by assistant curator Michelle White. White’s curatorial statement reveals to visitors that Imaginary Spaces is a resurrected curatorial premise put forth by The Menil Foundation in 1968. That show was envisioned as a contemporary follow-up to an exhibition on 18th century maverick architects Étienne-Louis Boullée, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux and Jean-Jacques Lequeu. Regrettably, the 1968 show never came to fruition; Imaginary Spaces is an attempt to remedy that fact. White’s selections bring together a number of artists from the western canon alongside more recent masters. Each piece is a representation of subjects/objects that are impossible to create in the real world—images that defy both visual and conceptual traditions in nature and art. Nevertheless, for the most part the chosen artworks work independently of one another due to the superficial thematic pretext that supposedly functions as a curatorial premise.

Two prints from Piranesi’s Carceri d’Invenzione series (1761) and an unattributed architectural model of a double staircase (late 18th-early 19th c.) are the oldest examples of imaginary spaces in the exhibition. Piranesi’s etchings of imaginary prisons were creative exercises that produced architectural pastiches (rather than functional buildings) and were never intended for actual construction. But this does not mean that they could not, hypothetically, be realized. The wooden model of a double staircase is part of their potential outside of the architect’s imagination. These representations are not impossible or belong strictly to the realm of the imaginary as much as they are simply impractical.

Given the subject matter, it is not surprising that the group features Surrealists René Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico. In La courbure de l’universe (1950), Magritte paints an azure skyscape dotted with white clouds upon a common wine bottle. De Chirico’s Interno metafisico con biscotti (1916) conflates still-life and landscape genres into a single compostion. In the foreground, the artist’s naturalistically rendered biscotti evoke the sense of a classic still-life study, while his background features architectural elements often used to reinforce the illusion of space in landscapes. However, both works defy the viewer’s understanding of representation and the art object itself. Specifically, Magritte’s bottle forces us to consider an encapsulated sky, contrary to the common concept of an encapsulating sky. NASA photographs of Earth rendered in a single frame make this effect less striking to today’s audience. By comparison, de Chirico’s subversion of traditions in illusionistic painting still manages to frustrate viewers insistent upon seeing canvases as magic windows.

One particularly compelling juxtaposition is the placement of James Turrell’s six aquatints from his Deep Sky series (1984) beside Vija Celmins’s Constellation-Uccello (1982). Turrell’s prints are ambiguous in that they appear to be representations of celestial bodies and planetscapes, but they could just as easily be seen as exercises in volume and value. If the viewer sees the former, he/she must contend with the abstractions produced by the enormous scope and distance from the object. Such large-scale images look pristine from afar, but they transform into static (or illegible pixels in recent years) up close because the photo inevitably fails to render the infinite amount of information present. Turrell’s own representations of the sublime similarly break down upon close inspection, as smooth transitions from light to darkness transform into rough and inconsistent pockmarks upon the surface of the planet. In addition, one must consider whether Turrell’s sources for these images stem from science or science fiction.

Celmins’s Constellation-Uccello also addresses the data lost in translation—from the real to the perceived to the representation, in this case. The bifurcated print depicts a rectangular section of the night sky on the left and a reproduction of Italian Renaissance artist Paolo Uccello’s wire-frame sketch of a chalice (1450) on the right. According to Vasari, one of Uccello’s greatest contributions to painting was the mastery of perspective. Celmins uses the chalice to illustrate the illusion of the viewer’s belief in the vessel or in the night sky before their eyes. We point at the drawing and say, “that is a chalice and those are stars.” In reality, both are products of the artist’s perception, and no amount of detail or precision can alter their fundamental limitations. She reiterates this sense of lack through the fact that the stars in her print exist in the absence of the ink laid down, whereas real stars are the presence in the void.

Robert Smithson’s Mirror Strata (1969) is an off-centered pyramid of stacked squares of glass. This piece stands apart from the other artworks in the exhibition, literally and conceptually. Placed on a pedestal at waist-height in the middle of the gallery, the piece allows the viewer to experience the sculpture from numerous angles. Like much of Smithson’s body of work, Mirror Strata requires active participation from the viewer rather than passive absorption. Close scrutiny reveals optical illusions, likely missed by a casual visitor content to take its appearance at face value. The pyramid appears to jut out beyond its square footprint from certain perspectives. At other times, it can look squatter, taller, bigger or more centered than it really is. Additionally, the reflective surface multiplies the space Mirror Strata inhabits. These illusions can only be dispelled by a healthy sense of skepticism. Once identified, an equally healthy ability to suspend disbelief rewards the engaged, active viewer with opportunities to peer into, and even visit, the imaginary spaces produced by Smithson’s little pyramid.

The artists in Imaginary Spaces display wildly varied manifestations in their disparate musings on the topic, but the show is not comprehensive enough to make a new or significant statement about the subject. Additionally, the evocative title and heady retro theme merely panders to recent interest in the 1960s. It is not a re-visitation of 1960s art world simply because the idea originated in 1968. It is neither a reconstruction nor a simulacrum, since there was no original exhibition to imitate. It is also not a copy of what may have been, as the inclusion of post-1968 pieces subverts this particular scenario. The exhibition does allow The Menil to showcase the breadth of their collection, but little else.

Alvaro Ibarra is a Ph.D. candidate in Art History at The University of Texas at Austin.

to the editors

Jason Jay Stevens

Katie Geha's review of the ArtPace 08.3 exhibition was refreshing for its direct critique. Well-written and brave. I appreciate her nod to the by-definition potential for failure wherever experimentation is involved (whether in art or anything, btw).

However, neither Budd nor Chunsheng were experimenting with their forms in any way. Budd used his residency to make an über-Budd sculpture, clearly an overt attempt to be spectacular (okay in its own right). So the reviewer's nod seems all the more a concession, and proposal for weak excuses for a show that didn't get over the bar. All three artists were simply exploiting the resources ArtPace offers, and only Simon ventured out of her "box."

Also, the line "It’s difficult to explain where each of these artists failed" comes off as a real cop-out. Isn't it the art reviewer's job to explain the difficult?! Anyway, I think I've nailed it pretty simply... the artists of 08.3 (with the possible exception of Simon) never got beyond the question, "What can I do with all this money and time?"


...mbg recommends

No National Monument & More
This weekend

By Rose Salseda

Carlos Rosales-Silva, Untitled, 2009, Gold helium-filled balloons, Dimensions vary. Courtesy of the artist.

“Identity is a disease”
-Arakawa and Madeline Gins, Reversible Destiny

Upon reflection on this statement, we may begin to realize the restrictions and plurality of identity, and some of us may even find weakness in it. Recently, Austin artist Carlos Rosales-Silva, through a quest to rediscover the vestiges of his cultural heritages, has been exploring the multiplicity of identity. In Bringing Sexi’ Back (see it on youtube, performed at Mexic-Arte this past October), we witness the dilemmas of his discovery; we feel confusion and understand the limitations of identity. Yet, these same dilemmas produce an undeniable humor in Rosales-Silva's work. The artist's self-discovery is an effective tool that simultaneously jests and evokes reflection.

On February 7th at 10pm, Rosales-Silva is back, introducing the influence cultural rediscovery has made in No National Monument at MASS Gallery. Through provocative works on paper and captivating installations, which include gold helium-filled balloons that spell out “VATOS LOCOS 4 EVR,” Rosales-Silva presents a thoughtful interrogation of self-identity and heritage through wit, humor, and optical decadence. Beforehand, don’t miss out on the artist’s 7pm performance this same night at the Creative Research Lab’s closing reception for A Strange Land.

In addition to these Saturday events, check out Domy Books' double opening for Nicole Eriko Smith’s Consent to Play and We Stopped Fighting for This?, a collaborative installation created by Lauren Cardenas, Carling Hale and Alison Kuo. Last, but not least (and with shameless self-promotion), make sure to stop by our very own testsite this Sunday to view the culmination of writer Charles Dee Mitchell's and artist Doug Macwithey's collaboration Selections from the Seals of Philosophers.

Rose Salseda is an intern at Fluent~Collaborative.

announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

No National Monument: New Work by Carlos Rosales-Silva
MASS Gallery
February 7th, 8-10pm

Austin artist Carlos Rosales-Silva creates a visual dialogue of rediscovery and reclamation in an attempt to reconstruct a cultural and historical heritage in MASS Gallery's upcoming show. Rosales-Silva, who recently exhibited artwork at Mexic-Arte Museum's Everything's Going to Be Okay, Young Latino Artists 13, aims to complicate the quest to discover identities in contemporary American society rather than perpetuate inflexible categories.

Nicole Eriko Smith: Consent to Play
Lauren Cardenas, Carling Hale & Alison Kuo: We Stopped Fighting for This?
Domy Books, Austin
February 7, 2009, 7-9pm

Opening down the block from Heyd Fontenot's playful nudes at Art Palace, Nicole Eriko Smith's work offers a different kind of eroticism—one darker and more fantastic. Meanwhile, the collaborative installation by Cardenas, Hale and Kuo looks like it might be quite intimate and graceful.

Austin on View

Matt Stokes: these are the days
Through April 5

If you missed Temporary Services’ exploration of Austin punk at testsite, Matt Stokes’s installation at arthouse probes the legacy of the Austin punk scene from a whole new angle. His dual screen film installation flips performance on its head: he filmed the audience first and then asked the band to create a recording in response. Plus, arthouse is showing an array of ephemera Stokes has collected from insiders. Not to be missed.

Photography in the Abstract
lora reynolds gallery
Through March 7

A very pretty show, Photography in the Abstract is at its best with works by contemporary artists like Walead Beshty and Doug Aitken. Unfortunately, the work by historical heavyweights like László Moholy-Nagy and Andy Warhol doesn't always represent the artists at their best. Forgivable, since museums and collectors have picked over these artists' ouvres. Look forward to a review in the next issue of ...might be good.

Heyd Fontenot: Business in the Front, Party in the Back
Art Palace
Through March 11

NY Arts Magazine quotes artist Heyd Fontenot, "if there is a radical nature to sexuality, it lies not in its ability to titillate, but rather in its inherent powers of spiritual transformation." Be transformed among Fontenot's latest paintings of "naked people" at Art Palace.

Dallas on View

Show #21: Protagonist
And/Or Gallery
Through February 28

This group show examines the use of narrative and character in a variety of mediums, including video, multi-media works, painting and photography. Keep an eye out for former Austinite and twin wunderkind Ray Uhlir.

Houston on View

Barry Stone: Highway 71 Revisited
Lawndale Art Center
Through February 28

The ongoing series includes photographs of Stone’s family, strangers under highways, fake flowers, abstracted galaxies made from flour, field recordings and collage. If you're not familiar with this Austin-based artist, you are seriously missing out. Also be sure not to miss openings of Kathy Kelley's In the Space of Absence, Patrick Renner's found sound (Public Music Reconnaissance) (found telephone poles with attached sound-harvesting devices!) and Aram Nagle's Battle Play Set.

Brad Tucker: Tijuana Brass
Inman Gallery
Through February 21

In Tijuana Brass, Austin based artist Brad Tucker has erected a sprawling suite of new floor and wall sculpture. Scissor gates, foam blocks, and carved wooden objects together compose an installation for the viewer to navigate physically, optically, and conceptually as a playing field of cultural associations.

San Antonio Openings

Cheryl Childress: ...That's All We Know.
Cactus Bra Space
Opening Reception Friday, February 6, 6-9pm

According to the press release, Childress's photographs stage "petty acts of accomplishment" to explore the thin line between "fantasy and delusion." We're not sure exactly what this means, so you'll have to go find out.

announcements: events

Austin Events

Gretchen Phillips' Solo Show: Manlove
The Independent at 501 Studios
February 13th, 8pm
Admission: $10 at the door

Join performance artist Gretchen Phillips during a live taping of Manlove, the exploration of the artist's relationships with straight men through text, images, and song, at 501 Studios on E. 5th and Brush in Austin, TX. For more information on Manlove, please see Claire Ruud's recent review of Phillips' performance at The Vortex in Austin.

Houston Events

Lecture at the Rice Gallery: Sarah Oppenheimer
Rice Gallery
February 11th, 7pm

In this lecture, critic Sarah Oppenheimer of the Yale School of Art at Yale University discusses her project "Dictionary of Holes," a project that reconstructs museum go-ers' vision and perception of physical space. Through the presentation of her examples of such redirection, Oppenheimer shows attendees her methods of altering exhibition space.

Fort Worth Events

Tuesday Evenings at the Modern with Walid Raad
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
February 10, 2009, 7pm
Admission: Free

New York-based artist Walid Raad lectures on the The Loudest Muttering is Over: Documents from The Atlas Group Archive.  This mixed-media presentation includes discussion of The Atlas Group’s archival material--material inspired by obscure historical circumstances and Raad's representations of traumatic events and collective history through fact and fiction.

Free admission tickets can be picked up at the Modern's admission desk beginning at 5 pm on the day of the lecture. Seating begins at 6:30 pm and is limited to the first 250 ticketholders. A live broadcast of the lecture will be shown in Café Modern for any additional guests (regular gallery admission charge applies).

announcements: opportunities

Employment Opportunity

Art in Public Places Coordinator
Cultural Arts - Art in Public Places
Closes February 8, 2009

The coordinator acts as liaison between artists, architects, contractors, developers, city departments and community groups in the selection of artists and commissioning of public art projects. It would be great to see someone do amazing things in this department! Search for Job Requisition: Number 065361 on the City of Austin Website.

Art Conservation Coordinator
Cultural Arts - Art in Public Places
Closes February 8, 2009

The Conservation Coordinator maintains artworks and identifies and oversees conservation and repairs of the public art collection. He/she also maintains  visual archives and publicity materials in the Public Art Collection database. Search for Job Requisition: Number 065369 on the City of Austin website.

Executive Director/Curator
Locust Projects
Closes Friday, February 13, 2009

Director will develop and implement curatorial vision that furthers the mission of Locust Projects, an experimental, nonprofit Miami-based exhibition space. Responsibilities include curating and coordinating all aspects of installing and promoting 6 shows per year. Additional duties may include overseeing guest curators and working in partnership with other curators.

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