MBG Issue #164: Poetry in the Compulsion to Chronicle

Issue # 164

Poetry in the Compulsion to Chronicle

March 14, 2011

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Jonathan Marshall, Armistice, 2010, Paper, ink, flocking, and ink-jet prints on wood, 48 x 60 inches. Courtesy of the artist. (detail)

from the editor

While the disciplines of poetry, literature and visual art commingle less in the pages of contemporary art publications than in the heyday of the poet-critic of the 1950s and ‘60s, there is still a mutual admiration and correspondence between the fields. In his Art Lies Distinguished Critics lecture in October 2009, Raphael Rubinstein gave a schematic overview of contemporary poetry composed in response to visual artwork. Although the belletristic conventions of critical writing have waned in the past decades, giving rise to theoretical considerations, it’s clear that a rigorous and creative approach to merging form and content inform successful works of all artistic genres. And in some cases, radical approaches to authorship have shaken both disciplines to the core, from the appropriationist techniques of visual art to appropriative or conceptual poetry (fittingly, the introductions by Kenneth Goldsmith and Craig Dworkin to the recent compendium Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Poetry can be accessed free of charge here).

In this issue of …mbg, literary conventions and themes—especially of the poetic variety— continually appear for consideration, reworking and critique. The issue is led by an interview between Charissa Terranova and Ed Ruscha. If not a poet himself, Ruscha was certainly inspired by and inspired a generation of literary output in his flatfooted approach to modern Americana and the road. Our reviews section is anchored by two considerations of poetic works: Katie Geha parses Dan Boehl’s Kings of the F**king Sea, and Erin Kimmel writes about the Marfa Book Co. exhibition and publication devoted to the work of the late Scottish poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay. Also in our reviews section, Rachel Cook ruminates on Drawn from Photography, a group exhibition at the Drawing Center in New York devoted to the achingly human act of transcribing the mechanically reproduced photographic archive in detailed drawings. Lee Webster and Justin Cavin, respectively, critique the ephemeral poetics of works by Lisa Tan at Arthouse and Amanda Ross-Ho at the Visual Arts Center. And to wrap up the issue, we invited Claire Ruud, former Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative and my predecessor at …mbg, to consider Michelle Handelman’s Dorian, a contemporary update of Wildean decadence, at Arthouse.

The flip side of art’s poetics, of course, is its market. For those in New York this week for the art fairs, you’ve got a smorgasbord of events to choose from (regardless of the size of your pocketbook), including some new and exciting offerings. In addition to the older, more blue-chip fairs, the Armory Show and the ADAA Show, the New York editions of international art fairs return. Volta features an invitational-only roster of solo artist projects, Scope gathers together emerging contemporary art galleries, and Pulse offers another contemporary fair in the Flatiron district. Now in its second year, INDEPENDENT, conceived by Elizabeth Dee and Darren Flook (Hotel, London) and directed by White Columns’ Matthew Higgs, will be held in the Dia building on 22nd Street. The freshest event will doubtless be the debut of the video-based Moving Image Fair, the brainchild of Edward Winkleman. …mbg will not be present at this year’s fair, but for comprehensive coverage, my pick is Art Fag City. Paddy Johnson’s first installment on the effects of “leaner art fairs,” still rebounding from the economic crash, can be found here, and they’ll continue to post coverage throughout the weekend.

In art news closer to home, the Austin Museum of Art announced last week that they will be relinquishing their $51,840 per month lease on their current location at 823 Congress Street as of October 2011. This follows on the heels of the departure of director Dana Friis-Hansen in January, and the sale of their lot earmarked for a new building project on 4th and Guadalupe for over $21 million in December 2010. With the windfall sale as an institutional nest egg, they plan to focus their energies and funds on new programming for their existing location at Laguna Gloria. American-Statesman arts writer Jeanne Claire van Ryzin reports at length about these developments, and adds that no exhibitions are currently scheduled in the Congress Street location after New Art in Austin closes on May 22. We are curious to follow the developments of the institution and how this will affect the Austin art constellation overall. With Arthouse anchoring contemporary art’s presence downtown, the possibilities for diversifying and distinguishing AMOA’s profile is high with the potential expansion of programming at Laguna Gloria.

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


Ed Ruscha

By Charissa N. Terranova

Ed Ruscha, Standard Station with Ten-Cent Western Being Torn in Half, 1964, Oil on canvas, 65 x 121 1/2 inches (165.1 x 308.6 cm). Private Collection.

Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha gained notoriety from the early 1960s as one of the most important West Coast Pop artists. His works about the road, travel and automobile culture are the subject of a major survey exhibition at the Fort Worth Modern. Ed Ruscha: Road Tested remains on view through April 17.

For this issue of …mbg, Charissa Terranova interviews Ruscha about how road trips, the West and contemporary urbanism have influenced his art.

Charissa N. Terranova [CT]: Do you think the automobile and the road has a specific effect on a certain kind of art or art in general?

Ed Ruscha [ER]: Well, art has always been into “the machine.” You can go back to the Italian Futurists and how they felt like any kind of machine is more beautiful than a flower, for instance. An outrageous statement when you first think about it, but the point is taken that machinery itself is a glorifying experience. Motion and physics and metals and how they all mesh together…

Artists have always been attached to the “Hollywood glamour” of automobiles, even artists that profess to have no interest in Pop art, like the Abstract Expressionists. I think that people erroneously thought they didn’t have any interest in popular culture, but they really did—I mean, Marilyn Monroe and Cadillacs and stuff like that.

CT: I think it’s the way history’s been written. It’s the importance of Clement Greenberg that has dominated the field, but there are other ways of understanding, for example, Abstract Expressionism.

My next question has to do with a quote from Michael Auping’s essay in the catalogue. He writes: “Ruscha acknowledges that many of his ideas for paintings come while he’s driving, and to the extent that he has taken photographs from his moving car and made cryptic drawings and notes while driving, his car is a kind of second studio.” What are your thoughts on the idea of the car as an extension of the human body?

ER: I’m right there when I’m behind the wheel. I’m kind of serving my mental state. At the risk of my own safety I’ve got to concentrate on the road, but I think about all kinds of things while I’m driving, especially on long trips. I’ve never liked the sound of my voice so I don’t use a tape recorder. Instead I write these things down—

CT: As you’re driving?

ER: As I’m driving, off to the side of the road. I don’t take my eyes off the road, but I’m able to use a pad of paper and a pencil to cryptically annotate what I’m thinking as I’m driving.

CT: I’ve directed students in graduate work and one of them wrote about Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1962). In the avant-garde journal October, people wrote about your work, and that piece in particular, as an articulation of the entropic landscape, as if those buildings were some kind of statement on the death of the author and ugliness. But when I look at Twentysix Gasoline Stations, I like them; I think they’re nice buildings. Do you like the parking lots, the gas stations and the buildings? Are they formal? Are they beautiful to you?

ER: A lot of it has to do with the idea of divorcing myself from the idea of a picture of something and getting to the mental state of it. The gas stations in particular… I knew as I was photographing these stations that sometime in the future they would become nostalgic and have another strength or weakness to them. I remember feeling regretful about that, that I couldn’t keep them in the present.

CT: Do you make these works out of some desire, because you like them, or is it arbitrary?

ER: Well I like them, but it’s also sort of a haphazard, lackadaisical, traveling along, I-want-to-photograph-that kind of thing. And then there’s collections of notions: another gas station to add to the pile.

CT: Do you think through them? Because you’re driving to the gas stations.

ER: Each time I did this I would be more or less in my own world. I realized that people seeing me photographing these gas stations were wondering, “What’s this man up to?” Especially people in the gas stations. They would say, “Hey, what are you doing?” And I would say, “Photographing the gas station.” So I had a bit of that. But it’s like…the magic of chemistry.

CT: I’m really empathetic because for my first art history graduate degree, I wrote about WalMart, as an art historian. And really it was because I was interested in the landscape. I used to go interview and take pictures and people said the same things: “What are you doing? What are you doing this for?”

America has a long tradition of car art. Houston has an Art Car Parade every year, and then there are exhibitions like Allure of the Automobile at the High Museum last year, where they brought cars literally into the building. Since MoMA opened, they’ve done seven or eight shows on the car. How does your work relate to that kind of convention of car art?

ER: It’s different than those issues. People who decorate their cars? That’s a side culture that I don’t subscribe to, although at first I liked customized cars. I liked the fact that people would do that, sometimes in subtle ways, and that was a symptom of post-war luxury. But Art Cars, no. Decorating your car with spangles never really interested me, and I see other interests in just pure historical value of cars. I’ll be the first one to line up to see a collection of old automobiles—something that is overwhelming and is such a part of my life and such a part of everyone’s life that it’s hard to escape.

CT: That’s what’s so interesting about your work. I make a distinction in my book between this Art Car mode of production and conceptual car art. I think your work brings something more perceptual to the table. It’s phenomenological, like the body moving through space, and I think it brings a criticality. It is critical to the fact that this has become normative for us. What is your statement about the car, If there is a statement?

ER: That’s an important thing you said: “If there is a statement.” (laughs) I view everything that I do as basically an exploratory venture. It’s so impulsive that I have to go back later and sort of cover my tracks and make a reason for why I’m doing it. I think that’s basically where it comes from—from something so simple and stupid, but powerful at the same time.

CT: There’s the car on the road in your work, then there’s the graphic tradition. When I talk about your work, because you’re so brilliantly talented at rendering things in space, I think of John F. Peto and William Harnett, the 19th-century trompe l’oeil artists. So who were your graphic influences?

ER: Well it comes from so many sources. But I could say Peto and Harnett, and artists like that from that era, like Louis Eilshemius. You could call him a tragic figure, but he’s a painter and had a great influence on Marcel Duchamp. I think Duchamp considered him one of the greatest painters of the age. He painted around the turn of the century. And there are a lot of very obscure people who have influenced me; it’s not just people that are well known, but unknown people and even naïve artists, like Sam Doyle, a painter from South Carolina who is considered a folk artist. He had a strong effect on me. And then I can bring in the subject of music.

CT: You did an interview with someone about the blues, didn’t you?

ER: Oh yeah.

CT: How does L.A. figure? Is it a muse for you?

ER: I love it and hate it, and now I’m back to loving it again. I have mood swings about that city.

CT: Why do you hate it sometimes?

ER: It’s my life in the place that is disturbing or unsettling. I feel like I want to get out of there but now I’m settled back into it. But I also have a place out in the desert, so it’s a place to get away to.

CT: Do you read L.A. writers? Are you into Raymond Chandler or any of those people?

ER: Yeah, James Elroy, and there’s another writer named Mark Z. Danielewski who I’ve read. There’s some good writers.

CT: I remember that in your catalogue from the 2006 show at the Whitney that you were thinking about moving to New York or L.A., but you went L.A. because it’s more modern, or rather more contemporary. Do you still feel that way?

ER: Yeah. But at the same time, all of our ideas of metropolitan America that develop part of the sophisticated art of America come from Gotham.

CT: It’s a myth though, because everybody lives like L.A.

ER: Yes, but I think it’s sold to us through the movies—the movies out in L.A. have told us what the world was like. Before, we had a notion of what New York was like. I didn’t visit New York until I was 21 or 22 years old, and when I got there I thought, “This place is just like I thought it was.” Movies had always shown me this grandiose, George Gershwin sort of tempo with the tall buildings and all. How else would I know what New York was about except through movies and descriptions? So maybe that’s the Hollywood forward motion.

CT: What are your thoughts on European urbanism and the traditions of the walking city?

ER: Here we have real estate galore, and there they farm everything up until the back door to the farm houses. Their cities are sort of organized in the same way. It’s ancient in many ways, and eye opening at the same time just to see European culture. I didn’t go there until I was in my early twenties and I was impressed by the exotic aspect of the cities and the countries. And yet there’s something that made me say, “I’ve got to get back to the Western US.”

CT: Can I ask you a question about Jack Kerouac? In your version of On the Road, you’re really paying a great homage to him. What are your feelings about that book and the history of American literature? Is it important, and why? Clearly you must think it’s important because you’ve created a work of art about it.

ER: He got on the track of stream of consciousness, just blurting things out as they came and attacking the world in an unstructured way. I began to see value and hope in that. His use of language coupled with his ideas of just his friends and the fun that they were all having during this period was maybe a metaphor for something I found myself doing at the same time.

CT: Do you have any specific thoughts about conceptual art, or does it just not interest you as a category? It seems like you work between the text and the machine, the automobile and at certain points the typewriter. Do you care about the designation of being called a conceptual artist?

ER: No, it doesn’t bother me at all—

CT: Are you a conceptual artist?

ER: I probably am, probably not. When I think of conceptual art, I immediately want to define that kind of art as mental art, art without a physical presence. And that was an inevitable thing to happen during the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. All these artists came along that were exploring something that didn’t involve a concrete item like a painting on canvas. Now it’s possibly run its course, but it’s influenced millions of artists, even if they won’t admit it.

CT: I feel like it’s almost become grammatical, this term of conceptual art. It’s so foundational that it’s what most engaged artists do often. I call it “the conceptual turn.” It’s an idea I’m working on that I’d like to write more on it. I think it starts in the ‘50s but it comes to the present, because I see this in so many artists’ work.

Charissa N. Terranova is Assistant Professor of Aesthetic Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas. A freelance curator and scholarly critic, she has recently completed a book-length manuscript entitled Automotive Prosthetic: The Car, Technological Mediation, and the Conceptual Turn in Art, 1951-Present.


Amanda Ross-Ho
Visual Arts Center, Austin
Through March 12

By Justin Cavin

Amanda Ross-Ho, Installation view from UNTITLED NOTHING FACTORY at the Visual Arts Center in the Department of Art and Art History at UT Austin, Spring 2011. Photo by Adam Schreiber & Colin Doyle.

Amanda Ross-Ho lends form to the aesthetic impulse by recontextualizing the perceived formal and physical limits of the gallery, exhibition hall, and artist’s studio. In a sort of narratological loop the relationship between exhibition and viewer is called into question by way of installations that are intended to upend the traditionally understood roles of space, the viewer, and the artist and her studio.

UNTITLED NOTHING FACTORY, her installation/performance at the Visual Arts Center, University of Texas, Austin, is no exception. In the expansive Vaulted Gallery Ross-Ho recently led a marathon art-making session. For a little over two weeks she was present in the space, serving as an artist-teacher, inviting viewers into a staging area or “factory” where they were led in producing hand-built ceramic vessels, handmade paper and blank stretched canvases at work stations. These commonly understood artistic forms (the canvas, the vessel, the paper) act as conceptual reliquaries. Through the process of their creation in this gallery-cum-studio, the objects are very much about bringing the solitary, generative activity that traditionally surrounds artists in their studios into a more egalitarian light. The objects produced by the workers are all white and seemingly anonymous in their materiality, and belie the individuals’ labor that produced them. On another collective level, many of the materials that were used to create the objects were culled from other spaces throughout the institution. The pulp of the hand-made paper, for instance, was itself made from recycled office papers.

As the title of the exhibition suggests, Ross-Ho has not only cultivated the potential energy of the space, but has also cultivated the labor and productive power of her “workers” or “participants” vis-à-vis the factory. And at the end of the day “the factory” is a rather charged situation in itself, a word that can conjure images that aren’t nearly as generous as this project intends to be. Moreover, the entire process was documented with a single time-lapse camera positioned above the gallery space that surveyed the whole scene in several-second intervals. The focal point of the installation relies heavily on the performative quality of participation. After the production stopped, and in a highly stylized fashion, the ceramic vessels were displayed on shelves, the canvases dramatically hung on one of the gallery walls, and the paper stacked neatly on tables that were used as production stations. The resulting installation is moving and ghostly.

Ultimately Ross-Ho is interested in multiplicity and the unforeseen forces that collide at any given moment to make up our present. However, there is a great deal of choreography in the VAC work. The closed-circuit recording of the entire event will presumably be displayed if the piece is reinstalled in a commercial or institutional space. Shooting at intervals of several seconds at a time the footage is likely to resemble surveillance video, a documentation process that is at odds with the fleeting intimacy encouraged throughout the project. At the end of the exhibition’s run the entire production will be packed up and shipped back to Ross-Ho’s studio in Los Angeles, where presumably it will become part of her working arsenal (if not sold). In many of her works the artist borrows elements from previous installations and incorporates them into new pieces, extending the narrative further while continuing to fold the past onto the present.

Justin Cavin is a writer and curatorial assistant at the Core Program, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

Lisa Tan
Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin
Through March 27

By Lee Webster

Lisa Tan, Exhibition view of Two Birds, Eighty Mountains, and a Portrait of the Artist, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

Lisa Tan’s Two Birds, Eighty Mountains, and a Portrait of the Artist finds meaning in the impulse to tally and poetry in the compulsion to chronicle. The works rely on Tan’s rigorous process of accumulating information and take the form of a collection, a long correspondence, an obsessive routine and a minute alteration. In the starkly arranged gallery the four pieces are in quiet dialogue about intimacy, loss and the passage of time. However, what they have to say is so subtle, their whisperings so quiet, that their message is sometimes lost to the viewer.

The show’s installation is ringed by the piece Letters from Dr. Bamberger, installed along the gallery walls. This series of letters chronicles the results of Tan’s annual physicals over the course of ten years, in cordial yet clinical notes from her physician. Blood sugar levels, good and bad cholesterol, kidney, liver and thyroid functions: all are accounted for by Dr. Bamberger. On September 18, 2007 he writes, “I have reviewed your lab tests. Everything looks good. Actually the results are almost identical to the ones from 2006.” In fact, the results are almost identical every year. At each visit Dr. Bamberger recommends calming exercise for Tan’s stress-related maladies; each year they abate, but never disappear. Next to each letter to Tan is an accompanying letter to a man. We assume these to be romantic partners, first Charles, then Kurt, then Jonas. For a couple of years only a blank sheet of letterhead accompanies Tan’s note. Letters to Dr. Bamberger is succinct and powerful. The redundancy of the results in the face of the passage of time and the shifting of personal relationships is striking. It is a portrait of a woman, less of her vital signs and more of her psychological disposition to ruminate, collect, and perhaps over-worry.

Tan’s latest project delves into an epistolary exchange, this time between French Romantic painter Eugène Delacroix and his lover Madame Forget. The Madame’s name becomes a poetic symbol in the study of a romance that passed a couple centuries before us. Tan has created prints of these historic letters, placed in a vitrine in the center of the first room. They are gorgeous antique missives, ornate and clearly written with attention and care, though their contents remain impenetrable to most viewers, as they are not only written in a faded and lilting cursive, but in French.

National Geographic (2009) catalogues a different archive. Shown on side-by-side slide projectors are eighty slides of mountains clipped from the pages of National Geographic, along with images of the magazine clipping’s verso. Without the aid of the exhibition brochure card we might not understand what we are seeing, let alone the personal significance of these clippings. Cut from Tan’s father’s National Geographic collection, these mountains and their reverse pages are a rumination on the actual, physical mountain that separated Tan from her father during the years before his death.

Tan’s video installation, Les Samouraïs (2010) explores solitude and loss, as well as the possibilities of revisionist history. A short video loop of the opening credits of Jean-Pierre Melville’s French New Wave film Le Samouraï is projected onto a small screen. Melville’s film focuses primarily on a solitary man alone in a room, kept company by a single solitary songbird in a cage. During the filming of Le Samouraï the bird perished in a fire in Melville’s studio. Tan’s piece is a subtle revision of the opening sequence: she has added a second yellow bird to the cage. On a projection so small this fact could easily go unnoticed.

The pieces in Tan’s exhibition speak in a low murmur amongst themselves of minor incidents of great personal significance to the artist that remain mostly opaque to the viewer. Tan fuses narrative with a rigorous conceptual practice to an uneven effect. Works like Letters from Dr. Bamberger and National Geographic succeed with a simple conceptual foundation that serves as a platform for a delicately conveyed story. Other pieces have an impact when decoded by the exhibition card, but lack an oomph standing alone in the gallery. Two Birds, Eighty Mountains, and a Portrait of the Artist has its share of moments that fall flat, but when Tan achieves that magic balance of concept, content and form, the effects resonate hauntingly.

Lee Webster is an artist living and working in Austin, Texas.

Michelle Handelman
Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin
Through March 27

By Claire Ruud

Michelle Handelman, Dorian, a cinematic perfume, 2009, Digital video projection, 63 mins. Courtesy of the artist. Photograph by Laure Leber.

Michelle Handelman’s Dorian, a cinematic perfume (2009), a sumptuous four-channel video re-presenting Oscar Wilde’s classic through the bodies of young, scenester drag artists and dykes, carried me to Arthouse directly after I touched down in Austin last weekend. I was completely taken with the work. I also found it irritatingly self-indulgent. Yet at every turn, Dorian embraced its own self-indulgence with a wink and a nod that made the work all the more irresistible. Its affected extravagance gave me permission to revel in my own. Riveted by the unbelievable wigs (Handelman’s craft is everywhere apparent in the costumes and sets she designed), languid naked bodies, a butt plug to die for—excuse the pun—I allowed myself to be seduced.

Of course, Wilde’s themes* reappear in Handelman’s video. Youth and beauty take on death (and lose). Art and artifice commingle, threatening art’s purity. Surface veils meaning, or perhaps masks emptiness. The portrait is the real, and the real is a portrait. This last motif comes through strongly and fits our moment perfectly. In a post-Butler world, many of us are self-consciously performing our identities. Every day, we draw our own portraits through our bodies. This act throws traditional portraiture into a tizzy.

How to draw a portrait of a portrait? Handelman’s Dorian is just such an ironic drag performance of portraiture. With a nod to its legacy, her camera often lingers on her sitter’s faces in stunningly simple close-ups. Looking into the lens, and by proxy into the spectator’s eyes, they create moments of felt connection for the viewer. But where is the person behind those eyes? The video creates a stylized portrait of performers who are stylized portraits.

Dorian plays into our confusion between the artist and her performance. Wilde and his Dorian Gray are the perfect foil for this plot. The book appears to have fed into suspicions about Wilde’s sexuality; in his well-known prologue he retorts: “It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.” The danger of the book was the possibility that it revealed the artist’s true nature, and by extension the nature of his associates. In Handelman’s work, the artist’s version of the prologue shows up mid-story in the form of a cherub-faced androgyne yelling at the camera. You’re sitting there judging us, she screams. But you want us, want to be us, too—this is the underlying current of her monologue.

Handelman presents a queer world that might be difficult for a public to swallow. (Recent scandal over Wojnarowicz suggests avant-garde shock and censorship are not a thing of the past.) Dorian’s affected aesthetic works to cloak its queerness in frivolity. Like Wilde’s plea of uselessness—“We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely”—Handelman’s affectation protects the work from criticism. However, Handelman could be screwed either way; there is always an argument against her. If Dorian has meaning and substance, it is dangerous. If it is all surface and self-consciousness, it is decadent. The potency of Handelman’s work, like Wilde’s in his day, is its ability to elude fixity in either category. Pick your fancy, and then fret over the possibility you might be wrong. To rework Wilde, decadence is both a mannerism of style an activist tactic.

*For those who need the Cliffs Notes summary of Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian is a gentleman of unconscionable beauty, admired by the painter Basil Hallward and mentored, in a manner of speaking, by Lord Henry Wotton. After receiving a book from Lord Henry about “a certain young Parisian, who spent his life trying to realize in the nineteenth century all the passions and modes of thought that belonged to every century except his own,” Dorian falls into a life of the senses—riddled with narcotic and amorous adventures. In a kind of pact with the devil, Dorian achieves perpetual youthfulness and beauty by transferring the process of aging onto a portrait of himself painted by Basil. In the end, however, Dorian becomes the victim of his own sensuality, and, having killed his companion Basil, he plunges the same knife into the now grisly portrait, an act that kills the man and frees the portrait from the spell. Dorian’s servants find him dead, a gnarled old man with a knife in his heart, and the portrait lies next to him youthful as ever.

Claire Ruud is the former Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative. She obtained her M.A. in art history at The University of Texas at Austin and is currently an M.B.A. candidate at the Yale School of Management.

Kings of the F**king Sea by Dan Boehl
Published by: Birds, LLC
Released: January 30, 2011

By Katie Geha

Cover image, Kings of the F**king Sea by Dan Boehl. Image by Jonathan Marshall.

Dan Boehl’s first book of poems, Kings of the F**king Sea, feels like a first book of poems. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Ted Berrigan’s first release, The Sonnets, remains one of my favorite books of all time. Many claim that Wallace Stevens' Harmonium is his best book, and it too was his first. I mention this only to point to certain qualities that I relate to the “first book”—a sense of experimentation, a discovery of one’s style, veiled autobiography, the passage from “poet” to “published poet.” It’s not unlike the awkward thrill of losing one’s virginity. Suddenly, you’re part of the club.

Being part of the club also means being in dialogue with any number of poets and literary movements. In Boehl’s epic, he borrows the tropes of a classic adventure story—pirates at war on a rollicking sea—to relay the tale of a 30 year-old man reconciling the world and his place in it. In the first section of the story the main character faces a crisis of conviction as he navigates the pains of authenticity that white male Americans in their thirties often deal with:

I am leaving because they are filling
me with baseball, with Tom Cruise,
with hamburgers and water
bottled in Atlanta. They drive Mercedes.
They daycare their kids. They rake their lawns
and retire. How could I ever
be one of them?

The character gears up for war on the sea because “…We need/to be shaped by our adventures,/ our failures, and after/ the world is finished with us/ get stranded in our lives.” In the remaining two sections, Boehl plays with the poetic form through various battles and then, as in the Odyssey, the protagonist returns home.

The story is accompanied by a small selection of images by artist Jonathan Marshall, which makes sense since Marshall’s work also often circulates around the creation of a fictional adventure story. Although I love the idea of mixing the visual with the poetic, in this case the images become too illustrative. Rather than letting the poems be open to a variety of meanings, these pictures mire the story in a particular time and place—Austin stoner drawing, pixilated and crystallized tribal motifs, both digital and analog.

It is this sense of hermeticism, a tightly wound story that constantly refers to itself, that detracts from the real impact of the book. Yet while at first it may seem as if Boehl is just spinning a tale of hipster youth at sea, deeper into the poems a real sense of the hysteria and confusion of war emerges. Boehl’s ability to overlay the past, the present, and the mythic, as in the beautiful poem “When in Rome,” creates an elegiac and deeply troubling portrait of our post-9/11 world.

The poems are most thrilling when ambition and bravado are abandoned. It is the quiet moments, the description of a cave as a “black eye wincing” or a mare placing her head in the palm of the narrator’s hand, where the real artistry of language emerges. And when the poems work their best, like in this excerpt from “Poolside,” the main character’s coming-of-age begins to feel like our collective coming-of-age:

We’ve chosen this moment
to carry us to bed
hearts attended
friends destitute of love
gazing on the same dark pool
my face mirrored in your face.
Don’t tell me
you can smell the water
or the future.
The pool isn’t a sea
but sometimes it feels like it.

The book doesn’t work when it sheds its vulnerability and becomes too admiring of its own creation. It feels superfluous to name the characters in the poems after famous artists and poets. This means very little unless you know who these people are, and even then it just seems like an in-joke. Why are the titles in the second section of the book in both French and English? Why isn’t “fucking” spelled out in the title? This is when borrowing, referencing and taking from another language or culture doesn’t work. Sure, it’s postmodern, but it’s also gratuitous.

It is this lack of thoughtful editing that makes me believe that Boehl was afraid his first book might also be his last. This too is a quality of the “first book”—you’ve got something to prove. Dan Boehl has proven in Kings of the F**king Sea that he can write a great poem. The great book, perhaps, will be his next one.

Kings of the F**king Sea is available for purchase at Domy Books, Art Palace Gallery and online.

Katie Geha is a PhD candidate in art history at the University of Texas at Austin.

Ian Hamilton Finlay
Marfa Book Company
Closed January 23, 2010

By Erin Kimmel

Ian Hamilton Finlay, 2010. Photo by Aurora Tang. Courtesy of the artist, Marfa Book Company, and Wild Hawthorn Press.

The interpretive labor demanded by the printed work of Scottish artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay can be dizzying—like the mind’s eye on a semantic tilt-a-whirl. A large part of this dizziness stems from the seeming straightforwardness of his visual language and syntactic brevity. Both of these qualities characterize the sundials and tombstones he spread throughout the sprawling garden, Little Sparta, for which he is most widely remembered today. Less well known are his printed ephemera explored in the book The Present Order: The Printed Work of Ian Hamilton Finlay. These works are notable for a number of recurring visual and literary references: a penchant for classical writers, a concern with fishing and the sea, an interest in the French Revolution, and a continual revisiting of World War II. However, if modernity is a rupture between words and things, signs and sounds, Finlay’s aesthetic constitution demands their repair in complex and provoking paper riddles. His use of a cross-generic mode of concrete poetry as conceptual gesture demonstrates the impossibility of a simple resemblance between signifier and signified. Instead, Finlay’s formal clarity and enigmatic result evokes the distance between the two, and the effort required to overcome it.

The Present Order is a poetic exploration of Finlay’s printed oeuvre in both form and content; as such, it is at once a homage and key to the message encrypted in Finlay’s many printed events. The book was published in tandem with the exhibition Ian Hamilton Finlay: A Selection of Printed Works, organized by the book’s publishers Tim Johnson and Caitlin Murray at the Marfa Book Co. Gallery. The more than seventy works exhibited ranged from booklets to prints to folding cards. Sixteen of the more than seventy works in the show are reproduced on the first 16 pages of The Present Order. They are followed by seven pieces of writing by academics, relatives and collectors of Finlay. Johnson, a poet and owner of the Marfa Book Co., has long had an interest in Finlay’s incendiary practice. Murray, an archivist at the Judd Foundation and a graduate student in art history at the University of Texas at Austin, has long had an interest in difficult-to-display artist books. Together Johnson and Murray selected the abundance of Finlay’s small, paper works for their “mobility, materiality and forms of contingency.”

A large part of Finlay’s dedication to contingency relies on the generative syntax of material: paper, ink, gutters, stitches, folds and wrappers. As Finlay’s grandson, Alec Finlay, states in the essay W-I-L-D-H-A-W-T-H-O-R-N, within book form and bound pages “everything belongs and has potential.” For this reason, and in keeping with Finlay’s collaborative practice, Johnson and Murray always knew that they would work with their friend, one-time Marfa resident and publisher of Veneer magazine Aaron Flint Jamison. Cubic zirconium, spray foam and sound modules are only a few of the unexpected materials Jamison somehow works into Veneer’s traditional magazine skeleton. For the front and back cover of The Present Order, Jamison chose a digital camouflage print—speaking to Finlay’s interest in the conflation of the militaristic and pastoral.

Camouflage works by disrupting an outline, and thereby confusing an observer as to its nature—a fitting metaphor for Finlay’s abhorrence of the gestalt. Although identifiable on first glance, the concrete constellations are not penetrable on first sight. Using an enigmatic but elegant combination of image and text, he confuses an observer as to the nature of the signified and demands that they perform a mental pixilation of his ephemera. As the French scholar Anne Moeglin-Delcroix explains in “Poet or Artist?”, the second piece in The Present Order, Finlay requires a reader who is “patient and sometimes stubborn, one who has a desire to understand.” Herein lies the controversy that surrounds much of Finlay’s work. Many have interpreted his recycling of the imagery of modern warfare, the French Revolution or the Third Reich, as an apology for it. This could not be farther from Finlay’s anti-gestalt sentiment.

What Finlay’s use of classical, militaristic and fascist imagery refuses to overlook is the complacencies of democracy, the questions that our culture does not dare to address. He urges us to “recognize or come to terms with history’s continuity of the present, and the grim paradoxes, which honest representations of that continuity reveal.” It is against this background that one understands Finlay’s preoccupation with both Robespierre and Saint-Just and finds for him a contemporary brother in arms in the cultural theory superstar Slavoj Žižek. For both Finlay and Žižek, Robespierre champions the excess in which virtue and terror coincide—barring us from blind allegiance to the status quo. In an introduction to the writings of Robespierre, Žižek writes, “While democracy admits antagonistic struggle as its goal, its procedure is regulated-systemic.” In Finlay’s tank, Luftwaffe aircraft, guillotine and military insignia, he attempts to unveil the paradox of the regulated-systematic that is inscribed in our social body. The Present Order too, though hermeneutically sealed in camouflage, urges us to examine the contingency of virtue and terror in the layers and layers of meaning in Finlay’s work.

The Present Order: Writings on the Work of Ian Hamilton Finlay is printed and bound in Canada by Westcan Printing Group. It is available for purchase at Marfa Book Company, Domy Books in Austin, Dexter Sinister in New York and online via Veneer Magazine.

Erin Kimmel is a writer and curator living in Marfa, Texas.

Drawn from Photography
Drawing Center, New York
Through March 31

By Rachel Cook

Andrea Bowers, Non Violent Protest Training, Abalone Alliance Camp, Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, and San Louis Obispo County Telegraph-Tribune, September 14, 1981 (detail), 2004, Graphite pencil on paper, 38 x 49 3/4 inches. Photo by Hermann Feldhaus. Whitney Museum of American Art, New NY, Gift of Steven Golding Perelman.

Whether it’s activism or social engaged artwork, contemporary artists and their presenters have responded to the political climate with a sense of both urgency and agency. Agency in the traditional sense doesn’t appear to be a thread in the works by the thirteen artists within the exhibition Drawn from Photography at the Drawing Center. Rather, the works are brought together by a relationship to a particular type of photography. Appropriated images from documentary and journalistic sources, either from the front page of newspapers or from historical archives, become curator Claire Gilman’s focus. Although the title of the exhibition implies a larger swathe of drawings appropriated, gathered, and sourced from photographs, in fact it is the meticulous translation that Gilman appears most interested in highlighting.

The recirculation of political images takes center stage in Christian Tomaszewski’s boldly colored installation Hunting for Pheasants (2007-08), highlighting images from Polish hand-drawn posters from the ‘60s and ‘70s, and in Emily Prince’s ongoing portrait project chronicling American servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Historical documents and headshots from newspapers become source material for Fernando Bryce and Mary Temple’s works, in which political figures are drawn with a fluid gestural hand with a text “caption.” Sam Durant, Andrea Bowers, D-L Alvarez and Frank Selby each reinvigorate images from the past by focusing on capturing detailed marks of their appropriated images. Most of the titles reveal detailed information about the source material, from the Civil Rights demonstrations to women participating in non-violent protests. An attempt to define our contemporary moment by looking back to other events or people becomes part of these artists’ intention.

The basic tools of the trade are essential to the work of Paul Sietsema, who creates pen-and-ink drawings, and Ewan Gibbs and Richard Forster, who work primarily in graphite. Each teeter on a meticulously rendered line between the mundane and a more nuanced personal narrative. Both Gibbs and Forster concentrate on significant architectural structures, but choose viewpoints more like those found in the vein of a personal snapshot than those in historical documents. Sietsema re-appropriates his portrait by redrawing a photo of himself found by means of a Google search, reconstructing intentionality through the labor and time spent with his hands. Gilman’s essay hones in on this process.

The form of history through images, and the seemingly futile gesture of laboriously rendering it, are subjects in Gilman’s catalogue essay, which also appears redrawn as a work within the exhibition. The Turkish artist Serkan Özkaya depicts it in a shaky hand, implicating the imperfections of the human translation. Özkaya’s artistic practice has a history of being interested in the interplay between the original and the copy in an ever more mass-produced world. New York Times critic Randy Kennedy highlighted Özkaya’s work on the front cover of the Weekend Arts Edition on December 15, 2006, where the article’s lead image was a drawing by Özkaya of the paper you were holding. Within the image was another image of the same paper you were holding, continuing a repetitive image that gets infinitely smaller and smaller. Gilman’s essay functions as a marriage of form and content in Özkaya’s work, where reading the word “rendering” or the phrase “meticulous translation through drawing of images” implies something more significant.

Los Angeles-based artist Karl Haendel is represented in the exhibition through a single work, Untitled (Birthday Drawing), even though his process and the drawing’s back story tie Gilman’s essay together from the introductory paragraph to the conclusion. Haendel is typically known for his large-scale, accurately rendered works in graphite of images appropriated from popular culture and art history survey books. Untitled (Birthday Drawing) is from a newspaper published on July, 1st, 1976, and marks not only Haendel’s date of birth, but also a significant shift in the artist’s thinking about personal narrative and a conceptual use of political imagery. The socialist newspaper that is the subject of the drawing symbolizes his nostalgia for the dream of failed socialism. Though Haendel claims he was born too late, an ubiquitous complaint of most Americans born in the late ‘70s, he realized he could align the “spirit of activism and revolt” by using it symbolically with the labor of studio practice.

In the end Gilman’s case for agency through labor runs thin. Seeking to connect the artists in Drawn from Photography based on a traditional studio practice where work is being made on a daily basis, Gilman states: “At a time of global uncertainty, when it is unclear what to do or how to respond, this kind of slowed-down, labor-intensive rendering confirms that action is still possible.” Sure action is still possible, but is drawing in your studio every day enough action to warrant the term “agency”? Furthermore, is that really what all the artists in the exhibition are trying to accomplish with their work? Isn’t the idea of history and how historical narratives are composed more in play?

Trying not to end with the ubiquitous rhetorical questions, I turn to the term “agency” and the photograph. On the one hand the exhibition reinstates the importance of individual labor as part of the contemporary artist’s studio practice, whereas the post-production model of the conceptual artist would beg to differ. However, Gilman presents the appropriated image, use of the archive, and action (whether it is political or not) under the rubric of a “peculiarly conservative procedure: the meticulous translation through drawing” of photographic images. It is unclear why this labor, seen as conservative—which I would argue is more fundamental than anything else—is important to highlight now, or whether the act of translating images in both the archive and personal history is truly inherently political. In the end the exhibition leaves you with more images to process and consider re-circulating. As photography theorist Ariella Azoulay puts it bluntly when considering the photograph in a human rights discourse: “The image is partial, obscured, fissured, and questionable.”

A native of Houston, Texas, Rachel Cook is currently pursuing a Master's candidate at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College.

Announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
Lora Reynolds Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 12, 6-8pm

Cinema, the subtleties of its components and its history form the core of Hubbard/Birchler’s artistic work. This exhibition will feature new photographs as well as the Texas premiere of Hubbard/Birchler’s most recent video installation titled Méliès. Set in the Chihuahua Desert of West Texas near the border town of Sierra Blanca, this video explores the cinematic residue of a specific location named Movie Mountain.

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.

Barry Stone
SOFA Gallery
Opening Reception: March 5, 7-10pm

Barry Stone’s exhibition of photographs and drawings, Hum, distorts sets of polarities: feminine and masculine, the ballad and metal music, the drawn image and the mechanical image, youth and adulthood. Often, the pictures are paired together to create tension or to complicate meaning. An image is so rarely read alone.

Michelle Mayer
Wally Workman Gallery
Opening Reception: Saturday, April 2, 6 - 8pm

This show addresses how, as we accept and adapt to constant change in the technologies that connect us, we are forever reminded of the official narrative that this is revolutionary progress; humanity is moving forward. Yet paradoxically, no amount of devastating environmental catastrophes via 24-hour news feeds has proven sufficient to hold our diminishing collective attention. We as a species, even now, are still struggling to understand the changes that face us as a result of our impact on the world.

Austin on View

Daniel Rudin
Visual Arts Center (Center Space Project)
Through March 12

Daniel Rudin’s exhibition The Working Homeless is made up of video and sculpture that documents conversations with homeless panhandlers who stand alongside the freeway asking for help. This installation explores a series of related complex questions: What is life like for the most vulnerable of Americans who have fallen victim to the recent economic crisis, whose very nature is related to housing?

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.

Modern Civilization
grayDUCK Gallery
Through March 27

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.

Beili Liu
Women and Their Work
Through April 2

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.

New Art in Austin: 15 to Watch
Austin Museum of Art
Through May 22

New Art in Austin: 15 to Watch is the fourth exhibition in a triennial showcase that spotlights emerging artists from Central Texas whose work stretches the boundaries of contemporary art. Accompanied by a full-color scholarly catalogue, the exhibition will bring cutting edge work in a variety of media to a broad audience.

Sarah Stevens
Opening Receptions: March 5, 12, 19, and 26, 7-11PM

Comprised of a four week cycle of installation vignettes, Palatial Hemorrhages is an investigation of incidental personal topographies; an earnest grandiosity amassed in the nature of cigarettes and hairspray used up but never thrown out, or Wilt Chamberlain’s Hollywood home after a forty year carpet moth infestation.

Recovering Beauty: The 1990s in Buenos Aires
Blanton Museum of Art
Through May 22

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

San Antonio on View

New Image Sculpture
The McNay
Through May 8

Organized by the McNay’s Chief Curator and Curator of Art after 1945, New Image Sculpture assembles works by emerging and mid-career artists who freely appropriate from art history, ethnographic artifacts, fashion, folk art, hobby crafts, popular culture, and the world of do-it-yourself. Included is Austin collected, Okay Mountain.

San Antonio Closings

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.

Houston Openings

Chad Hopper and Amanda Jones
Domy Books
Opening Reception: Saturday, March 26, 7-9pm

In acrobatic acts of blind alchemy they mix wood whispers and plastic gossip. Animals take over abandoned office buildings, leading us to explore  the mysteries lurking between pictures and words.

Man Bartlett
Opening Reception: Friday, March 4, 7-10pm

SKYDIVE is pleased to present NEW SOME, an exhibition and performance by New York artist Man Bartlett. For his Texas debut, Bartlett will be exhibiting a selection of his drawings – comprised of thousands of tiny circles or dots – and new collages, which are crafted from travel magazine advertisements of the 1950s and '60s.

Houston on View

2011 Core Exhibition
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Through April 22

The 2011 Core Exhibition features work by artists-in-residence Nick Barbee; Lourdes Correa-Carlo; Fatima Haider; Steffani Jemison; Gabriel Martinez; Julie Ann Nagle; Kelly Sears; and Clarissa Tossin. Core critical studies residents Massa Lemu, Melissa Ragain, Julie Thomson, and Wendy Vogel contribute essays based on their independent research to the Core 2011 Yearbook publication that accompanies the show (forthcoming April, 2011).

Jim Nolan
Art Palace
Through April 2

In his debut show at Art Palace, Today is Tomorrow, Jim Nolan combines the aesthetics of working class labor and underground music culture with the language of Minimalism to create off-hand and irreverent installations, sculptures and photographs.

John Wood & Paul Harrison
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Through April 24

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.

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.”

Carlos Cruz-Diez
Museum of Fine Arts Houston
Through July 4

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.

Heimir Björgúlfsson
CTRL Gallery
Through April 2

In his new collage works, Björgúlfsson transforms photographs taken as records of his varying environment. One reality punctuates another, creating impossible scenarios.

Jim Nolan
Art Palace
Through April 2

In his debut show at Art Palace, Today is Tomorrow, Jim Nolan combines the aesthetics of working class labor and underground music culture with the language of Minimalism to create off-hand and irreverent installations, sculptures and photographs.

Houston Closings

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.

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.

Dallas Openings

Annabel Daou and Brian Lund
Free Museum of Dallas
Opening Reception: Friday, March 4

Annabel Daou presents states of ruin, a single work composed of fifty variation on a theme. In each of the fifty iterations, Daou attempts to replicate an original scrap of torn paper. Brian Lund exhibits drawings translating motion picture editing systems into abstract compositions. Using his DVD player and laptop, he creates an archive of edit cut lists, notes and film-still sketches that document specifics within a production.

Brazos Gallery, Richland College
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 10, 4-7pm

The exhibition contains undulating video patterning, meticulously crafted narratives, and spatial/perceptual inquiries. The vibrant and multi-faceted art works challenge and captivate viewers, while avoiding prescribed methodologies.

Jim Lambie
Goss Michael Foundation
Opening April 12

Jim Lambie has discussed the relationship between the tape works and the solid objects they incorporate in terms of a jazz ensemble, comparing the tape to the “baseline played by the drums and bass” and the pieces placed on top to the “guitar and vocals.”

Dallas on View

Virginia Fleck
Holly Johnson Gallery
Through March 26

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.

Royal Robertson
Webb Gallery
Through April 17

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.

Michel Verjux, Sour Grapes, Gabriel Dawe, and David Willburn
Dallas Contemporary
Through March 27

Current exhibitions at Dallas Contemporary include Michel Verjux, Sour Grapes, Gabriel Dawe, and David Willburn.

Ed Ruscha
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Through April 17

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."

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.

Announcements: events

Austin Events

Austin New Music Co-op Presents: John Butcher
Mexican American Cultural Center
Friday, March 4, 8pm
Admission: $12 students/advance/ $15 at door

John Butcher's work ranges through improvisation, his own compositions, multitracked saxophone pieces and explorations with feedback and extreme acoustics.

San Antonio Events

Sala Diaz Fundraiser
Sala Diaz
Saturday, March 19, 7pm

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

Aurora Picture Show and the Menil Collection Present "Warhol on TV"
Menil Park
Friday, March 4, 7:30pm
Admission: free

Aurora Picture Show joins forces with the Menil Collection to present "Warhol on TV," a curated screening of excerpts of works created by or featuring the artist Andy Warhol.

Simon Critchley
The Menil
Tuesday, March 8, 7pm

English-born Simon Critchley works in continental philosophy, the history of philosophy, literature, contemporary art, ethics and politics. His books include The Dead Philosophers (2009) and On Humor (2002). Since 2008 he was been chair of philosophy at New York’s New School for Social Research. Critchley is series moderator of the New York Times Opinionator philosophy blog, “The Stone.”

The Empty BOX: A BOX 13 ArtSpace Fundraiser
Box 13
Saturday, March 12, 7-9:30pm

In order to sustain our dream and continue to fill the BOX with new and exciting works of art, we need your help! BOX 13 ArtSpace is a young artist-run nonprofit which provides an innovative environment for the creation and advancement of experimental contemporary art in Houston. BOX 13 cultivates this environment through affordable workspaces for emerging and established artists and the dedication of a significant portion of its building for exhibitions.

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.

Dallas Events

Dallas Art Fair
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.

Kristen Morgin
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
March 8, 7pm

Kristen Morgin is an artist based in Los Angeles who is known for her incredible feats with fired and unfired clay in creating sculptures that conjure the past as they seemingly mimic a variety of enchanting, though a little worse-for-wear, memorabilia.

Mary Ellen Carroll
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
March 22, 7pm

Mary Ellen Carroll is a conceptual artist living and working in New York City and Houston, Texas, whose career, spanning more than 20 years, has focused on a single, fundamental question: What do we consider a work of art? The results are multifarious, provocative, and often wry outpourings in architecture, writing, performance, photography, filmmaking, printmaking, sculpture, and painting that interrogate the relationship between subjectivity, language, and power.

Announcements: opportunities

Call for Entries

The 8th Vevey International Photo Award
Festival Images
Deadline: April 15

Open to all artists, and professional or student photographers. An amount of CHF 40,000 (around EUR 30,000) is awarded for the development, realisation and presentation of the winning project. There is also the potential to win other prizes and receive exhibitions proposals.

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 Proposals

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.

UTSA Satellite Space Gallery Call For Proposals
UTSA Satellite Space
Deadline: March 25

The UTSA Satellite Space is currently accepting proposals for exhibitions from November 2011 – February 2012.

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.

Artist Opportunities


GenerousArt.org is an online gallery dedicated to raising money for nonprofits and artists. Generous Art envisions art purchases as community-oriented transactions — rejecting the idea that art collection is a selfish endeavor, an isolated event; and replaces time-consuming auction fundraisers with a sustainable and socially responsible purchase.

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