MBG Issue #154: Foraging for New Definition

Issue # 154

Foraging for New Definition

October 1, 2010

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Photo: Be Johnny Video Design: http://bejohnny.com, location: Giddings, TX highway 290 & 70.

from the editor

Fall is here, and with it comes a new chapter in the history of …might be good. For weeks now, I’ve been thinking about the best way to introduce myself to you as your new editor. It hasn’t been an easy task.

I take up the mantle from a line of witty, critical, fierce and fearless female predecessors at the editorial helm, to which I am proud to add my name. From Regine Basha, who co-founded Fluent~Collaborative with the ever-inspiring Laurence Miller, to Caitlin Haskell, Risa Puleo, and Claire Ruud, whom I had the pleasure to work with and learn from, I have a daunting legacy to take on. These women and their collaborators and colleagues at Fluent (too numerous to mention here) have helped form a critical community in which I have been an eager participant since my arrival in Texas. I am so grateful for the productive conversations I’ve had so far about this journal and contemporary art, and I look forward to pushing the dialogue further. I am also extremely fortunate to be joined by Emily Ng in the production of this journal, who has been a great interlocutor as I have been preparing this and future issues.

For my first letter from the editor, I wanted to choose an avatar -- one that would express the sensibility of this journal, yet distinguish my personal vision. As a Gemini, I am prone to Twinlike vicissitudes when it comes to staking a definitive claim on my identity; as someone who has been schooled in deconstructionist and feminist post-binary thinking, it becomes all that much harder to offer a distillation of myself. But I chose a masthead image that I think suits me well. In red, my signature color, the horse equally reflects playfulness, strength, and a little bit of wanderlust. It is from a sign on Highway 71, at roughly the midway point between Houston and Austin -- respectively, the cities where I live and where this journal is based. I’ll be burning a lot of rubber on 71 and beyond as I bring this bimonthly publication to you. Instead of thinking of the open road as a hardship or necessity to get me from A to B, though, I think of it as a place that facilitates meditation, speculation and mercurial thinking: characteristics that have and will distinguish this journal.

You’ll notice that the layout of …might be good has not changed much cosmetically as I’ve hit the ground running, but has nonetheless undergone shifts in the editorial vision and in each of its sections. I consider this publication and its online presence as much as a platform as a magazine, a place where artists, critics and curators can have the opportunity to try out experimental formats and share ideas. The consideration of new practices, in Austin and beyond, also forms the through-lines of this week’s issue.

For the interview section, I sat down with Jade Walker at the new Visual Art Center at the University of Texas to discuss the center’s programming, her vision for the future, and thoughts about Austin’s profile as an art town. The result is an exciting conversation, one of many that will take place about the new art constellation in Austin this fall. Look out for Allison Myers’s article on Champion Contemporary in our next issue, and our issue devoted to Arthouse’s reopening in late October.

The reviews and interviews section continue to feature critical commentary on exhibitions and other art events. In this week’s issue, questions of burgeoning maturity, feigned naïveté and critical approaches in are broached both by Dan Boehl, covering Okay Mountain’s new video Water, Water at the Austin Museum of Art, and Wendy Atwell’s coverage of Kelly O’Connor’s installation at Sala Diaz in San Antonio. From Houston, Michael Bise considers how Peat Duggins’s well-crafted work at Art Palace rides the line between Romantic idealism of nature and something more sinister.

For this issue and for future ones, the Artist’s Space will be turned over as a space to develop projects that may be more transitory, serial or even diaristic in approach. To kick off this section, I invited Domy Books’ Russell Etchen to share his musings on his week in Austin. An Austinite via Houston with a beat on what’s happening in everything from comics to music to art, he’s given us a taste of what we missed during our long hiatus.

And finally, …might be good recommends returns with an increasingly important presence in this and future issues. This section will feature contributions about events happening outside of Texas, either by our regular writers or about events that may be of interest for our readers, as a way of informing our community about a larger dialogue. For this issue, I invited Christina Linden from Oakland to write. Her contribution about Mary Walling Blackburn’s Radical Citizenship project at Angel Island in San Francisco critically illuminates an aspect of the artist’s practice that departs from the Anhoek school lesson plans currently on view in Just Because 10.4: Accidental Pornographies at our sister project, testsite. We hope that …might be good can continue to function as a platform where such crossover and conversation can happen.

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


Intersection, Experimentation: Jade Walker of the Visual Arts Center

By Wendy Vogel

Kayem Arbor at the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas. Photo by Ben Aqua.

A week before the opening of the Visual Arts Center at the University of Texas in Austin, I walked through the space with Director Jade Walker. What follows is a short conversation about VAC’s genesis, programming, its pedagogical mission, and role in the local and regional arts community.

…might be good [mbg]: How did you become involved with the Visual Arts Center?

Jade Walker [JW]: I was Director of the Creative Research Laboratory from 2006. When the VAC began actual construction, it was just a natural progression to move from directing the only other gallery we had on campus for the Department of Art and Art History into this space.

mbg: Do you see your role as director of the Visual Arts Center as being informed by your own artistic practice? And if so, how?

JW: Actually I try to keep those things a little bit separate. What has been most helpful in finding a direction is spending the last year or so speaking one-on-one with faculty, and teaching for the last four years. I found a mentor in John Yancey, Chair of the Department of Art and Art History, who is my direct supervisor. Ken Hale, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Fine Arts, and the Dean of the College of Fine Arts himself, Doug Dempster, have also provided a lot of feedback on what they thought this space was going to be. In addition to individual meetings with faculty, I had a lot of interaction with current students and alumni. Plus, having been a graduate student at UT, I knew what we needed -- or what I would have liked personally -- as an artist working here.

mbg: Can you explain the programming in each of the different galleries at the VAC?

JW: The initial split with the galleries came from the extensive amount of space we had, and the fact that even more space was added as the project was unfolding. In the end, the chair and I spent a lot of time walking through the gallery deciding how can we really give the space as much voice for the department as possible.

The Vaulted Gallery is really about bringing in an outside artist to do a full, large-scale, site-specific project that students can see and engage in from start to finish. For example, two days after Ry Rocklen arrived, we gave tours to over 250 undergraduate foundation students (Studio Art majors) to introduce him and talk about the project. By the end, all the students knew what he was doing. About 175 students agreed to do volunteer work with him, and eventually that progressed into a core group of around twelve to fifteen students working with him almost every day for the whole four-and-a-half weeks he’s been working.

The idea behind the Arcade space came from the understanding that many artists are really branching out in terms of what mediums they are working in. We have seen that happen exponentially with our grads over the last five to ten years. The idea of a space that really lends itself well to performance-based work to video-based work was really important. It also is a space that our Director of Public Programs, Xochi Solis, can use as a little bit of a “living room” to launch her programs. Physically, the space also “reaches out” through screens that project onto the street.

And then we are giving some ownership to the students with the Center Space Project, which is a volunteer student organization. We wanted the students to not only feel like they could show their work here, but that they could understand how to put a show together: to document a show, to do publicity on a show, to actually install their work themselves. A member of the Center Space Project, TJ Hunt, has been working with me for a year as an intern. So the Center Space Project is really imbedded in our staff for the Visual Arts Center; as we’re making decisions about programming, the student voice is being translated through her to the whole staff. We are constantly thinking about how Center Space works with our overall mission. There is an events group talking about a fundraiser in the spring. They’re in charge of their own openings. There is also a curatorial group and a publication group working with Noah Simblist, our Curatorial Fellow. Currently, these students are working on an online publication in the Research + Response section of our website, which offers a general page for curatorial text and critical writing and collateral for exhibitions. Eventually, the home for that project will be located under the ‘Student’ section of the site.

The East Gallery is a space for the faculty to have their own feedback and to think about their own ideas curatorially. There are lots of proposals for that space. And the Mezzanine is a group exhibition space that is very flexible.

mbg: Walking through the space, I am struck by the architectural fluidity between spaces—the Arcade, the Vaulted Gallery, the vistas from the mezzanine, the space that’s visible from the outside--as well as the fluidity between different types of satellite programming. Did you develop your ideas with a dialogical kind of model in mind?

JW: When we started speaking with the artists that we were going to work with, we realized the programs were going to cross over a little differently than we had originally thought. For instance, Lucky Dragons proposed a series of events here. We realized that wouldn’t be the last time such a crossover would happen, so we started to think about facilitating programs that really have a dialogue with different parts of this crazy “city” that we call the university. So then we thought: why not bring someone in from geology to talk about the glacier show upstairs? Why not have that kind of dialogue? We also thought about Landmarks, the organization that sites public art on campus. How might they speak with colleagues in other parts of the campus, for instance, someone in the business school, and create a dialogue with the work? So I want to say that mostly these ideas of how to branch out and think about the programs are really our attempt to keep up with the imaginations of the artists that we’ve been working with and that the department does in general.

mbg: How does the VAC fulfill a larger pedagogical mission? What other models did you think about in terms of university-based temporary exhibition spaces?

JW: When we did the strategic planning a couple of years ago, one of the first places we researched was the Rubin Center at the University of Texas at El Paso; that space is actually about the same size as the VAC. We also spent a lot of time looking at the Miller Gallery at Carnegie Mellon University, and how that plays into their academic dynamic. We asked ourselves how we see a space like this living within a department, and how does it function within our campus and our city? Unlike the Rubin center in El Paso, for instance, we are not the only structure for contemporary art in town, and that’s a blessing. On top of that, there’s the blessing of having a collecting institution like the Blanton Museum right here on campus. Also having the Landmarks organization sponsoring public art works all over campus, which has their own budget and is part of the college but not connected with us directly, means that there’s a lot of ideas for collaboration, but there’s a dynamic and responsibility that we don’t have to carry completely.

We then thought about how best to engage our students. How do we facilitate what they’re doing, what they’re interested in and what will serve them best as they leave here? Okay Mountain is a perfect example. Walking out of a department like ours, they didn’t have any curatorial experience; they didn’t even have a space to test out those ideas. So now, the next Okay Mountain group—the next girl group of Okay Mountain—when they emerge from our department, they’ll have had an opportunity to curate a show. That’s really important experience for artists today; in this climate, they go out in the world and pursue careers in all different areas of the arts. We really value providing hands-on experience, but we also want to be a contemporary arts space that shows the artists that the students are interested in. The residency comes into play too, which allows students to have prolonged experience working with the artist, as opposed to hearing an artist speak in a big classroom lecture and then dipping out of town.

mbg: What role do you see the VAC fulfilling in the Austin community?

JW: I hope that we are a place for experimentation. That’s what we keep going back to: intersection, experimentation. We have such an amazing ability to reach out to the whole college and we have such great resources that we can bring in artists that another institution may not be able to invite. So our hope is that we can not only bring in a niche of artists that need a range of equipment that other spaces might not be able to provide, but that we can also help develop projects that may not be able to happen in other spaces.

We also aim to be a flexible space in terms of hosting projects in Austin that wouldn’t have another home. Hopefully we can help facilitate that. For instance, if the Texas Biennial wanted to work on a project that may be performance-based…maybe we can help find a space for that. So that’s one idea in the narrow sense.

mbg: What about audience? Do you see this institution having a public profile that may be different than some other institutions or spaces within Austin?

JW: We already have a home-base in the students themselves, in the university community, but it is our hope that the VAC may also function as a springboard for students to launch themselves into other parts of the arts community, not only in Austin but regionally as well. If students understand what contemporary art looks like and are interested in pursuing that, there are five or six different institutions in the city that they can begin to visit and work for. Our students naturally do that anyway, but wouldn’t it be great to give them a work-study opportunity in their first year at UT that leads to a junior year internship at Arthouse or that leads to doing work at AMOA?

The audience is wide, I think we just have to see—we’re just putting it all out there and seeing how it all works this first year. I’m structured enough to say how this is all going to work in terms of the Austin community and regional community but until we actually put it out there and see how it works, we don’t know.

mbg: Great, we’re looking forward to finding out!

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


Okay Mountain Collective
Austin Museum of Art, Austin
Through November 14, 2010

By Dan Boehl

Okay Mountain Collective, (installation view) Water, Water Everywhere So Let's All Have a Drink, 2010. Courtesy of the artists.

Seventeen minutes into the Okay Mountain Collective’s (OKMT) new work at AMOA, Water, Water Everywhere So Let's All Have a Drink (2010), a woman appears. So far the interlaced segments of the 28-minute looped video have been filled with images one would find while channel surfing late on a six-pack-filled Saturday night. There are pain pill ads where men’s backs blow out while performing handyman tasks; there’s a circlejerk of a poker competition; there is an ambiguous black and purple ad for “Horny Storm,” and nonsense cartoons. These are followed by the opening credits to the world’s saddest sitcom, Alone in Life, in which a man drives, eats CiCi’s pizza, watches TV, and sleeps alone, all while the Perfect Strangers theme plays. In a very subtle and funny way Water, Water presents the litany of fears that plague adult men of a certain age. Like all of OKMT’s work, the video is distinctly masculine, funny, self-aware, and insular. It is also their best work to date.

Which brings me back to that woman at minute seventeen: Nadine Volicer, identified by floating text as “Former Intern.” Sitting in a dark, fern-filled living room, Volicer bemoans, “I didn’t know what my position entailed. I didn’t know what my job title was, even. I mean, they were totally disorganized. I would basically sit around all day waiting to be told what to do because they were so horrible at delegating. But the worst part of it was” -- here the channel jumps three times before returning to Volicer -- “it was a total boys’ club. They would sit around all day making raunchy small talk right in front of their clients, right in front of me. And they knew it made me uncomfortable.”

The scene shifts to a man, a graphic designer of some sort, shrinking windows on his computer until he reveals a swimsuited woman with large breasts on his desktop. Volicer continues, “It was like every time I walked into that office I barged in on some disgusting little ritual.” The designer turns to the camera with a satisfied smile on his face. A disembodied arm cuts into the frame, its fist stamping “PIG” on the designer’s head like a Cheshire cat’s grin.

Water, Water represents the burgeoning maturity of the Okay Mountain Collective. Volicer’s statement acknowledges the usual criticisms leveled at the collective: boys’ club, fart jokes. So far, OKMT has capitalized on their raunchy humor by creating inviting and fun shows, even if they are steeped in juvenile masculinity. Corner Store went over so well at Pulse Art Fair in Miami last year because, in the end, everybody likes a fart joke.

OKMT are most successful creating immersive installations and narrative content. Corner Store (2009), Benefit Plate (2010), and Big Strange Mystery (2010) represent the immersive mode, where the work subsumes viewers, rendering them dumbfounded and delighted. Though the works seem simple, their complexity relies on the viewer’s previous experiences with everyday situations (convenience store, BBQ, history museum). Viewers’ expectations are challenged through active participation with the installation. On the other hand, the murals created for Austin Ventures in 2008 and Vanderbilt University in 2010, showcase the collective’s narrative mode, which is equally fun, but broaches broader, allegorical subject matter: Capitalism and War, respectively.

Water, Water is an immersive video that mimics the viewer’s past experiences with late night cable. Much like the absurd Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Cartoon Network, it weaves a narrative by cutting different genres of programs together (commercials, talk shows, game shows) in a way that shows only the most poignant parts. For example, a weatherman talking about his failed marriage, a trucker confessing to the loneliness of the road, or a criminal breaking down on camera. The vignettes construct a narrative of vulnerability while maintaining OKMT’s sense of humor, blending the most compelling aspects of OKMT’s work. Appropriating the form of low-brow media as a way of examining and poking fun of masculine archetypes, OKMT allows itself the freedom to talk about real-life fears of real-life American men.

Dan Boehl is a workshop fellow in the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program. His chapbook Les MISERES ET LES MAL-HEURS DE LA GUERRE is now available from Greying Ghost.

Kelly O'Connor
Sala Diaz, San Antonio
Through October 3, 2010

By Wendy Atwell

Kelly O'Connor, 2010, (exhibition detail), Worn by the Sun. Courtesy of the artist.

Among gilded wasp nests and perverse little combines made from recycled plastic bottles and toy heads lurks the menacing threat of a spindle’s prick. These haunting amalgamations in Kelly O’Connor’s Worn by the Sun depart from familiar contemporary appropriations of pop culture. O’Connor replaces irony with uncanny intimacy, yanking familiar childhood narratives from the global dumpster and altering them so that they may be recast into a mortal world. Through juxtapositions of magic and doom, these common and banal images are reconnected to the personal, secretive realm of childhood fantasy.

This whorl of altered states and perspectives begins at the front door. Rays of orange, red, pink, gray and white paint mask the glass windows of Sala Diaz’s entry, convening towards a vanishing point on the front door, the first hint of enchantment. O’Connor similarly alters the remaining windows in the space, covering them with images or colored glazes, so that the show becomes insular and closed off from external views like a fantastical, creepy chapel. O’Connor brings the colored rays into three dimensions, using colored string that expand and widen into circles, fabricated shafts of light that recall how Renaissance painters captured the wonder of spiritual awakenings, such as in Rembrandt’s The Visitation, 1640.

As with the angels, Virgin Mary, and Jesus, the characters O’Connor represents are either depicted flying or morphing through some kind of magically induced physical change, or optimistically righting the wrongs of the world. But O’Connor replaces the traditional cast of biblical characters with ones from the canon of television and cinema: Alice in Wonderland, Mary Poppins, The NeverEnding Story, and Poltergeist.

In the first room, the viewer encounters a wall-sized drawing made with drippy Krink ink on vellum of Alice in Wonderland. Faithfully scanned and traced from John Tenniel’s original 1865 illustration, the scene depicts Alice after she has eaten a cake that causes her to grow from very tiny to very huge. Lying on her side, Alice has almost outgrown the house and her head is bent down, crammed against the ceiling.

Gold paint covers the other walls and ceiling, like a luxurious splurge. Any remaining empty space in the room—which is otherwise empty, save string stretched from Alice’s hand to the ceiling —dissolves into Alice’s claustrophobic panic.

In the back room, colorful painted rays lead to a peephole. The view inside reveals a miniscule diorama depicting unforgettably terrifying scene from Poltergeist when the little girl, Carol Anne, gets sucked into the maleficent spirit world through the television static. The voice of Gene Wilder, singing “Pure Imagination,” from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, pervades the entire installation, and adds to the tentative, anticipatory feeling, like a sudden darkening of the sky. “Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination,” dares Wonka..

O’Connor dares her viewers to embark on a similar journey through the tunnels imagination and memory. Her art feels playful and adventurous in comparison with other contemporary appropriations of pop culture. For example, Jeff Koons’ gold-painted porcelain statue of Michael Jackson and chromed Mylar balloons are sanitized upgrades, far removed from their original context. Yet, unlike Koons, O’Connor does not ruthlessly eviscerate pop narratives’ meanings so much as create a new context in which viewers can again experience the “spell” that these narratives, so commonplace as to be taken for granted, cast over our lives. O’Connor renders visible the hidden power of these myths and the charge they place on childhood hopes and fantasies. The huge Alice and the tiny Carole Ann demonstrate that size is not relevant when emotions perform their catalytic spark on the imagination.

Wendy Atwell received her M.A. in Art History and Criticism from The University of Texas at San Antonio.

Peat Duggins
Art Palace, Houston
Through October 23, 2010

By Michael Bise

Peat Duggins, (exhibition detail), St. Boniface's Last Days, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.

There’s a lot to like about Peat Duggins’s new exhibition, St. Boniface’s Last Days, at Art Palace. For this show, Duggins executes a series of sculptural busts and armorial shields, an edition of artist’s books and three-color lithographs, a video, and a drawing with a real sense of mastery. Balancing the complicated and time-consuming processes of fiberglass sculpture, wood-veneer marquetry, plate lithography, and computer animation, Duggins marshals a series of diverse techniques into a coherent aesthetic whole that rarely draws attention to its diverse materials.

Unfortunately the video in the back room does much to lessen the allure of the seductive objects in the front space, offering a key for unlocking the meaning of objects within a prescribed narrative that I would have been happier fantasizing about with my own network of convoluted associations. In the video, a life-size, wearable robe made of felt leaves, topped with a crown of branches, is worn by a single figure that wanders through a semi-urban landscape. Finally entering an animated forest, it is joined by several digitally created doppelgangers. As the figures come together, one climbs onto a large stump and is crowned by the others. It holds open its robe, a flock of animated birds fly into its breast, and it wanders stoically away. The video seems to criticize the kind of linear, historical progress initiated by Christianity and culminating in the Age of Enlightenment, while the exhibition’s title references the medieval German patron saint, St. Boniface. According to legend, St. Boniface chopped down a tree called Donar’s Oak, which was believed to be sacred by Germanic tribesman, and built a Christian church from the lumber. Taken together, a kind of fuzzy-headed, new-age narrative of an idealized pagan view of nature becomes hard to avoid.

Reemerging into the front gallery, the robe of felt leaves worn by the characters in the video becomes less a sculpture than a prop. The felt leaves, which cover the faces of finely executed fiberglass busts, and previously resembled a primordial ooze, cannot help now but to recall the gentle, lilting motion of wind-fallen leaves and their benign accumulation seen in the video. In light of the video, and as a consequence of the delicate, accomplished marquetry craftsmanship, the framed sculptural wall plaques like Altarpiece (Snake), and Altarpiece (Birds), which depict violent natural scenes like a snake eating a frog whose tongue simultaneously darts out and captures a butterfly, seem to comment not on the inherent violence and horror of nature. Rather, they suggest a more wistful view of nature in which the cycle of life, the circular role of consumer and consumed, is held up as a kind of pagan ideal with which modern human society has lost touch. One cannot help but to imagine a Wall Street trader gulping down a hapless middle-income manager’s 401k while she swats at a migrant worker on her way down his gullet. Looked at from this point of view, a nostalgic longing for Darwinism seems about as ideal as unfettered capitalism.

My oscillation between admiration and skepticism for Duggins’s exhibition is really an old story – it is the admiration for and skepticism of the Romantic impulse in a world of hard, malevolent realities in which the human being is forever doomed, through her acute self-consciousness, to be just outside the circle of life she is so fond of admiring from afar. Like the filmmaker Werner Herzog who, in the documentary Burden of Dreams, refers to the Amazonian jungle as a harsh, stupid place deserving of respect but not admiration, and the pop philosopher Slavoj Zizek who rails against the idealization of nature as a benevolent mother figure, I hold a rather gloomier view of nature than the one I walk away with after seeing Duggins’s exhibition.

Fortunately for the viewer, Duggins’s work finds itself able, through its skillful execution and material cohesion, to open philosophical debate without being consumed by criticism.

More successful for me is a simple watercolor drawing of a mass of twisting red and black snakes, in the gallery’s entrance. Untitled (Snakes) accomplishes Duggins’s impulse to represent a natural world simultaneously full of wonder and vacuous horror. The image carries none of the gentler implications of the rest of the works in the show. Painted in a rusty, dry blood red that both satisfies and frustrates the viewers desire for bright color, there seems to be little hope of unraveling the reptilian knot. It’s easy to wonder what poor creature has been taken by surprise and finds itself being consumed beneath the roiling mass of scales, and poisonous, forked tongues under the gaze of dead, black eyes that offer neither sympathy nor judgment.

Michael Bise is an artist living and working in Houston.

project space

Russell Etchen

By Russell Etchen

September 11
The Parlor
, 11pm
1. Black Gum, live at The Parlor on Saturday, September 11, 2010
Two pieces. Travis and Rachel. Looking for the low end, but managing until then. Look at that drum tongue. You gotta work out the live show under the radar before you properly debut. This duo has three performances down and more on the way. The sound is raw and awkward. Grunge surf sludge, man. Take it easy.

Central Austin, 6th street, 250am
2. Chalk mural on 6th street. Check these guys out. I don't get it. Is Osama supposed to be the cowardly lion? This is epic. Everyone around me is losing their minds, drunk on jello shots and light beer and this girl manages to render these evildoers in chalk. She's good, too! Do you think she practiced a lot first? Over and over in her apartment until she had it down? "Seriously, guys. I just need to practice for a couple of more weeks and I'm taking this down to 6th street to really make a statement"

September 12
South Austin, 3pm
3. Check out this guy. A real pirate on South Congress. You think this dude went to school to be a pirate? No. He is a pirate, though. Don't give me that pirate school talk. Don't expect me to keep up with your plank references and your allusions to Moby Dick. I've never picked that book up. I'm just standing on the corner, being a pirate and I'm looking for my car. I rented these two new horror movies. I'd like to go home and watch them.

September 13
Home, 2am
4. 1977 low budget horror movie, The Car. Someone on the internet compared it to Jaws for the landlocked small town community. Instead of a shark, it's a lean and mean black sedan terrorizing a town for… no real reason. The devil is driving the car? Regardless, the scene that I really enjoyed is right here. The car creeps up to a cliff where a rival vehicle has just plummeted to its destruction. Why are the flames lapping the edge of the cliff? I'm not sure, but the inaccuracy of the image is great. Cut to the next scene where the car appears to be gloating. Anton LaVey supposedly has a technical advisor credit on this film.

September 15
Running around with Hugo, 1155pm
5. Snoop Dogg at the best convenience store in Austin. Cater-cornered from the Daily Juice near North Loop, this place is amazing.

September 16
Women and Their Work, 8pm
6-10. Red Dot Fundraiser at Women and Their Work. They asked for a drawing. It's always nice to have a deadline. Match made in heaven, right? Good folks running a cool space. Most of the work on display was bland, tolerable. Pretty and plain work to pepper your home with while feeling good about supporting a good Austin art space. Good vibes, for sure. Friends and food and fun. And spelling errors.

September 17
Your Mom's, 515pm
11. Picking up burgers from Your Mom's. Great new spot on East Cesar, next to Las Cazuelas. Pricey, but worth it for that special someone or long days of work. Walking in, the Jeep owner says, "I copyrighted that bumper sticker, you know." Alright dude. Chill out.

Rio Ritas, 8pm
Meetup with Danish artist Ruth Van Beek. Ruth was in town from Amsterdam for a solo show at Okay Mountain. The show is quiet, sparse with beautiful planes of color along with careful arrangements of found and subtly manipulated images. Lots of stones and crystals. Deena said that it reminds her of a tumblr blog. Which is a good thing. To me.

12. This supports my thesis that it's always Shark Week somewhere.
"Hi! My name is Lisa DiRocco AKA "Sweet Fang." I love to draw only things with fangs. I specialize in dog & kitty portraits. However, I am obsessed with sharks and decided to do an all shark show!!!! Welcome to SHARK MONTH at Rio Rita. Don't forget to drink a bloody mary!"

13-14. "I first wanted to do shark attacks and a lotto stuff with dark humor. However, the more I researched sharks I discovered things that made me love them even more! Vending machines kill more humans a year than sharks do!!! I decided to paint them in a fun positive light. If you get a chance you should watch "Sharkwater" This amazing documentary. I have watched every shark movie I could find… even the "Batman" one with the shark repellent. I also re-watched Fonzie jump the shark. 2010 is also the 35th year anniversary of the movie Jaws! Ba-dum … Ba-dum …"

September 18
William Gaynor, To Climb A Mountain On Top Of A Tree
Domy Books opening reception for William Gaynor
15-16. I run an art bookstore called Domy. The store is 3/4 retail and 1/4 gallery. This is my sole employee Travis, from the aforementioned Black Gum, and Will.

17-18. Mrs Johnson's Bakery is the best donut shop in Austin. Perhaps it is just the closest donut shop. Or perhaps it's all the free donuts you get with purchase. Its proximity to I Luv Video is also a clincher. One glaze, one sour cream and one bavarian cream filled, please. I hope you took a good look at their website. It might be the best one on the internet.

19. My life partner, Sukie. She listens to 8+ hours of KUT a day.

20. Petco. The quiet part of this week. Grocery shopping and Hamster Watch. I'm done.

Russell Etchen is an artist, designer and bookseller living in Austin, TX.
Currently he manages the Houston & Austin based Domy Books and is a member of the Houston-based art gang, Sketch Klubb (http://www.sketchklubb.com)

...mbg recommends

Mary Walling Blackburn
Southern Exposure
September 16-17, 2010

By Christina Linden

Mary Walling Blackburn, Radical Citizenship: The Tutorials, 2010, (Performance still), Hong-An Truong and Huong Ngo performing AND, AND, AND - Stammering, An Interview. Courtesy of the artist.

Governor’s Island, off the coast of New York City’s southern tip, has played host to a variety of contemporary art events since 2005. The many conversations and meetings that constituted Mary Walling Blackburn’s free school project Radical Citizenship: The Tutorials took place there throughout this past summer. San Francisco’s Angel Island generally serves today as a popular campsite weekend getaway rather than art-project host. Like Governor’s Island it has a long military past, but its history also encompasses a much broader range of functions: hunting grounds for the Native American Miwok tribe, a stopover for the Spanish navy, a cattle ranch, a Nike missile site. It was also set up as a United States Immigration Station detention center constructed after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to limit the number of Asian immigrants attempting to set up new homes and establish themselves as citizens of the United States of America. If Mary Walling Blackburn chose Angel Island as the two-day West Coast outpost for her Tutorials project, then, it was clearly not just out of a desire for geographical symmetry.

The overnight camping trip with a small group of participants that constituted this outpost was scheduled to coincide with a naturalization ceremony (a ceremony generally framed as a positive process that might facilitate new opportunity and privilege) for new U.S. citizens conducted at 11am on Friday, September 17th at the former Immigration Station (a place otherwise utilized today as a memorial site; a reminder of racist misdeeds and atrocities of our nation’s past). I imagine INS’ act of conducting the ceremony there a deliberate move meant to reinscribe meaning to this charged site and serve via juxtaposition as a marker of progress and distance from that past. Within the scope of MWB’s project, complications of these assumed notions of privilege and fresh starts were reflected most poignantly, for me, in a tutorial conducted by Huong Ngo and Hong-An Troung, in which the tutors asked participants to take an oral interview modeled on the one given to individuals applying for U.S. citizenship. Sitting there, fully aware that no legal status was truly at stake for me, I answered as honestly as I felt able, although the staged formality of the situation made me squirm a little and reminded me of the degree to which any interview like this is a kind of performance. I was denied citizenship in the end on the basis of my frequent relocations in recent years. “Too shifty,” they told me. The exercise made me acutely conscious of the pressure anyone in a circumstance of real need would feel to second-guess answers in hopes of producing a positive outcome. I don’t think I’d know the “right” answers in all circumstances, anyway, but the opportunity to answer truthfully under conditions of economic or political duress were thrown into sharp relief for the luxury they really represent when it comes to these kinds of legal processes.

If the interview itself (and not the conversation that followed) was prefaced by a request that the interviewee not voice any questions beyond those necessary for the purpose of clarification, it actually represented something of the antithesis of the tutorial model suggested by Mary Walling Blackburn as the backbone of the event’s structure. Based, the artist explained to me over breakfast, on her experience with the value of non-hierarchical teaching structures she tried out in presenting labor politics to union workers in New York, the tutorial should embody a process of coming to mutual understanding, should “deconstruct the terms of what it means to be a citizen, upset its definition as based on a principle of exclusion, and redefine it as practice rather than status.” Some of the more lyrical approaches to the topic felt less generative to me. Though I only had a couple of conversations that fit the artist’s description of tutorial within the formally organized confines of the event, there were a lot of valuable interactions initiated around its edges. Breakfast conversations about the meaning of the tutorial format, for instance, led to lunch conversations with the artist about how we support ourselves and each other if we choose to work outside of institutions. And prolonged discussions about social practice and relational aesthetics with artists Amanda Eicher and Jen Smith that took place before the actual camping trip while I helped gather nettles and watercress in preparation for their dinner-tutorial on the island had the time and space to breathe, rest, and resume at a later point in time; a rhythm not facilitated by the planned interactions of the tutorials. Within the framework of a kind of art practice where the nuances of invitation, exclusion, timing, and welcome have everything to do with the actualities of participation, interaction, and contribution, the structure of Radical Citizenship on Angel Island left a lot to be determined by campers willing to hike the extra mile, seek out necessary information, introduce themselves to one another, and strike up conversation while chopping vegetables or washing dishes. If we look at the non-hierarchical as epitomized by bottom-up effort and individually motivated and organized knowledge production, then the trip was a good adventure in foraging for new definitions and new practices.

Christina Linden is a curator and writer based in Oakland, California.

Announcements: news

Austin News

15 Artists Selected for New Art in Austin: 15 to Watch

The Austin Museum of Art is excited to announce the works of fifteen artists chosen for the much anticipated upcoming exhibition New Art in Austin: 15 to Watch. The exhibition will be on view at the Austin Museum of Art—Downtown from February 26 through May 22, 2011. New Art in Austin celebrates the innovations and explorations of visual artists who are at the forefront of the field. This triennial exhibition, the fourth in the series initiated in 2002, focuses on emerging and lesser-known artists who reside within a fifty-mile radius of the capitol. The exhibition, accompanied by a scholarly catalogue, brings cutting-edge work from our community to a broad audience.

Selected Artists:
Miguel Aragon (printmaking)
Anna Krachey (photography)
Jesus Benavente/Jennifer Remenchik (performance)
Robert Melton (video)
Ben Brandt (sculpture)
Leslie Mutchler (mixed media)
Debra Broz (sculpture)
Ben Ruggiero (photography)
Elizabeth Chiles (photography)
Adam Schreiber (photography)
Santiago Forero (photography)
Barry Stone (photography)
Nathan Green (installation)
J. Parker Valentine (mixed media)
Ian Ingram (drawing)

Announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

Anthony W. Garza
Opening Reception: Friday, October 8, 7-11pm

MASS Gallery Presents: An Installation of Drawings by Anthony W. Garza.

Austin on View

Ry Rocklen
Visual Arts Center
Through December 18

Ry Rocklen’s installation of sculptures seeks to venerate the everyday materials and objects of the urban landscape, transporting an investigation of discarded domestic detritus into a constructed space of exaltation within the Vaulted Gallery. The marriage of traditional arts materials, such as highly polished tile and a patchwork floor quilt constructed from locally discarded pieces of used carpet, display his innate interest in geometry and the domestic space. The grouping of sculptures reflects Rocklen’s artistic processing of found components of the city, incorporating elements of Thai Buddhism and mystic rituals to explore our contemporary connection to commonplace objects.

Interrupted Landscapes
Champion Contemporary
Through October 16

Champion's debut exhibition Interrupted Landscapes looks at depictions of wilderness versus man-made structures and explores tensions of perspective put forth through new paintings, drawings, photographs, and installation by twenty two local and international artists.

Conrad Bakker
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Through November 6

The carved and painted sculptures generated for this exhibition are meditations on work and leisure-each piece engaging both real and imagined economies. A large, one to one scaled portable roadside sign, like those advertising a sale, instructs the viewer to "RELAX AND TAKE YOUR TIME," nodding to textual strategies of artists like Bruce Nauman and John Baldessari. In the gallery, Bakker juxtaposes the flat shapes of this sign with an intricately carved and painted tomato plant-demonstrating a more delicate application of his sculptural practice. These sculptures are at once contemplative objects and hand made commodities that attempt to reveal how the production of things and the spending of time can engage the critical complications of advanced capitalism.

Morgan Jones
SOFA Gallery
Through October 22, 2010

In Morgan Jones' series of digital video and animated vignettes, Breaking Plains explores the fundamentals of image making and image reading—representation, perspective, and the corporeality of digital rendering. The revelation of the picture occurs through manipulation or, very often, the digital destruction of the picture. The morph and the drag. In this way, Jones uses the media to disclose the media—compression hacking, layering of pictures, and the inversion of landscapes. A meditation of pixelation.

Ruth van Beek
Okay Mountain
Through October 16, 2010

Okay Mountain is quite pleased to present, No American Talent 5: “The Great Blue Mountain Range”, a solo exhibition by Ruth van Beek, based in the Netherlands. Van Beek works in a variety of mediums including photography, collage, animation and sculpture. “The Great Blue Mountain Range” is symbolic of the artist’s longing to travel to other places, and her ability to do so using found imagery and imagination as the vehicle. Using collaged stock photography, guidebooks and internet imagery, van Beek constructs for us both the voyage and the findings, and an exhibition which feels at once contemporary and timeless. “The Great Blue Mountain Range” is the artist’s first solo show in the United States.

San Antonio on View

Matthew Ronay
Through January 2, 2011

Matthew Ronay's art occupies a space where illustration, tableau, sculpture, and installation all intersect in harmonious indifference to one another. Since 2004, his arrangements of discreet, colorful, mutated objects have evoked wild manifestations of surrealist imagination and hallucinogenic visions, with distended narratives designed to provoke or even outrage viewers through their irreconcilable compositions and outrageous imagery, such as drooping anuses skewered on a pole. Indeed, like Dada and Surrealist artists earlier in the 20th century and American Funk musicians of the 1970s, whose work employed metanarrative, metaphor, provocation, and fantasy as devices for addressing human behavior in times of social upheaval, Ronay's work has been a manifesto of the spirit, screaming back at us with pieces that suggest that fear, pain, and violence have replaced pleasure in a society increasingly indifferent to war and terrorism.

Houston on View

Emily Joyce
Inman Gallery
Through October 23, 2010

Screenprint work by Emily Joyce.

The Collector’s Eye: Peers
FotoFest Headquarters | 1113 Vine Street, Houston, Texas
Through October 10, 2010

The Collector’s Eye: Peers, a new exhibit created from the photographic collection of Fernando Castro, features conceptual and surrealist work from 39 artists from Latin America, Europe and the United States.

Kirsten Pieroth
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Through January 2, 2011

Perspectives 172 includes work by Berlin-based artist Kirsten Pieroth. The exhibition includes sculptures and and site-specific installations.

San Antonio Closings

Kelly O'Connor
Sala Diaz
Through October 3

Kelly will continue her exploration of American pop culture with this new work which promises to be her most ambitious project yet. Just ask Alice.

Announcements: events

Austin Events

Arthouse ReOpening
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Admission: free

Arthouse opens its doors to the public for a fun-filled day featuring innovative inaugural exhibitions, live music, art workshops, and more.

Houston Events

Guided Bus Tour of Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Billboards
Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston
Sunday, October 3, 2-4 pm
Admission: $25/members, $75/non-members

Artpace San Antonio, Blaffer Art Museum, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston team up for a bus tour of Artpace's Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Billboards, the first-ever comprehensive survey of the artist's billboard works in the United States. Led by all three institutional directors -- Bill Arning (CAMH), Matthew Drutt (Artpace), and Claudia Schmuckli (Blaffer) -- the guided tour will take you to several of the billboards' locations throughout the Houston metro area. The bus will meet at Blaffer in the University of Houston's Lot 16B, directly across from the Fine Arts Building. Parking is free. Don't miss this exclusive, insider's look at one of the most influential artists of his generation. To learn more about Gonzalez-Torres and the billboards exhibition, click here.

Fort Worth Events

Tuesday Evenings at the Modern Lecture Series
Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth
Tuesday, October 12, 7pm
Admission: free

Lawrence Weiner is one of the foremost figures in Conceptual art, as made clear with the Whitney Museum of American Art's 2007 retrospective of his work, AS FAR AS THE EYE CAN SEE. For Tuesday Evenings, Weiner presents the work and ideas that have inspired and informed generations of artists and viewers since his 1968 Declaration of Intent: "(1) The artist may construct the piece. (2) The piece may be fabricated. (3) The piece may not be built. [Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist, the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.]" Weiner's Tuesday Evenings presentation, ONE LUMP TWO LUMPS THREE LUMPS FOUR . . . (after the popular piece in the Museum's collection) is a tremendous opportunity to learn more about the work of the artist, described in his biography as one who PARTICIPATES IN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PROJECTS AND EXHIBITIONS IN BOTH THE NEW AND OLD WORLD MAINTAINING THAT: ART IS THE EMPIRICAL FACT OF THE RELATIONSHIPS OF OBJECTS TO OBJECTS IN RELATION TO HUMAN BEINGS AND NOT DEPENDENT UPON HISTORICAL PRECEDENT FOR EITHER USE OR LEGITIMACY.

Announcements: opportunities

Grant Opportunities

The Idea Fund
Deadline: October 15

DiverseWorks, along with Aurora Picture Show, Project Row Houses, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, is proud to announce the return of The Idea Fund for 2010-2011. This innovative re-granting program provides cash awards to 10 Texas-based, artist-generated or artist-centered projects that exemplify the unconventional, interventionist, conceptual, entrepreneurial, participatory, or guerrilla artistic practices that occur outside of the traditional frameworks of support.

Internship Opportunity

Art Lies Internship 2010-2011
Art Lies

The hours of the intern positions (8 to 10 hours per week) are flexible within our regular business hours and event hours. The internships are unpaid, but the benefits, in addition to publishing experience, include exposure to a wealth of information about the contemporary arts community, locally and internationally. Also, outstanding interns will receive a letter of recommendation at the completion of the internship, assistance with references on request and a free one-year subscription to Art Lies. For more information and to see which internship positions are available, please click here.

Fellowship Opportunities

Houston Center for Photography Call for Fellowships
Houston Center for Photography
Deadline: November 5, 2010

Two fellowship recipients will be awarded $2,000 each and a solo exhibition at HCP in the summer of 2011. One Houston-based artist (residing within a 100 mile radius of Houston including Beaumont, Galveston, and College Station areas) will receive the Carol Crow Memorial Fellowship and another artist from anywhere in the world outside the Houston area will receive the HCP Fellowship. Jen Bekman and Jeffrey Teuton of Jen Bekman Projects (New York, NY), will jury the fellowship selection. For more information, click here.

Call for Entries

L Nowlin Gallery
Deadline: October 30, 2010

L. Nowlin Gallery and Austin Photography Group present “Storytelling”, a group exhibition exploring the narrative; an important element in human connection and communication. Photographers are asked to create a single image that tells a story. Open for interpretation. For more information, click here.

Art City Austin
Art Alliance Austin
Deadline: November 1, 2010

Art Alliance Austin (established 1956) is accepting visual artists' applications for participation in its highly anticipated, annual art festival. Art City Austin will be held April 2-3, 2011 in the heart of downtown Austin and the 2ND Street Retail and Shopping District. All applications must be submitted through www.zapplication.org. For more details, click here.

Official Texas State Artist
Texas Commission on the Arts
Deadline: November 1, 2010

The Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) is seeking nominations for the positions of 2011 and 2012 State Poet Laureate, State Musician, State Two-dimensional Artist and State Three-dimensional Artist. All Texas citizens are encouraged to make a nomination, and self-nominations are encouraged. For more information click here.

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