MBG Issue #162: Between Perverse Meaning and Nonsense

Issue # 162

Between Perverse Meaning and Nonsense

February 4, 2011

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Erin Curtis, Apartment Building, Acrylic on canvas, 2010, 73 x 114 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Champion, Austin. (detail)

from the editor

‘History occurs the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.’ This oft-cited paraphrase from Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte has been applied to the analysis of contemporary art practices that construct a new reading of historical circumstances. Of course, the mining of history is at the core of postmodern practice. Pop artists of the 1960s and the 1980s Pictures generation appropriationists both defamiliarized received meanings through fragmentation and repetition, the latter through the heavy filter of deconstructionist semiotic theory. Artists today are indebted to these precedents, along with that of the Situationists, who worked through the “catacombs of visible culture” to produce subversive twists on existing media stereotypes. By becoming experts in the language of spectacle and narrative, many of the artists discussed in this issue critically upend the binary between fact and fiction.

The understanding and playful misuse of media and cultural artifice profoundly influences the practice of Johan Grimonprez, who talks with Kelly Sears about his films and videos on view at the Blaffer in Houston. The psychic effects of cinema on the social landscape are explored by Austin-based filmmakers Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler in their latest gallery exhibition in New York, reviewed by Rachel Stevens. And in my review of Nobody’s Property at the Princeton Art Museum, I discuss how contemporary artists take the semifiction as a critical stance in their approaches to land art.

Reconstructions and reframings are also considered throughout this issue. Massa Lemu covers Round 33 at Project Row Houses in Houston, where six California-based artists construct installations based around charged cultural and consumerist fragments. Rachel Hooper reviews Jillian Conrad’s solo exhibition at Art Palace in Houston, where the artist takes on the “dynamic relationship between the observer and the observed” through repurposing mundane and construction materials. Continuing last week’s conversation about Artpace’s exhibition of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ billboards, Leslie Moody-Castro, Andy Campbell and Noah Simblist discuss the performative possibilities of the artist’s installations.

Finally, the way “site” functions as a space of display and knowledge production is interrogated here. In our Artist’s Space, Ursula Davila-Villa charts artist-run spaces in Latin America with a pedagogical bent that proactively address the lack of formal educational programs in the region. And the Chinati Foundation’s new Director, Thomas Kellein, speaks with Richard Shiff about how Donald Judd’s understanding of aesthetic integrity has influenced not only museum practices at large, but also the visitor experience of Marfa as a location with a preserved historical specificity.

On a related note, Erin Curtis’ exhibition on view through February 19 at Champion in Austin, Ornament of Savage Tribes, equally reimagines an aesthetic history: the utopian ambitions of modern architecture. Incorporating schematics and photographic views of early twentieth-century architectural monuments into her hanging wall pieces and drawings that borrow liberally from various languages of textile and tribal design in brilliant Day-Glo colors, Curtis infuses the decorative into modernism. Her works make no apologies for being stylized—the aesthetic energy even spills over into the gallery space itself. Neutrality is compromised as walls are accented with colorful paint, much like a trendy store or hotel. These choices highlight not only the commercial complicity of modernism, but also raise a tension between the autonomy of high art, folk art and mainstream design. While this work does not plumb a specific non-Western tradition of design, it shows how cultures cannibalize one another and how “femininized” practices are underwritten in master narratives. The exhibition is a visually ambitious introduction to her practice, and I look forward to seeing how Curtis can push the critical and textual undertone further in her work.

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

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Thomas Kellein

By Richard Shiff

Thomas Kellein, Director, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, Texas. Photo by Martin Brockhoff.

Thomas Kellein began his tenure as the new Director of the Chinati Foundation in January. The accomplished writer and curator comes to Marfa from the Kunsthalle Bielefeld, where he was director and organized many successful exhibitions, including Donald Judd: Early Work 1955-1968 in 2002 (which also traveled to the Menil Collection). He succeeds founding Chinati Director Marianne Stockebrand. For this issue of …mbg, we invited Richard Shiff, noted scholar on Donald Judd, to talk with Kellein about his past experiences with Judd’s work and his plans in Marfa.

Richard Shiff [RS]: Thomas, you’ve had many years of experience with the art of Donald Judd, as well as having had considerable contact with the artist himself during his later years. What has this meant to you? And how is it affecting you now, given your new position at Chinati?

Thomas Kellein [TK]: My first deep impression was the way the objects and furniture in Marfa—even the papers, fabric, and cutlery—were arranged by Judd. I found them on a scale and in an order that suggested physical contact and intimate personal use, as if they were existential items. If Donald Judd had not been a personal guide for me in the early 1990s in Marfa as well as in Eichholteren, Switzerland, where he also had a studio and home, I would have taken this primary visual message perhaps as an installation strategy. It is to me, however, something far beyond: it suggests that culture and nature could ideally become one and the same (although his work extending into the environment cannot be called land art). With this in mind, for the programs at Chinati, we won’t merely install art, but first observe the power and, let’s say, the very necessity of it.

My first experience with Judd’s objects at a museum was at the Kunsthalle Basel where I had to mount an untitled wall piece from 1962, the earliest from the group of Judd’s works belonging to the Basel Kunstmuseum. That work is rather large, with horizontal elements that project outward at the top and bottom. During installation, Judd was just entering the gallery when it was still sitting on the floor. He said, while we held it up, that we should lower it, which we did. That instruction was crucial because it changed the piece from being simply a work to appreciate with the eyes into something to experience with the whole body and the space.

RS: Yes, that piece in Basel, it’s a bit like a shallow channel. When it’s lower on the wall, it gets closer to the viewer’s position and interacts at the scale of the body. But if it were higher, it might look too much like relief sculpture in pictorial space, precisely the effect Judd would avoid. He really knew where he was going with this new art of his, which was quite strange to see back in the 1960s when he made these things. To me, those early pieces still look strange. The other side of strange, however, is fresh. I’m always amazed at how fresh his early pieces continue to look, even though I’ve seen them many times. They make other sculptural works look like imitations of each other. Judd knew he was on to something.

But you’re certainly the expert on the early work—you curated a beautiful show of it for the Kunsthalle Bielefeld and for the Menil Collection in Houston in 2002. What do you think you learned from that experience?

TK: An art historian has usually two key interests in the art: one is the definition of meaning, the other an authentic experience of how things developed. These points of view are both important, of course, but I was always more keen to know how and why an artist would move from one project or procedure to another.

Judd began making beautiful drawings in the late 1940s. On the other hand, the so-called “true” examples of Judd’s work should be dated from 1962, or even 1963 and later. What did he do in the meantime, or, to put it differently, why did it take so long for him to reach the level he was aiming for? This question fascinated me even more after he showed me his paintings from the mid-1950s at the Cobb House in Marfa. I couldn’t believe how different they seemed to be from everything I knew. I asked him whether he would ever show these works in Europe, and a bit to my surprise he quickly said “sure.” Then it took me about ten years to come up with this show.

The experience was still not an easy one, as Judd was much more than just a painter who then became a maker of objects. I found a very complex inquiry into all kinds of intellectual fields. What certainly interested him during that time was space and architecture, and I think that was the key to the later work and his longing for a holistic point of view.

RS: So, at Chinati, we’re dealing not only with an artist making art, but also with an artist collecting the work of other artists and then installing it in buildings of his own design or rehabilitation. Are there parallels with institutions for which you’ve worked in the past, whether at Bielefeld or elsewhere—or is Chinati rather unique, and a place where the usual issues don’t necessarily apply?

TK: Chinati should be regarded as the paradigm of spaces for contemporary art installation. I see it as the origin of so many other institutions, even of private collections that try so seriously to do an ideal job of display. After Mondrian, Judd was clearly the most serious artist in the 20th century regarding the issue of aesthetic integrity. A lot of museums don’t even try to maintain integrity. They put other concerns first and think of the art’s presentation as almost an afterthought.

It sounds mean-spirited, but this is, in a way, good for us in Marfa. Chinati still gives people a holistic experience. A visit combines history, nature, architecture and very different kinds of art, mostly three-dimensional, all of which will fill your eyes for hours. There is not much else around, but you want to see it again and again. The town of Marfa has a long, exciting history, and maintains unique architectural features such as a very beautiful courthouse building from 1886. The Chinati Foundation invites visitors to see about twenty buildings filled with unique installations, not only by Judd but by a variety of artists. The Judd Foundation has also opened the more private places the artist has left us—his residence, library, and studio. That is a complementary experience. To me this is a major part of the world’s cultural heritage, located here within the United States, in this small Texas town.

RS: Judd brought his radical art to a relatively isolated location and changed the character of Marfa, and yet we might feel that he did no more than apply sound design principles to what was already there. There’s nothing blatant about the changes. He restored existing buildings and modified them to make them function more specifically for his purposes. But you might believe when you see the reconditioned buildings that they were much like this before Judd came to Marfa. He had a way of realizing the potential of existing spaces and architectural volumes just as he cultivated the qualities of his various, almost commonplace materials—the industrial metals he used in his sculptures, or the plywood and the Plexiglas. He made what was familiar—adobe, for example—seem new. He found an appropriate beauty in this and other local building materials. And yet his sense of proportion reminds me of many classically modern Viennese buildings, and I also think of the quality he brought to light in the cast iron building he purchased in 1968 for a studio and living space in New York.

He makes us see what we’ve always seen, but in a new way. I know that he thought that the serious members of every artistic generation develop a collective distinction; and this is why he believed so strongly that the achievement of his own generation should be represented permanently in one location. Do you see something of Judd in the artists of his own time who most interested him and are featured at Chinati—a group that includes Dan Flavin, Carl Andre, David Rabinowitch, John Chamberlain, Claes Oldenburg, John Wesley? Many people would think that it’s not a coherent group.

TK: There is both coherence and variety, and this is one of the most interesting aspects of a visit to the collection at Marfa. Those who expect Minimal Art and nothing else will be surprised, as will those who think of the art of just one generation. Chinati is many things at once. What I find very stunning is the aspect of humor. Judd knew how to laugh, how to tease people, and even poke fun at himself.

“We all live and die,” Francis Bacon once said. From my point of view, the secret of the Judd spaces, as well as those occupied by the other artists, is their capability to grow older, and at the same time, stay young with us.

Richard Shiff is the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of several essays on Donald Judd.

Johan Grimonprez

By Kelly Sears

Johan Grimonprez, Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (still), Three hijacked jets on desert Airstrip, Amman, Jordan, 12 September 1970, 1997. Courtesy of the artist and Zapomatik. Photo by Johan Grimonprez and Rony Vissers.

In his video and film installations, Belgian artist Johan Grimonprez critically deconstructs received histories and media representations, wryly combining fact and fiction to create new narratives. Houston-based filmmaker Kelly Sears spoke with Grimonprez in January about his process, the psychoanalytic undercurrent of contemporary media and conspiracy theories on the occasion of the opening of his exhibition It’s a Poor Sort of Memory that Only Works Backwards at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston. The exhibition remains on view through April 2.

Kelly Sears [KS]: For the readers of …mbg who have not seen DOUBLE TAKE (2009) or Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y (1997), could you give a brief overview of those works?

Johan Grimonprez [JG]: These are the better-known films. DOUBLE TAKE was shown at Sundance, in the cinema in New York, and is now on DVD and probably on Netflix. DOUBLE TAKE looks back at the beginning of the ‘60s, the culture of film and film history and the rivalry between cinema and television and how that plays into the Cold War. It’s done through the image and the icon of Alfred Hitchcock because he took on both mediums. When he crossed over from film to television it’s so interesting how it’s all about the commercial break, and the commercial break is such a crucial thing because it forced us to look at the world in a very different way. Hitchcock was so upset because his suspense plot was all of a sudden interrupted every ten minutes by commercials, and so what you see when Hitchcock did all these introductions on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he was really pointing the gun at the sponsor in a very sardonic way. The joke was always at the cost of the sponsor.

Both films (Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y and DOUBLE TAKE) look at mainstream media—it is a media archeology—but at the same time it looks at mainstream icons and imagery. DOUBLE TAKE is about Hitchcock but Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y is the chronology of airplane hijacking. It’s a way to look at how that composite relationship with media has come about, and how that has changed the way we relate to those big media events. You have in Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, which is taken from a book by Don DeLillo, a dialogue set up between a terrorist and a novelist. The novelist contends that the terrorist has taken over his role because he’s able to “play the media,” because television and media is so present in our society, and that the writer has become an obsolete figure. Of course the way Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y analyzes that dialogue is that it’s set and it moves on towards the ‘90s. It looks at the hijacker trying to grab attention in the media. Now there’s even the “hijacker’s hijacker.”

The terrorist has become a spectacle, and they’re even accommodated from the ‘80s onward with Reagan and Thatcher. Even 9/11 was welcome, in a way, to put more political control out there, to actually start wars “in the name of,” etc. So the way we would look at those things is very different than what was going on in the ‘60s. The big shift was ’75 because of the counter-terrorist forces. Before, they adopted the doctrine: shoot the terrorist on site, one bullet in the heart, one bullet in the head. Another doctrine was: don’t mention it in the news. If there is an attack, make the least possible noise about it. Don’t have interviews with the terrorists; don’t show their faces on television; make them anonymous, don’t personalize them, etc. So the codes changed.

[KS]: Something else that interests me in your work is the way that fiction is used. Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y is based on DeLillo’s text, and DOUBLE TAKE is written by Tom McCarthy and ultimately jumps off Borges’ short story. I think it’s a really wonderful element in your work that you deal with history or histories but you do it in this way that’s kind of grounded in a fictional storytelling.

[JG]: Ultimately this is going to touch upon what John Mack calls the ontological consensus. He wrote Island of the Ancestors. When you start talking about fictions and reality, you even could be as profane as weapons of mass destruction, because even in politics, fictions proliferate and suddenly it becomes a horrible reality. Even the documentary tradition, like Nanook of the North by Flaherty, was presented like a fiction of the fight of humans against nature. His wives were the mistresses of Flaherty himself, and the igloo was like a theater set, cut in half so they could fit the cameras in it. So when you talk about documentary, already you have to ask, what are the boundaries of documentary? Even in reality, we always project a picture of ourselves based on fictions. Not to say that reality doesn’t exist but I think it’s conventions we agree upon. I like to explore that in the films.

Films always try to touch on those boundaries and push the boundaries of how we can tell a story. But it’s not only film. This morning we were talking about how those Folgers commercials from the ‘50s also function as pure documentaries. They are documents displaced in time.

[KS]: They become a time capsule of all the politics and…

[JG]: Exactly, like what was in the fridge, or how women were perceived in society. It’s interesting that you can pick through old coffee commercials and when suddenly when the Psycho music (but it’s not Psycho music by Bernard Herrmann, it’s music composed to sound like that) slips underneath the commercial, when the man trashes the woman and says “You can’t make coffee,” the woman is coded as taking revenge, and also suddenly the Folgers becomes the poison. You can use that to construct a narrative.

On a bigger level, when you work with images that are dealing with more of the global politics than the micropolitical, you can extend the narrative from the man and wife in the kitchen to the Kitchen Debate between Khrushchev and Nixon, for example, the bigger situation between East and West. There, theater was propagated, and it’s happening more than ever, like what’s going on with swine flu.

[KS]: I’ve been watching a lot of ‘70s science fiction lately and the plots of those are in conversation with a lot of contemporary political events.

[JG]: They say it always rains in science fiction after Blade Runner. Because suddenly you have that idea of a dystopian future that science fiction doesn’t project anymore. And of course it’s that imaginary other that is being projected as well. Constance Penley and Vivian Sobchack write about that in Close Encounters: Film, Feminism and Science Fiction, when they talk about alien abduction and horror movies and how they are stands for something that lives underneath. Even how Žižek talks about 9/11, that is sort of repressed political unconscious coming back to haunt America as the Real.

[KS]: There’s something else I want to ask about how you put work together. I heard that DOUBLE TAKE was initially a short film that you were shooting on the Hitchcock double, and as his story grew and as you started researching, your project grew into a bigger film and this much larger network of conversations. Can you recall certain paths in your research that ended up shooting the project in all these different directions?

[JG]: At one point I remember that we invited Tom McCarthy for a writing weekend. I had put together a rough cut of two hours, but there was a little bit of the Kitchen Debate and not so much of the Cold War. We saw that that what was going on between East and West in the Cold War mirrored that intimate conversation between Hitchcock and Hitchcock, where one is trying to get rid of the other. We could talk about politics in an intimate way, and suddenly intimate things become a Cold War. That’s what Hitchcock also did. He would libidinize the plot. It’s what happens with Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest: the love story grows with the political picture.

So it was first a smaller story with the Ron Burrage interview. But to extend that idea of the doppelganger towards the political climate, towards the bigger political picture, was an element that really helped to make that film have a double strand. When I was invited by the Hammer Museum to be on the premises of UCLA to do research at the Film and Television Archives, the first thing we researched was the Kitchen Debates. I was surprised to see the whole Cuban Missile Crisis was very much happening at the moment when Truffaut met Hitchcock and when Hitchcock was working on The Birds—hence also “the birds,” because they are a metaphor of that catastrophic culture of descending onto the home, which has also become a metaphor for television. That became sort of the background for the whole thing as well. So I tied the Kennedy/Khrushchev standoff to the Cuban Missile Crisis, because that was really the point where the world was on the brink of nuclear holocaust, and the birds. Fellini called Hitchcock’s The Birds an apocalyptic poem.

[KS]: That’s actually a wonderful way to think about it. I think that description could be applied to your work.

[JG]: Or what’s going on today. To go back and research what was going on during the rise of television… it’s not much different than the cultural fear now. But today it’s even worse.

[KS]: Going back to television, I’d like to talk about the installation with the remote control. Thinking about both the television and the remote control as these ideological apparatuses that are devices through which we engage with corporate messages, state messages… How do you see those kinds of apparatuses in dialogue with these histories that you’re working with?

[JG]: There’s that other work, which is called Maybe the Sky is Really Green and We're Just Color Blind with the subtitle On Zapping: Close Encounters and The Commercial Break. It’s about the history of the remote control in relation to the commercial break. In Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, when I was studying in New York, a big source of inspiration was the first Gulf War, the first Iraq War, as portrayed on CNN. I saw what CNN did with war footage and then all these commercials spliced in between. I thought of the zapping as the ultimate form of poetry. It’s a visual poem.

[KS]: It’s editing.

[JG]: It’s also a way to work through the whole material of Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y. It became sort of a tool of how you tell a story. We are developing it as a work on Zapomatik.com—it’s not live yet—where you can actually surf or navigate through all the different themes that are related to the commercial break in relation to the history of the remote control; for example, things like the TV dinner.

[KS]: We were talking a little bit about DOUBLE TAKE, where Hitchcock and the ‘double’ become a larger metaphor for capitalism and communism, and Cold War espionage, and this gesture of the McGuffin. Thinking about Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, you’re using hijacking as a form of metaphor. How does that metaphor play into the larger histories that are included in that film? Where is that hijacking metaphor playing out? In a way, you’re kind of hijacking that old footage for your own piece.

[JG]: That’s a tool. You could work through that material by the Situationist strategy, what they call détournement. You could spin and twist those images and sounds around, and code them with your own meaning. But on a bigger scale I don’t know. For example I think this country has been hijacked by corporations. There’s no more politics, there’s only corporate lobbying. The same thing is going on in Europe. I thought all this GM food wouldn’t come and those crops wouldn’t be planted in Europe, but now they’re all totally being sold out. It’s the same with the war. You don’t have any more reporters; they just advertise for corporations. So when you talk about hijacking, maybe reality’s being hijacked. I think that’s what we should be talking about.

DOUBLE TAKE is a double take on Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y, but it’s also East and West and the doppelganger. When Freud talks about the uncanny he says that it’s when you don’t come to terms with the other. It’s this certain blindness where you only project your own fears and you don’t see the other. The man who doesn’t acknowledge the fact that there’s a person in front of him is only seeing his double, and it’s the same in the political game. And now even worse, if the double drops away, the imaginary other is not filled in, and you have all these aliens standing in for the collapse of the Soviet Union. And then you have the X-files and Independence Day that shoots the White House to smithereens. (laughs) All we have to fill this imaginary other is the image of Bin Laden, because if not, we’re going to go mad. The image of the doppelganger is totally lost, but then it runs amuck and that double can’t face himself. It’s now what we’re facing today I think. They claim the end of history but it’s the beginning of “long live the conspiracy” reality.

Kelly Sears is an animator and filmmaker based in Houston, TX.


Felix Gonzalez-Torres' Billboards
Artpace, San Antonio
Closed December 31, 2010

By Leslie Moody Castro, Noah Simblist, and Andy Campbell

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, "Untitled," 1995, Billboard, Dimensions vary with installation. Installation in El Paso, Texas at Executive Center and I-10 for "Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Billboards" at Artpace, San Antonio, Texas, 2010. Photo by: Marty Snortum Studio. © The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation. Courtesy of Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.

In conjunction with the organization’s fifteenth anniversary, Artpace San Antonio organized a Texas-wide exhibition of thirteen billboards created by artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres between 1989 and 1995. Developed with special permission from the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, this presentation was the first-ever comprehensive survey of Gonzalez-Torres' billboard works in the United States. The billboards were on view throughout 2010 in various locations in the cities of Dallas, El Paso, Houston and San Antonio. Major underwriting for this Billboard Exhibition was provided by the Linda Pace Foundation, with generous in-kind support from Clear Channel Outdoor.

During the run of the exhibition, Artpace also facilitated a series of conversations between Leslie Moody Castro, Andy Campbell and Noah Simblist. This material was originally meant to serve as an educational component to the exhibition, but has remained unpublished until now. We wish to thank Artpace San Antonio and education curator Alex Freeman for making this project a reality.

In the last issue of …mbg, we included two excerpts from this conversation about queer activism in the 1980s and how we might read Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ activist gestures today. In the second installment of this conversation, Moody Castro, Simblist and Campbell discuss the politics of display surrounding Gonzalez-Torres’ work.

How to Slum with Felix Gonzalez-Torres

Leslie Moody-Castro [LMC]: Let’s talk about the billboards’ context. Artpace didn’t choose the physical locations of the billboards in the cities. They are sort of arbitrary. So that adds something to problematize this exhibition, both in terms of its history as well as its physical location now.

Noah Simblist [NC]: But Clear Channel is choosing these sites for the billboards because there wasn’t much demand for advertising in those areas.

Andy Campbell [AC]: Right—they tend to be sites at the edge of suburbia, at the edge of industrial warehouses. So they’re low-traffic sites; they’re not places where lots of people will see them. It doesn’t mean that no one will see them, just that a very specific set of people will see them, people who work in these industrial parts of the city.

LMC: "Untitled" (The New Plan), 1991, the billboard with the image of denim, is located very close to the site of a former Levi’s Factory here in San Antonio that shut down about fifteen years ago. That event was the catalyst for the formation of the non-profit activist group Fuerza Unida. In short, when the factory shut down in the ‘90s, all the female seamstresses, who were mostly Mexican immigrants, were laid off without compensation of any kind—no severance pay, nothing. In response, they formed this activist group that is meant to empower women and families through education and advocacy.

NS: What’s interesting about the economic factors is that the billboards end up being located in “marginal” sites, which keeps these billboards at a distance as a kind of marginalized activism. They’re sited in a way that is not normalized, and the ideas that Felix Gonzalez-Torres is talking about are not normalized. Maybe it’s not an explicit choice on the part of Artpace or Clear Channel to say, “Let’s put this difficult and tricky politics off to the margin...”

AC: But it just stays relegated to that place, yes.

NS: Maybe it speaks to the political moment now. There is a less explicit kind of marginalization, but it becomes implicit through other political forces.

AC: We can talk about the billboard images, the physical images that are on there, and how they fit into Gonzalez-Torres’s body of work. But we would be fools to not engage with Clear Channel and these other issues. Even if it is marginalized through economic disparity, it’s still marginalized. Why and how does that happen? Is that transparent, and is that marginalization something that is acceptable and accepted? I think it’s good that the billboards are still bringing up these issues, but it also makes me wonder about the art crowd and whether they’re going to “slum it” and go find the billboards. I mean, they are going on bus tours, which is a different kind of enactment of power and privilege and economic disparity.

NS: I know from living in some grungier parts of Dallas that Clear Channel is very specific about the way that they choose the kinds of advertisements that they direct at particular neighborhoods. For instance, where I lived it was mostly advertising for alcohol or gentlemen’s clubs.

LMC: The same thing is happening in San Antonio. One billboard is located in the parking lot of a neighborhood taqueria, and right next to it is another billboard advertising the World Cup in Spanish. San Antonio has a really interesting type of urbanism. At times I forget where I am; I walk down the street and turn a corner and forget that I am in the U.S. altogether.

NS: When you think about art and activism and ephemeral work, you think of work that engages these issues as being so specific to a given time. One would think that it can’t be reproduced in another time and place, but the billboard projects, just like the takeaway pieces, can be easily reproduced. As much as they’re ephemeral – these billboards will only be up for a few weeks in a given site – the image is still archived and can be reproduced in another context ad infinitum. But does this change the meaning of the work in each of these new contexts? What would it mean to do this project in Cuba?

Viewers and Institutions: How the Work Lives On

LMC: Let’s move on to the intimate and private life and talk about Gonzalez-Torres’ relationship with Ross, and the relationship of Felix Gonzalez-Torres as the author with the viewer.

NS: He had said that he thought Ross was his main viewer.

AC: I think that was a really savvy political move, to force everyone who’s looking at his work to actually consider this person Ross Laycock, whom they actually might not know or otherwise consider. Everybody who writes about Felix Gonzalez-Torres knows who Ross Laycock is, and in this way he actually succeeded in memorializing and keeping Ross around, even if only in museum labels.

NS: When you see a strategy like the billboards, using public spaces like the way Group Material did, you can think of him engaging activist strategies rather than just being a solo artist and making discrete art objects.

AC: I actually think that the whole “Death of the Author” thing could be taken even further. I feel like it’s apparent in the billboards, but it could be pushed more by institutions. I can imagine an exhibition of pieces of paper from all of his stacks, but just pieces of paper, not the stacks themselves...

NS: Just individual sheets?

AC: Yes, just an individual one pinned to the wall, and that being a retrospective of some kind. But at this point, his foundation and other entities would never allow that to happen. So I think that, yes, we’re dealing with a complicated notion of authorship, but these billboards are still buyable and they are work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

NS: There’s certainly the foundation, but collectors of his work, both individuals and institutions like museums that own specific pieces, also claim a certain authorship. Take the foundation, for example: they’re agreeing or not agreeing to do certain things with the work because of their notions of his intentions.

AC: Here’s an example: an unnamed museum at a small liberal arts college had in their collection a sheet, which was accessioned as part of a larger donated collection. But one of the objects in this collection was a sheet from “Untitled” (Death By Gun), 1990. And they didn’t know what to do—it was a big deal and they had meetings about it because it was entered as a Felix Gonzalez-Torres work, but it wasn’t the stack work. That work is owned by MoMA, so they were actually in the process of de-accessioning this unlimited multiple.

I thought it was such a great moment of self-doubt and reflection for an institution. I can imagine a world where people can actually play with the definition of work a little more, and I don’t believe that rigidity is the artist’s intention. I think that the promise of play is there, but the actual delivery on that promise is not usually followed through with the work, sadly.

NS: Because you can imagine that they could make the choice to exhibit it, not as a work of art, but as ephemera, as something that does not hold value.

AC: Is it troublesome that these things are fine to be exhibited in houses and domestic spaces (even though I’m not sure that they really are), but that they’re not okay for museums to play with? If that is true, then the way that the work has evolved becomes much more problematic, because I think the political power evaporates a bit. I actually think it’s not as potent as it once was if it just becomes a beautiful image and only that.

LMC: I think what also makes it difficult is that the billboards are in neighborhoods where arts communities have not been integrated in the past, and it really forces us to do our research as well. What does the community center around? Where can we eat? What non-profits would be interested in this? To educate ourselves about the billboards is really difficult!

AC: It’s for a good reason, and I think it’s because arts institutions have not been interested in the activism.

NS: Right!

AC: I think that conversation works both ways, and again, the double bind of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work is that it’s open, beautiful, and can be read politically, but if you follow the Felix Gonzalez-Torres line completely, you might end up in a really unpleasant place. Any work that’s overtly political can’t really make it, and there should be a place for overtly political work. So the fact that there’s not a lot of love between arts institutions and activist groups/geographies isn’t surprising because their work, their art, their visual culture isn’t as valuable as a billboard of birds in the sky.

NS: The difference between the AIDS activism that Group Material did and what Felix Gonzalez-Torres did was that Group Material was much more in your face and overt, and got in trouble as a result. The tricky part of Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work is that it can be misread as something that’s safer…

AC: … as something that’s more friendly.

NS: Exactly. But it shouldn’t be. I think we could be tempted to choose one methodology for activism, sort of the old Marxist argument, but ultimately what’s best is pluralism. I think a fantastic curatorial project would be to bring together different examples of activism that were happening at the same time, that were working with the same issues and that were engaging with the public space in some way. Such an exhibition would challenge the art world to engage in genuine political discourse without descending into what Tom Wolfe famously called “radical chic.” What happens when you’re having these big fundraisers with wealthy patrons who clink their champagne glasses and point to the beauty of Gonzalez-Torres’ images? They’re less likely to do that if the more difficult aspects of the work and their contradictions are more obvious.

AC: Absolutely, but that’s where we come in.


Leslie Moody Castro is the visitor services manager at Arthouse at the Jones Center, and a former graduate intern at Artpace San Antonio. She graduated with her Master's Degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2010 in Museum Education, and worked at the Blanton Museum of Art while earning her graduate degree. Moody Castro has also curated exhibitions at Women and Their Work, Mexic-Arte Museum, and is a co-founder of Co-Lab, Austin.

Noah Simblist is an Associate Professor of Art at SMU and a PhD student in art history at the University of Texas, Austin. His most recent curatorial endeavor, the group exhibition Out of Place, is on view at Lora Reynolds Gallery in Austin through March 5.

Andy Campbell is a PhD student in the Department of Art History at the University of Texas in Austin. He is currently writing about gay and lesbian leather communities and visual cultures in the 1970s. He is co-curator of the group exhibition SUBstainability, which opens on January 20 at the Texas State University Gallery in San Marcos.

Jillian Conrad
Art Palace, Houston
Through February 19

By Rachel Hooper

Jillian Conrad, Exhibition view, Construct. Courtesy of the artist and Art Palace.

Looking has traditionally been understood as an act of receptivity, wherein the world makes impressions on our retina that are subsequently comprehended by our mind. However, relativity and quantum theory account for a more dynamic relationship between observer and the observed. We now know that we affect reality as much as it affects us, in a constant ebb and flow of the objective and subjective that is beyond rational understanding. The abstract language of images and objects that Jillian Conrad develops in her solo exhibition Construct attempts to deal with the active negotiations that determine our reality. Utilizing both expressive and reductive strategies, she updates minimalism's direct deployment of materials in a way that accounts for the paradoxical nature of our everyday experience.

Take, for example, the work with the strongest presence, Trump Loy (a phonetic play on the illusory technique of trompe l'oeil). Shadows and edges of the building materials used to compose the piece extend beyond its cohesive yet ultimately unrecognizable outline. This prompted me to imagine the artwork frozen in a state of expansion, as if all the lines might slowly wander away from each other and float into the room were it not for the brass plates holding them to the wall. This imaginary movement is also present in two drawings on the opposite wall made from various widths and lengths of mechanical pencil lead glued to paper. Here, too, a snapshot of lines playfully drift across empty space. A pencil drawing around a half-disassembled envelope in the front room also indicates the unfolding of dimensions, for a letter envelope might seem flat but contains space within. Drawing in the exhibition is thus employed in a diagrammatic way that asks the viewer to envision what it might explain.

Counterbalancing these lofty potential metaphors is the mundane nature of Conrad's materials. It's easy to recognize the thin strips of wood, cinder blocks, foam and particle board from hardware store shelves. In another context, these materials might be boring, but with Conrad's sensitivity to how they absorb and reflect light, they come alive in a painterly way. In A Piebald Horse the neutral colors of the concrete, wood and white fabric are brightened, with yellow powdered pigment applied to the surface of two concrete blocks and a beautiful aqua cloth wrapped around a platform. This sophisticated formal use of materials typically used for domestic building and craft is reminiscent of Richard Tuttle's elegant and tenuous arrangements and Gedi Sibony's recent installations.

In the back of the exhibition, a long, thin loop of vellum is looped around a curved hook. On it Conrad has varied the punctuation of Gertrude Stein's famous line "a rose is a rose" as she typed it over and over again. At once obvious and ambiguous (you can read “rose” as a flower, name, or “eros” when running the syllables together aloud), this line could be a metaphor for the whole exhibition. The openness to interpretation, imagination and various perspectives calls to mind President Clinton's famous quote: a rose is a rose, but it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.

Rachel Hooper is associate curator and Cynthia Woods Mitchell fellow at Blaffer Art Museum.

Editor’s Note: For the record, Rachel Hooper and Jillian Conrad are both employees of the University of Houston.

Round 33: The Seventh House
Project Row Houses, Houston
Through February 28

By Massa Lemu

Olga Koumandourous. Courtesy of the artist and Project Row Houses.

It is not through formal concerns that Project Row Houses’ Round 33: The Seventh House is understood as a collaborative project. Rather, it is as the viewer walks from one shotgun house to the next, each hosting a site-specific project by an individual artist, that subtle interrelationships in the work reveal themselves. According to the curators Edgar Arceneaux and Nery Gabriel Lemus, the exhibition is intended to express a dialogue that informed several years of numerous discrete collaborations between the artists on view, most of whom studied at or are affiliated with the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia. In fact Houston’s Third Ward, the neighborhood where the Project Row Houses are situated, is an apt location for dealing with the cultural, social, and political problems that are at the heart of most of the artists’ work.

Olga Koumoundouros recreates abdominal viscera and other internal organs in the form of lamps made from consumer detritus in Accumulation of Mondays. Milk gallons and other food containers, coated with print advertisements and lit from within, are suspended from the ceiling by electric cords in a space painted a fleshy red. The work regurgitates a number of issues related to accumulation, human sustenance and the harsh realities of survival. Materialism and overconsumption structure our contemporary Western being, but they are also a cancer that threatens our existence.

The issue of cultural self-expenditure is echoed in Rodney McMillian’s work. Portal: a state of kemmering in the Council-era of corrosion physically engages the architecture of the house it occupies. The hand-sewn room of black vinyl covers the interior walls and floors of the house, and extends outside the portal to temporarily disfigure the building. The exterior appearance could evoke anything from architectural corrosion to the aftermath of a man-made or natural disaster. In the context of Project Row it is about the story of failed metropolitan ambitions that leaves neighborhoods in neglect and disrepair. Edgar Arceneaux’s The Human Sugar Factory (one) shares similar concerns. The installation of open and burnt cardboard boxes growing sugar crystals on metal shelves evokes images of a hastily abandoned factory. Possessing a dark and perverse beauty, the installation speaks of ruined prospects and entropic transformation.

Andrea Bowers’ project Hope in Hindsight directly references the present American political scenario, reflecting upon the current cultural ambivalence towards Obama’s presidency. The work questions whether participatory democracy is possible. Painted in blue and white on the front of the row house is President Obama’s declaration from a 2006 fundraising letter: “What Washington needs is adult supervision.” Inside are a poster and two videos titled Inauguration and New Reality. The poster features a teenage boy wearing a t-shirt of Obama as a superhero with another quote of hope from the inauguration speech by the president. Inauguration is a 30-minute projection on the wall focusing on the crowds that attended President Obama’s inauguration in 2009. These euphoric messages of hope and change are contrasted by the ominous weather conditions on the inauguration day. But reality is also encountered in the second video in the room, featuring a woman who frankly tells the president that she is exhausted by defending his administration.

Until Day Breaks and Shadows Flee by Nery Gabriel Lemus tells the story of domestic violence in Five Acres Grace Center in Pasadena, California through t-shirts and a wall mural that appropriates comic strip imagery. The mural depicts ugly scenes of domestic violence punctuated by a few delicate scenes of tenderness and love. The omission of text in the speech balloons and the displaced chronology alludes to the silence of the victimized, a silence that shields and thereby perpetrates horrific acts of violence in the home. But this strategy also offers the viewer a chance to fill in the blanks according to their own narratives. Lemus has also given the victims a rare chance to express themselves and retell their experiences through images and text on t-shirts they created, on display in the center of the room. Charles Gaines’ string theory: Rewriting Fanon also reinterprets the story of the marginalized. It ventures to rewrite excerpts from Franz Fanon’s Black Skin White Masks and to (re)present them in the form of carefully stenciled and neatly framed graphite drawings. The text undergoes a re-sequencing and reframing based upon the rules of grammar and not meaning. The resultant sentences occupy the murky terrain between perverse meaning and nonsense, with such examples as “There is a sibling who requires the girl to hurt” or “The aversion of the father is predestined in the depositary of partners.” Gaines suggests that perhaps this is where Fanon’s seminal book on the existential condition of the post-colonial subject has been relegated to due to repeated revisions and abstractions over time.

The last house showcases aspects of the various Project Row programs that engage the Third Ward community. On shelves and walls are African-American literature and post-colonial theory texts from ongoing book club readings, and uplifting quotes by members of the educational Young Mothers Residency. Besides minor installation hitches, Round 33: The Seventh House offers a timely space for engaging the present socio-political environment.

Massa Lemu is an artist and freelance critic based in Houston, TX.

Nobody's Property
Princeton Art Museum, New Jersey
Through February 20

By Wendy Vogel

Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige, Wonder Beirut #10 (The Sea Shore), from History of a Pyromaniac Photographer, 1998–2006, Lambda print mounted on aluminum, 27 3/4 x 41 1/2 inches. Courtesy of the artists and CRG Gallery, New York.

On view at the Princeton Art Museum, the exhibition Nobody’s Property: Art, Land, Space, 2000-2010 and its accompanying catalogue serve as a theoretical update and abbreviated survey on land art practices of the last decade. In her catalogue essay, curator Kelly Baum takes as her points of departure the relational, discursive framework of contemporary site-specific practices that Miwon Kwon began to map in her 1997 October article “One Place After Another: Notes on Site-Specificity” (later developed into a book) and Judith Butler’s recent work on relational ethics and subjectivity. Beginning with the exhibition’s subtitle, Baum differentiates between physical “land” and a charged Lefebvrian shared “space,” which join the geopolitical “territory” and legal “commons” as the terminological compass points of her inquiry. These multidisciplinary and highly constructed notions form the support structure for a tightly curated exhibition. The works implicate the artists as part researchers, part provocateurs, engaging complicated notions of geopolitical histories with a semi-fictional and performative flair.

Baum’s exhibition takes as case studies nine works by younger contemporary artists. Each receives its own handsome installation space—one piece after another. The display strategy suits the show. Most of the works demand an immersive approach from the viewer, and at times, even a suspension of disbelief. For example, Joana Hadjithomas and Khalil Joreige create a mini-exhibition of vivid Lambda prints of burning photographic negatives attributed to “artist” Abdallah Farah (actually a fictional creation by the collaborators) in Wonder Beirut (History of a Pyromaniac Photographer), 1998-2006. The negatives depict stylized 1960s postcards of Beirut’s captivating Mediterranean coastline uncannily eaten through by fire, resembling a peaceful landscape shattered by exploding bombs so common during the Lebanese Civil War. Much like fellow Lebanese artist Walid Raad, Hadjithomas and Joreige exploit the legitimating force of the white-cube exhibition to call historical documentation into question. Turkish artist Emre Hüner deploys similar strategies in Juggernaut (2009) to more transparent ends. His 21-minute video creates an equivalence between the narrative construction of documentary and fiction. In it, he melds clearly appropriated footage (Disney propaganda cartoons from World War II and 1939-40 World’s Fair newsreels) with reenactments of vague historical events (a Soviet aeronautics enthusiasts’ club and a corporate NASA meeting) to create a tension around utopian narratives bound up in the space-race and the military-industrial complex. Andrea Geyer’s Spiral Lands/Chapter 1 (2007) creates elisions between pairs of slightly displaced photographic views of the same unpopulated Southwestern landscapes fought over by Native Americans and the U.S. government. They are joined by running captions of texts appropriated from a myriad of sources, from political speeches to poetry and the voice of an alter-ego.

In his catalogue essay, “Land Art in Parallax: Media, Violence, Political Economy,” Yates McKee argues that such sensitivity to the way their works would be documented and distributed, and the elisions that would occur therein, were critically recognized by an earlier generation of 1970s land artists. Rather than remythify the landscape as “unspoiled,” McKee insists that artists such as Robert Smithson, Dennis Oppenheim, and even Ana Mendieta (who has been charged with feminist essentialism for her Silheuta works, where she documented depressions in the landscape where she had pressed her body) had a critical take on the often-contested histories of the sites in which they chose to work. The generation of artists in Nobody’s Property, all born between 1959 and 1977, came of age in a media-saturated postmodern world, where the truth-value of documentary and photojournalistic traditions were as ripe for deconstruction as more obviously fictional forms of narrative. Yael Bartana’s Kings of the Hill (2003), an unnarrated film of Israeli men off-roading on dunes at an expensive resort, mimics the style of Zionist propaganda films with an absurd lack of charged content—other than macho-man bonding. Lucy Raven takes the stop-motion animation form and repurposes it in China Town (2009), where she indexes the production of copper wire in a transnational journey from Nevada to China. Like a slideshow on speed, the work charts a process that usually remains hidden.

Other artists pursue simple direct intervention tactics to radical ends, questioning the boundaries of property itself. In Francis Alÿs The Green Line: Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political and Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic (2007), the artist traces the 1948 armistice line of the Israeli state at a moment where it was being contested, incorporating poignant testimony from passers-by into the video documentation. Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Caldazilla’s Land Mark (Foot Prints), 2001-2, where they infiltrated a U.S. Navy base with protestors who made specially-soled shoes to impress slogans of resistance, is even more poignant in its photographic documentation. It mobilizes the melancholic trace of Mendieta’s Silhuetas with a more specifically charged history. By contrast, Spanish artist Santiago Sierra’s exploitation chic is coolly displayed in Submission (formerly Word of Fire), 2006-7. Exposing the corrupt labor conditions of the artworld is typically Sierra’s tact, bringing, for instance, prostitutes into an art gallery to have a line tattooed on their backs. In this work, the artist hires Mexican day laborers to carve out the word “SUMISION” in the area between the volatile Ciudad Juárez and the U.S. border, the site of immigration skirmishes and the murder of maquiladoras. On a two-screen digital slide projection, a one-minute sequence of aerial views contrast with arduous documentation of the work being carried out.

It is this contrast between the bucolic and the charged, between landscapes populated by sweating, marked bodies and emptied of inscription, that produce a sense of defamiliarization in the land. This is the exhibition’s best aesthetic contribution. In the catalogue’s interdisciplinary roundtable discussion between political scientist Uriel Abulof, art historian Rachael DeLue and historian Jonathan Levy, moderated by Kelly Baum, all of the respondents agreed that the mediatized idea of landscape had far outstripped the idea of land as property in the public imagination. It is up to artists, then, who have the tools at their disposal to envision alternative landscapes, to stimulate political changes that frame nobody’s property as an opportunity to inscribe pluralistic histories into land fraught with past battles.

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

Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York
Through February 5

By Rachel Stevens

Teresa HUBBARD / Alexander BIRCHLER, Méliès, 2011, 2-channel high definition video with sound, 24 minutes. The Alturas Foundation supported the creation of Méliès as part of its Artist-In-Residence program. Courtesy the artist and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York.

The slow extinction of analog film and photography has inspired many artists to take up the task of eulogizing cinema. Just last month, the last lab to develop Kodachrome—Dwayne’s Photo in Parsons, Kansas—ceased their operations. Although there is no going back to obsolescent material processes of filmmaking, cinema clearly continues to have a life through cultural memory.

Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler mine this territory in two video pieces that explore cinema’s relationship to landscape and social space. Cinema is explored as a relic of the past that is also connected to the present, as it lives on in the experiences, environment and memories of people occupying landscapes marked by filmmaking. In Méliès, a two-screen installation, a site in West Texas known as Movie Mountain is revealed to be the site of a silent film made 100 years ago through contemporary interviews with people who live nearby. The story is vague, however, as uncertain fragments are patched together from stories of relatives from previous generations. Maybe it was a Western; maybe the crew came on a train that no longer stops in the town; maybe filmmaker Georges Méliès’ less famous brother made the film as he on his way to Hollywood. No one can be sure, but meanwhile, through melancholic music and an array of gorgeous and iconic images—shots of the rugged western landscape backlit by the sunset, a woman in a cowboy hat on horseback, guns on a wall and the lined faces of the interviewees—the viewer is transported into the liminal world between a cinematic fiction and the temporal present.

The work begins and ends with an image of a man with a microphone framed by the landscape. Audible testimony is held in contrast to the elusive history of the silent film allegedly made there. What is discernable, however, is the trace, and Hubbard and Birchler have organized their experimental narrative around it. “At once a poetic trope and a set of material operations,” writes Yates McKee, in the context of an essay on land art, “the trace links presence and absence, inscription and erasure, preservation and destruction and appearance and disappearance…”*

Grand Paris Texas, a feature-length single-channel piece, unearths the history of the Grand Theater in the town of Paris, Texas, as it also explores the town’s relationship to the film Paris, Texas (which wasn’t actually shot there). Described by the small town’s film critic as “a puzzlement” and “about estrangement,” references to the film’s slow-moving narrative about a man trying to have a second chance in life mirrors the decline of the Grand Theater. Its history is told through interviews with the film critic and a host of other locals whose lives have somehow been touched by this film having almost been made there, such as a Depression-era candy sales girl, a man who was cast in the film when he was nine, and a funeral director who believes that “directing a funeral is like directing a film.” Woven throughout are sad images of a once-grand theater.

Although at its conclusion a teenager who finally watches a rented VHS copy of Paris, Texas misses the end of the story when she discovers that it had been taped over with a silent film Western, we understand that erasure and displacement are integral to the way stories from the past speak to us. Both Méliès and Grand Paris Texas ultimately reveal that cinema’s cultural narratives live on through slippages between film fantasy and everyday life inscribed in the social landscape.

*Yates McKee, “Wake, Vestige, Survival: Sustainability and the Politics of the Trace in Allora and Calzadilla’s Land Mark,” October 133 (2010): 23.

Rachel Stevens is an artist and writer based in New York City.

project space

Seven Novel Models for Artistic Education and Exchange

By Ursula Davila-Villa

Recently I watched a video of a TED talk by Charles Leadbeater, a researcher at the London think tank Demos, in which he discussed different case studies of innovative education models found in various slums in cities like Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro. He argued that the effectiveness and success of these examples depended on an inquisitive drive, great collaboration, personalized attention and radical thinking. His words called to mind a related phenomenon in the visual arts that shares the attributes Leadbeater distinguished: the increasing number of artist-run organizations in different cities throughout Latin America that promote artistic education and exchange.

Although the history of artist-led initiatives around the world is long, there is something fresh and worth noting from the wave of new models taking root in places like Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Cali and Mexico City, among others. Despite the differences in size and urban configuration, all of these cities share an unfortunate lack of strong institutions for artistic higher education and sustainable art production. In places like Mexico or Puerto Rico —where most museums are state-run, fine arts graduate education is minimal, and the number of galleries is small compared to North America or Europe— artists have few opportunities to develop their practice while also supporting themselves financially. In response to these strained conditions, artists are not waiting for answers. To the contrary, they are taking the lead and being proactive, asking smart and sharp questions that consequently yield exciting solutions.

I present here seven case studies of creative thinking that have expanded limits and challenge the status quo, proving outstanding examples to learn from. The chosen models are not meant to provide a comprehensive overview of artistic practices in Latin America, but are examples I consider successful not only in regards to fulfilling their missions and goals to develop artists’ careers, but also in terms of building community in their local context and across borders—a lasting and much-needed positive effect.

Let us travel from south to north. Our first stop is the Centro de Investigaciones Artísticas (Center for Artistic Investigations, CIA), based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, founded and directed by artists Judi Werthein, Graciela Hasper and Roberto Jacoby. CIA was created to address a situation these artists saw as critical: the lack of solid artistic education in Argentina. The program they established is based first and foremost on the needs of local artists, but it aims to address international conditions that affect or influence regional production. CIA offers courses, workshops and lectures led by local and international artists and art historians open to the Buenos Aires community. In addition, they grant 20 artist residencies to a mix of Argentine and international artists who follow a shared curriculum led by a diverse and remarkable roster of international artists serving as guest faculty.

Moving up towards neighboring Brazil, we find Capacete (literally translated as Helmet), an organization with bases in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Founded and directed by artists Helmut Batista, Daniela Castro and Jorge Menna Barreto, Capacete places food at its core and firmly believes that “in-between” moments in life foster creativity and enrichment. Consequently, cooking and eating stand as the platforms for conversation and exchange at Capacete. Instead of developing a strict and pedagogical program, their aim is to be organic and to promote discussion in a relaxed environment. Capacete offers artistic residencies in their two locations and also runs a hotel that is open to artists and curators visiting Brazil. By extending their hospitality to a range of international visitors they hope to create a fluid and energetic community that can share ideas and resources while promoting art from abroad.

Going west to the Andean city of Lima, Peru, we reach REVOLVER. Founded and directed by Renzo Gianella and Giancarlo Scaglia, this space (a former soap factory) houses a commercial gallery and provides one-month residencies where artists are given the necessary means to produce new art. Since the early 2000s, Lima has developed a thriving contemporary art scene, due in part to the expansion of institutions such as the MALI (Lima Art Museum) and the emergence of alternative spaces that have given voice to young artists. For its part, REVOLVER aims to encourage the development of the local art scene by becoming a platform for exchange between the artists in Peru and the international art community.

Continuing north to inland Colombia we arrive in Cali to find two outstanding projects: Lugar a Dudas (A Place for Doubts) and Helena Producciones (Helena Productions). Lugar a Dudas functions as a research laboratory that focuses on the needs and interests of artists in Cali and its vicinity. Founded by internationally renowned artist Oscar Muñoz, this organization is run by a young and energetic group of Colombian artists that take on curatorial, administrative and programmatic responsibilities in order to foment cultural growth and artistic development. The artists organize different exhibitions in both their gallery and a large window that faces the street traffic. They also promote frequent informal gatherings in their living/library room and the open-air patio/cinema, and coordinate a residency for local and international artists and researchers. By contrast, Helena Producciones does not operate as a fixed gallery or residency, but rather it travels to where it is needed. It develops site-specific projects that examine the relationships between Colombia’s cultural, historic, social, political, economic and geographic phenomena. Like other organizations, they want to connect Colombia’s local artistic communities with others around the world, and have cultivated key partnerships with organizations like the London-based international network of artists Triangle Art Trust. The two organizations recently collaborated to bring a series of visiting artists to Colombia who co-produced site-specific work with local artists and communities.

Heading east to the Caribbean, in San Juan de Puerto Rico, the highlight is Beta-Local. Tony Cruz, Michy Marxuach and Beatriz Santiago Muñoz founded this space as an open platform for the local community’s cultural growth. Like their colleagues in Buenos Aires, the founders of this space saw the lack of a solid fine arts education system as a crucial problem in San Juan. For this reason, the programs they developed combine the production of art with art theory and criticism involving local and international guest speakers. Additionally, once a month, Beta-Local becomes a restaurant, where those involved with the space cook and serve food to the general public at modest prices. This initiative is a way to build community that also functions as their main fundraising initiative.

Finally, at the heart of busy Mexico City, we conclude our brief tour at SOMA. Founded by artists Eduardo Abaroa, Yoshua Okón and Artemio, SOMA’s program comprises both a residency open to international artists and an art school for local artists, whose faculty includes leading art figures from Mexico and abroad. This space also takes pedagogy beyond lessons for artists, expanding their program to Mexico City’s inhabitants offering free and open lectures on a variety of cultural topics every Tuesday. SOMA’s founders believe that this project can exert an enduring influence only if art and art education is valued beyond the art community through the infrastructure they seek to build.

Given the difficult economic climate in the United States, we have recently witnessed dramatic budget cuts to public education, particularly to liberal arts programs. Latin America has not been a stranger to similar political and economical crises. Yet time and again, artists from this vast and diverse region have rise to the occasion with great commitment to their practice and their communities. The importance of artists not only as creators but also as promoters of education and exchange is greater than ever. One of the key shared qualities among the examples I list here is their sensitivity to identify local needs and connect with global currents through thoughtful projects. The challenges we face under the current economic conditions in the United States demand brave, radical and creative actions from all of us. Let us turn our attention south and follow the led of the artists that are already transforming their local communities and expanding their borders through art and education.

Ursula Davila-Villa is Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art at the Blanton Museum of Art.

Announcements: news

Austin News

Lora Reynolds Gallery Recognized by AICA

TheInternational Association of Art Critics (AICA) has recognized Lore Reynolds' solo Noriko Ambe exhibition, 'Noriko Ambe: キル - Artist Books, Linear-Actions Cutting Project,' curated by Glenn Fuhrman, as one of the Two Best Shows in a Commercial Gallery, Nationally.

For more information about the AICA and the award please click here.

Blanton Curator Heads to National Gallery of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin announces the departure of curator Jonathan Bober. Bober, Senior Curator of European Art since 2010, and prior to that, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Painting since 1988, will leave The Blanton effective April 30, 2011 to serve as Curator and Head of the Department of Old Master Prints at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Blanton director Ned Rifkin remarked, “Over his twenty three years of dedicated service, Jonathan Bober has made an exceptional contribution to The Blanton. His focus on, and great passion for deepening the museum's collection of prints and drawings and paintings from Europe, has distinguished him in numerous ways. It is a great tribute to his excellent work here that our country’s museum, The National Gallery of Art, has invited him to continue his work in Washington, D.C. , affording him an even larger national and international platform. All of us at The Blanton wish him every possible success in his new position and will look for great things from him in the future.”

During his tenure at The Blanton, Bober was responsible for the acquisition of over 11,000 works of art of considerable range and the highest quality, including those in the Suida-Manning and Leo Steinberg collections. Among the countless exhibitions, large and small, that he has conceived and presented at The Blanton, arguably none was more revelatory than The Language of Prints, 2008. Concurrent with the national annual meeting of the Print Council of America, the exhibition, and its proposition of an innovative framework for examining this medium, prompted much excited dialogue and re-thinking of traditional approaches. Bober’s in-depth scholarship of the Genoese Renaissance master, Luca Cambiaso, resulted in the first major US exhibition of the artist – Luca Cambiaso, 1527 – 1585, in partnership with Genoa’s Palazzo Ducale – and the first publication on the artist in English. Beyond his exhibitions and collection building, Bober has mentored and trained hundreds of graduate students, who cite his passionate tutelage with gratitude and pride. The rich legacy that he leaves behind has profoundly impacted both the past achievements and the present potential of the Blanton Museum of Art.

San Antonio News

Executive Director Matthew Drutt Leaves Artpace

Drutt’s accomplishments at Artpace include the completion of the organization’s first strategic plan. A former curator at Houston’s Menil Collection and the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Drutt’s passion is art and artists. He has commissioned and curated exciting exhibitions in Artpace’s Hudson Show(Room), including recent installations by Matthew Ronay and the current show “The Teeth of the Wind and the Sea” by German artist Gabriel Vormstein. In addition, Drutt has invited a diverse group of guest curators to spearhead Artpace’s signature International Artist in Residence program, which has hosted 163 artist since 1995. Last year, he led Artpace in its yearlong 15th anniversary celebration, highlighted by a gala Quinceanera.

Announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

Beili Liu
Women and Their Work
Opening Reception Thursday, March 3, 6-8pm

Thousands of pairs of sewing scissors create an intervention in the gallery when arranged by Beili Liu. Liu's large format installation/performance takes over the space it occupies. The repetitive process she uses gives an immersive and powerful effect.

Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires
Blanton Museum of Art
Opening February 20

Organized by The Blanton, Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires will be the first comprehensive presentation of art produced during the 1990s in Buenos Aires, a time of pivotal transformation in Argentina. The exhibition will focus on the work of artists identified as the “arte light” group, which rose to prominence during this decade.

Sanford Biggers
Opening March 26

Sanford Biggers is a multimedia performance and installation artist who incorporates African American history, politics, ethnography, and popular culture in his multifaceted artistic practice. Biggers is also a musician and practicing Zen Buddhist. Therefore, auditory elements and Eastern sources play a major role in his environments and lend a secondary layer of meaning to the icons of black culture prevalent in his work.

Modern Civilization
grayDUCK Gallery
Opening Reception: Friday, February 18, 7-9pm

This show explores the boundaries, environments and landscapes our modern society has created. Whether the artist reaches back to the past or contemplates the present, they see it through modern and complex eyes. Modern Civilization features graphite drawings from Dieter Geisler, acrylic paintings from Suchitra Mattai and Andrew Sloan, and gouache paintings by Ronald Walker.

Austin on View

Amanda Ross-Ho
Visual Arts Center (Vaulted Gallery)
Through March 12

During the course of this evolving on-site work, Amanda Ross-Ho will invite viewers to become participants in an ongoing examination of the boundaries of the white cube, the direct and indirect products of creative expression, and the connectivity of the visual world. Her site-specific installation will transform the Vaulted Gallery into an active worksite dedicated to producing three basic elements: blank stretched canvases, simple hand-built ceramic vessels, and handmade paper. Ross-Ho collapses the life cycle of the creative process through the performative act of embedding the gallery with the energy of production. The three manifestations of the ‘empty’ space produced—canvas, vessel, page—will create an environment that both formalizes the ability for massive potential and serves as witness to mass activity.

Natasha Bowdoin
Visual Arts Center (The Arcade Gallery)
Through March 12

The Daisy Argument by Houston-based artist Natasha Bowdoin is the third incarnation of a project that documents her transcription of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Over the past few years, Bowdoin has used language as an organic material to explore the unpredictable presence of words. Her site-specific installations are composed of an ever-changing number of components, including drawings and phrases carefully cut from paper that are re-appropriated with each new exhibition.

Lisa Tan
Through March 27

Lisa Tan’s conceptual practice is grounded in the examination of emotional drives. This exhibition includes works in a variety of media that address romanticism and los through a diverse group of protagonists drawn from literature and film as well as the artist herself.

Michelle Handelman
Through March 20

Inspired by Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Michelle Handelman’s Dorian, a cinematic perfume is a four-channel video installation that follows a young woman’s hallucinatory journey through the dark and decadent underworld of New York City’s gender-bending drag and burlesque scene.

Nathan Baker
Through March 6

Nathan Baker trained as a photographer, but currently works in a variety of media including sculpture, sound, video, and installation. Baker is interested in how creativity may (or may not) be limited by the resources available to the artist, and he explores that notion through the re-purposing and re-examination of common objects and materials. In Let It Shine, a continuously-looped silent video, the camera is set on a close-up of a metallic fringed stage curtain which seduces and mesmerizes the viewer with its subtle movement and shimmer.

Graham Hudson
Through April 10

British artist Graham Hudson, whose sculptures often include scaffolding, shipping pallets, scrap wood, discarded windows, and vintage turntables, will recreate a portion of the stage of the famous Astoria Theatre (London, demolished 2009) in the renovated space of Arthouse’s 2nd floor gallery. Constructed of scaffolding, the ghost-like replica will double as a sculpture and performance space, as it will be utilized as a rehearsal stage by local bands.

Austin Closings

Rock Hard / Soft Rock
Visual Arts Center (Center Space)
Through February 19

In the Center Space, graduate students in studio art Olivia Moore and Richard Yanas offer this compilation of works in a variety of media that engage in a lateral slide of associations tied together by a single word: ROCK.

Austin on View

William Hundley
Domy Books
Through March 3

Becomes is a survey of recent sculptural and collage-based work of William Hundley. The work has been created with primal intent in which the artist becomes the medium that allows for a dialogue with the nature spirits.

The Tremendous Family
Closing Reception: Saturday, February 12, 7-11PM

The Tremendous Family is happy to announce a collective show highlighting accessibility in the digital age. The Tremendous Family is a collection of collections; a platform to create a unique dialogue through visual works from emerging artists. Obtaining free, intimately sized prints by way of various print on-demand promotional offers has given us the opportunity to present our website's current collection of work.

Beverly Penn & Sydney Yeager
d berman gallery
Through February 26

Beverly Penn says, “The Place of my work is the Garden. As a cultivated border between civilization and wilderness, the Garden is a surreal expression of nature tamed, a transformative buffer zone with potential for mystery, exaggeration, and fantasy. Sydney Yeager says of her recent paintings that the “marks which compose the shapes threaten the boundaries of their confining edges.

Austin Closings

Erin Curtis
Champion Contemporary
Through February 19

Champion is delighted to announce the solo show Ornament of Savage Tribes by Austin artist Erin Curtis. The exhibition is comprised of a body of large scale, free-hanging paintings and mixed-media drawings that reflect an ongoing investigation into architecture, abstraction, and decoration.

Austin on View

Out of Place
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Through March 5

Lora Reynolds Gallery is pleased to present Out of Place, curated by Noah Simblist. The exhibition will include six international artists, many of whom rarely exhibit their work in the US, more often showing in Europe or the Middle East.

Austin Closings

Sofia Cordova
Through February 6

California-based, Puerto Rican-born artist Sofía Córdova began her career as a photographer, but her current work involves performance, video, and installation. As part of her most recent project Lamento Bornincano (Baby, Remember My Name), Córdova has created a series of music videos to accompany a concept album made under the pseudonym ChuCha Santamaría y Usted.

Wura-Natasha Ogunji
Women and Their Work
Through February 17

The epic crossings of an Ife head features paintings and videos based on performances by the artist. Ogunji uses physical actions of the body to explore her connections to place, land, history and memory.

grayDUCK Gallery
Through February 13

This abstract show explores the deconstruction of words, architecture and information while paying homage to intuition, spirituality and imagination. Exhibiting artists include Ute Bertog, Melissa Breitenfeldt, Jennifer Chenoweth, and Court Lurie.

Advancing Tradition: Twenty Years of Printmaking at Flatbed Press
Austin Museum of Art
Through February 13

Imagine a place where artists Terry Allen, Michael Ray Charles, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Melissa Miller, James Surls, and Julie Speed, among others, collaborated with master printmakers to stretch the limits of their practice and the media. That place has thrived for twenty years in the form of Austin-based Flatbed Press, an active laboratory for innovative printmaking.

New Works: Eric Zimmerman
Austin Museum of Art
Through February 13

New Works exhibition series introduces fresh contemporary art by innovative artists. Eric Zimmerman’s painstakingly rendered small and large-scale graphite drawings, functional sculptures, and archival sound works consider the history of American exploration and industry, progress and failures.

L Nowlin Gallery
Through February 12

A curatorial collaboration between L. Nowlin Gallery and Austin Photography Group, Storytelling is a group exhibition featuring the work of close to 40 Texas photographers. The work explores and interprets the narrative; an important element in human connection and communication.

San Antonio on View

Zine Library
Unit B Gallery
Through March 5

Organized by Emily Morrison and Trouser House of New Orleans, LA. Zine Library features work by 50 zinesters from New Orleans, Austin, and Mexico City. The exhibit aims to connect the art of Zine-making with the impetus for the medium—the Do-it-Yourself movement, intersocial dynamics, and issues surrounding copyright and distribution of printed matter.

Steve Reynolds
UTSA Art Gallery
Through February 23

Curated by Catherine Lee. Steve Reynolds: Serial Investigations in Sculpture is an examination of trajectories in the remarkable career of Steve Reynolds (1940-2007), an internationally admired artist especially well known for his tour-de-force explorations in sculpture and ceramics.

Houston Openings

John Wood & Paul Harrison
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Opening Reception: Friday, February 11, 7-10pm

Answers to Questions: John Wood & Paul Harrison will be the first United States museum survey of work in video by this British artistic team. Wood and Harrison use a wide variety of props, often including their own bodies, to create short video vignettes that highlight the inventive play behind all art, even in its most minimal and conceptual strains. Well known throughout Europe and Asia, and especially in their native England, where they have collaborated since 1993, Wood and Harrison’s imaginative, inventive, and often hilarious shorts will be an exciting new discovery for American audiences.

Houston on View

Carl Suddath & Katrina Moorhead
Inman Gallery
Through February 19th

Carl Suddath's 60'6" comprises a group of drawings and several new sculptures. The exhibition's title refers to the distance between the pitching mound and home plate on a modern baseball field. Katrina Moorhead's Landscape of a Danger occupies the north gallery. Expanding upon ideas developed through a group of small sculptures from 2009, the installation couples meticulously embellished natural elements (animal skins) with objects and infrastructure built from common materials used in the construction industry.

Houston Openings

Carlos Cruz-Diez
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Opening February 6

For more than five decades, Carlos Cruz-Diez (born 1923) has experimented intensively with the origins and optics of color. His wide-ranging body of work includes unconventional color structures, light environments, street interventions, architectural integration projects, and experimental works that engage the response of the human eye while insisting on the participatory nature of color. The MFAH and the Cruz-Diez Foundation, Houston, present the first large-scale retrospective of this pioneering Franco-Venezuelan artist.

Houston on View

Gabriel Dieter
Domy Books
Through March 17

New work by Gabriel Dieter. Revenge of the World represents four years of collected works that address the tender and fragile parts of humanity with the sincerity of a comedian on death row.

Jillian Conrad
Art Palace
Through February 19

Mixing the elements of traditional sculpture--its mass, volume, and solidity--with the possibilities of drawing, Jillian Conrad's work has one foot in the world of objects and the other in the world of the imagination.

Patricia Hernandez
Through February 26

Houston artist Patricia Hernandez challenges the integrity of America’s most collected artist, Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light, with an exhibition at DiverseWorks ArtSpace, Parody of Light. Within an installation that includes the interior of a home and a shopping mall, Patricia Hernandez critiques Kinkade’s practice of digitally reproducing his images on questionably “collectible” objects while restricting the sale of his original paintings.


SKYDIVE is pleased to announce CHUNKS, the first exhibition in the new location at 2041 Norfolk Street. CHUNKS is a group show about playful experiments with things that don't quite fall in the painting or the sculpture category, but could be considered to be CHUNKS. CHUNKS explores the work of emerging and mid-career artists who employ the language of painting in other dimensions, and in a variety of materials, including digital media.

Josephine Durkin, The Bridge Club, Hollis Cooper, Mark Aguhar and Laura Lark
Lawndale Art Center
Through March 12

Josephine Durkin works with a variety of methods to investigate how materials and objects can be manipulated and positioned to function as human surrogates in the exhibition When I saw you last.... In the Mezzanine Gallery, The Bridge Club collaborative presents a new performance and installation work titled Natural Resources utilizing objects coated in either milk or petroleum oil. Hollis Cooper will create a site specific painting installation in response to the architecture of the Grace R. Cavnar Gallery for the exhibition Working Space. In the Project Space, Mark Aguhar's exploration of queer expression and what it means to have grown up gay on the internet in a new series of works for the exhibition M4M. The SNACK PROJECTS gallery will feature the Los Angeles bedroom of Neely O'Hara from the novel and movie Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susan, in miniature, by artist Laura Lark.

Okay Mountain
Blaffer Art Museum
Through April 2

For their exhibition at the Blaffer, Okay Mountain explores the methods and rituals held in common by otherwise isolated groups—from followers of self-help messiahs to fundamentalist cults to Fortune 500 companies—who “employ a combination of initiation, insider/outsider mentality, esoteric language, and a hierarchy of progressive advancement to inspire a streamlined, new identity that supersedes the complexities of everyday existence.”

Disturbance of Distance 2
Box 13
Through February 19

Box 13 ArtSpace is pleased to announce the opening of Disturbance of Distance 2, the second in a continuing series of juried exhibitions connecting Houston to the surrounding arts communities. This round brings together artists from the Houston and Dallas areas, curated by Charles Dee Mitchell. Disturbance of Distance 2 features the artists Mary Benedicto, Val Curry, Brian Jones, Daniel McFarlane, Brian Scott, Sunny Sliger, and Bonnie Young.

Dallas Openings

Virginia Fleck
Holly Johnson Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, February 19, 6-8pm

Virginia Fleck's mandalas are intricately crafted, large-scaled works that reference painting, but are created by collaging pieces of detritus from a consumerist society in a way that exposes the efforts of advertisers to influence the masses.

Ed Ruscha
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Opening January 23

Since Ruscha's first road trip from Oklahoma City to Los Angeles in 1956, the artist has continued to engage the images he has encountered along the roads of the western United States. Consisting of approximately 75 works, spanning the artist's entire career, Ed Ruscha: Road Tested tracks key images inspired by his admitted love of driving. "I like being in the car, and seeing things from that vantage point," Ruscha has said. "Sometimes I give myself assignments to go out on the road and explore different ideas."

Royal Robertson
Webb Gallery
Opening Reception: February 20, 4-8pm

A retrospective. Robertson worked primarily on poster board using magic markers, tempera paint, colored pencils, ball point pens and glitter. Many of his pieces are double sided and in addition to works on paper; he adorned his home with murals, signs, and shrines of space sexy ladies, space men, signs with his troubled thoughts on women, warnings of the end of times, and biblical texts.

Dallas Closings

Texas Woman's University (TWU/Denton campus)
Through February 10

FREERIDING brings together works by the Art Guys, David Bergholz, Christine Bisetto, Richie Budd, Candy Chang, M. Kate Helmes, Kristin Lucas, Temporary Services, and Lawrence Weiner, and a project organized by curator Daniel Baumann. Each work in the exhibition relates to the idea of exchange

Mike Osborne
Holly Johnson Gallery
Through February 12

Mike Osborne's Papers and Trains brings together two distinct but subtly interconnected photographic projects. Press Pictures revolves around the newspaper production process while Underground focuses on the subterranean waiting areas of a German metro system.

Erik Parker
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Through February 6

Erik Parker has described his work as “fragmented samples of our culture.” His complex fantasy portraits elicit the poignant, melancholy, grotesque, psychological, provocative, and almost always comical and surreal, baggage of our time.

Marfa on View

Ballroom Marfa
Through February 20

Ballroom Marfa is pleased to announce the opening of Immaterial, an exhibition that will focus on the physical and psychic tensions between form, color, and space across varied visual and structural mediums. Curated by Executive Director Fairfax Dorn, the exhibition seeks to examine the metaphysical aspects of artistic production through a selection of artworks that challenge the use of material and space, formalism and abstraction. By using the exhibition as a forum to contemplate process-driven practices, Immaterial will consider art's potential to transcend conscious states through a plurality of visual languages.

New York on View

An Exchange with Sol LeWitt
MASS MoCA & Cabinet
Cabinet Closing: March 5 / MASS MoCA Closing: March 31

In addition to encouraging the circulation of artworks through a gift economy that challenged the art world’s dominant economic model, LeWitt’s exchanges with friends and strangers have the same qualities of generosity and risk that characterized his work in general. In the spirit of continuing the artist’s lifelong philosophy of open exchange, and in conjunction with the “LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective” on view at MASS MoCA through 2033, MASS MoCA and Cabinet present “An Exchange with Sol LeWitt”—a curatorial project initiated by independent curator Regine Basha.

A Room, In Three Movements
Sue Scott Gallery
Through February 27

Featuring the work of three sculptors: Katy Heinlein, Sheila Pepe and Halsey Rodman. Three times during A Room, In Three Movements the location of each sculpture will be changed in the gallery, prompting the artists to improvise a response to each other’s work and to the space, and each time inviting a new experience. As Brooklyn-based artist Sheila Pepe asks, “what happens if a static object is made specifically to change shape in relation to another structure/object? What contingencies can be played out, what references are re-shuffled and animated when that object is moved around in space, around a room?”

New York Closings

Teresa Hubbard & Alexander Birchler
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery
Through February 5

Premiere of Melies, the most recent film by the photography and video artists, Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler. The work explores the residue of cinema and social terrain around the site of a mountain in the Chihuahua Desert in West Texas named Movie Mountain. According to local residents, this mountain near the border town of Sierra Blanca is named Movie Mountain because a silent film was shot there in the early 1900s. Searching for the origin of the mountain's name, the artists embarked on a journey traversing the landscape of early silent-era film production.

Announcements: events

Austin Events

Art in Practice Panel Discussion
Art Building @ UT, Rm 1.120
Tuesday, February 8, 2011 - 6:30pm–8pm

Art in Practice provides guidance and insight into the professional world to students preparing for careers in the arts. Varying topics of conversation range from a nuts-and-bolts approach to gaining valuable job skills, to broad issues relevant to creative culture as a whole. Led by committed art administrators, enterprising gallerists, and established artists, these panel talks engage audiences in constructive exchanges about the multifaceted field of contemporary art.

L. Nowlin Closing Reception
L Nowlin Gallery
Closing Reception: Saturday, February 5, 6-8pm

L. Nowlin Gallery will be closing its doors this February after two years of operation in Austin, Tx.

San Antonio Events

Sala Diaz Fundraiser
Sala Diaz
March 19

Please save the date for a Sala Diaz fundraiser, Saturday March 19, 2011. This time we’ll do it at the compound with music provided by Buttercup and DJ John Mata. We’re calling it The Long Table of Love. With this title we embrace the still evolving social sculpture that is the compound, Sala’s fifteen year part in it and the spirit of our friend and co-conspirator Chuck Ramirez. Rick Frederick will serve as Master of Ceremonies. A number of artists will supply altered bicycle helmets to be auctioned that evening.

Houston Events

Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Thursday, January 27, 6:30pm

Please support the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston's new initiative- contemporary@mfah. This special patron group is dedicated to promoting contemporary projects at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and raising awareness about how the MFAH mirrors the ongoing, vital commitment to contemporary art that makes Houston one of this nation's foremost incubators for new talent. The patron group also makes efforts to raise the profile of all our colleagues who have shaped this city's arts organizations.

Dallas Events

Dallas Art Fair
April 8-10, 2011

Celebrating modern and contemporary art, the third annual 2011 Dallas Art Fair will showcase paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs by modern and contemporary artists represented from more than 60 prominent national and international art dealers. There are 15 Texas galleries participating.

Uta Barth
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
February 8, 7pm

Uta Barth is a photographer who lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Unlike traditional photography where the camera is used as a pointing device for selecting significant moments and places, Barth's overriding interest is in perception-in vision itself. Her images share more with the work of Robert Irwin, John Cage, and Brian Eno than with the ideology of Walker Evans or Edward Weston. Barth's is a serious and concentrated practice that has been rewarded with a great deal of critical acclaim and recognition, including a 2004 Guggenheim Fellowship; the comprehensive survey Uta Barth, published by Phaidon Press as one of the publisher's prestigious Contemporary Art Series; and most recently, the 2010 monograph Uta Barth:The Long Now.

John Beech
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
February 15, 7pm

Artist John Beech, born in England and living in Brooklyn, is recognized for his wry Duchampian twist on the everyday, producing minimalist sculptures and images that combine humor and beauty in perfect union. Beech's superbly crafted and appointed paintings, drawings, and sculptures have been described by Edward Albee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and Beech's collaborator for the 2007 book Obscure/Reveal, as "pure beauty." Ken Johnson of the New York Times states that, "the absurdist conjunction of idealist abstraction and real-world function in Mr. Beech's work is amusing; it also affords the deeper satisfaction of seeing Minimalism's mandarin purity brought down to earth."

Marfa Events

The Reading
Ballroom Marfa
March 26

Ballroom Marfa is pleased to announce the launch of The Reading, a professionally staged screenplay presentation that, in its inaugural year, spotlights a winning script from the prestigious 2010 Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting, which is presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.


Feminist Read-A-Thon
Anhoek School

This February Anhoek School is conducting a Feminist Read-A-Thon to help students take courses free of charge and pay teachers fairly for their labor. Anhoek is a nomadic and experimental school with small classes (a limit of seven students per class), and teachers who are invested in challenging the power structures inherent in how people are taught and what they are taught.

Announcements: opportunities

Call for Entries

Universe in Universe
Deadline: March 10

The 17th International Contemporary Art Festival SESC_Videobrasil will be held in September and October 2011. As suggested by its new name, a deep, intense model shift marks this edition when compared to previous ones. Aligned with the nature of contemporary artistic practices, the new competitive exhibition expands its ability to soak in diverse manifestations, such as video, installations, performances, book-objects, and other artistic experiments. For more information and how to apply, click here.

Video Jam seeks video work
Video Jam
Deadline: March 7

The Video Jam is seeking video art or short film to be screened during Contemporary Art Month at Unit B Gallery in San Antonio, Texas. All entries must be in .MOV format

Send works along with title, name, TRT, date, and synopsis to:

The Video Jam
611 Mission St.
San Antonio, Tx 78210

Call for Submissions

Gopher Illustrated
Deadline: March 1

The Gopher Illustrated emerges from the desire to consume hefty, satisfying cultural content that is worth keeping. We welcome visual arts portfolios, articles and chronicles on culture or global topics and works of short fiction. We are also receiving music and video submissions for publication on our website. A themed section for this issue centers on the concept of “Risky Business.” As always, our theme is open to interpretation, so feel free to send Tom Cruise images (why not?), but creativity is also highly appreciated We accept all the above-mentioned formats as entries for the themed section, and these should be sent with subject line “Risk”. For more info click here.

Call for Proposals

Triple Canopy: 2011 Commissions Program
Triple Canopy
Deadline: February 14

Triple Canopy is pleased to announce its second annual call for proposals. We will be commissioning projects spanning the six areas outlined below—original research, new-media journalism, public programming, Internet-specific artwork and literature, and critical dialogues—to be published in the magazine and presented before live audiences between July 1, 2011, and June 30, 2012. For more information, click here.

New Media Art & Sound Summit 2011
Church of the Friendly Ghost
Deadline: Friday, April 1

NMASS draws attention to thoughtful, impressive emerging creativity in Austin, the state of Texas, and across the US. NMASS will feature the clever, progressive efforts of local musicians and artists, celebrate Austin's creative culture, and offer opportunities for artists and audiences to engage with a few featured guests from outside of Texas. To apply, click here.

Call for Musicians

In conjunction with Graham Hudson's installation at Arthouse

From February 4th through April 10th, British artist Graham Hudson will transform Arthouse into a monumental sculpture inspired by London’s famous music venue The Astoria Theatre. His installation will include a stage with audience seating made from scaffolding. Arthouse and Hudson seek musicians and bands who are open to creative exploration and experimentation to REHEARSE in this collaborative artwork that connects London’s past with Austin’s present through a multi-layered sculptural and musical experience. Click here for more info.

Fellowship Opportunities

Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowships in the Humanities
Harry Ransom Center
Deadline: February 13

The Harry Ransom Center, an internationally renowned humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, annually awards over 50 fellowships to support research projects that require on-site use of its collections. The fellowships support research in all areas of the humanities, including literature, photography, film, art, the performing arts, music, and cultural history. Click here for applications and guidelines.

Residency Opportunities

John Michael Kohler Arts/Industry Residency
John Michael Kohler Arts Center
Deadline: Friday, April 1

Arts/Industry is undoubtedly the most unusual on-going collaboration between art and industry in the United States. Hundreds of emerging and established visual artists have benefited from the Arts/Industry program at Kohler Co. since its inception in 1974. Participants are exposed to a body of technical knowledge that enables them to explore forms and concepts not possible in their own studios as well as new ways of thinking and working. Artists-in-residence may work in the Kohler Co. Pottery, Iron and Brass Foundries, and Enamel Shop to develop a wide variety of work in clay, enameled cast iron, and brass including but not limited to murals and reliefs, temporary or permanent site-specific installations, and functional and sculptural forms. For more information and to apply, click here.

Internship Opportunities


Fluent~Collaborative seeks interns! The Editorial Intern will be primarily assisting with the online publication, …might be good. The Production Intern will assist with the preparation and gallery hours of exhibitions at testsite. If interested, please send a letter of interest stating which internship you are interested in and a current resumé to eng@fluentcollab.org with the subject line: “Fluent Internship”. Please note that both internships are unpaid.

Employment Opportunities

Arthouse Membership Manager
Deadline: February 10

Arthouse at the Jones Center seeks a highly-organized, goal-oriented Membership Manager to build and sustain membership in order to broaden and deepen Arthouse’s annual base of financial support. Membership Manager will prepare and monitor the budget for membership, produce regular reports, process monthly mailings, online membership processing and other outreach campaigns. To apply for the Membership Manager position, please email a cover letter and resume to info@arthousetexas.org.

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