MBG Issue #52: August 26, 2005

Issue # 52

August 26, 2005

August 26, 2005

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22 to Watch: How AMOA Got it Right!
On view through October 30

It feels good to have an art buzz circulating through Austin. The cover of the August 26 issue of the Austin Chronicle bears a sharp piece by Young-Min Kang, and those who don't have anything to say about 22 to Watch will find themselves left out of a lot of conversations in Austin coffee shops these days. What has happened to our live-music capital? It has a smart downtown art exhibition.

Without blowing things out of proportion, it's fair to say that there is a new sense of optimism around Austin. It's not quite like being in Boston when the Red Sox are in the playoffs, but there's a definite sense that Austin is home to a talented "team" and that, having recognized the team's good work, the city is ready to stand behind them and cheer. People who follow Austin art have known for a long time that good work is made in our city. But the way that AMOA has brought so many strong artists into one cohesive show is striking. We have Dana Friis-Hansen and his team of curators to thank for showing us so convincingly the promise of our city's artists.

To take the pessimist's approach, 22 to Watch does not have a bad work in it. Pessimistic or not, this is high praise for a group exhibition. From Jonathan Faber's paintings to Ledia Carroll's sculpture, Zack Booth Simpson's interactive digital rock pool to Heather Johnson's manually driven nails, Mike Osborne's nighttime photographs to Hana Hillerova's mixed-media swarm (see above) 22 to Watch gets high marks in an array of media and styles. Even the pieces that felt slightly forced to us, (Sodalitas' collage, Pollenate, for example, seemed a bit too manicured for its own good) were very well conceived and well executed works. Despite our criticism that Sodalitas and a few other contributors seemed overtly conscious of popular taste and design trends, they did not produce bad work at all. We gripe because their pieces gave guilty pleasure. If only our complaints could always be about such good looking works!

On to optimism: While pieces like Jeffery Dell's Palazzo Ducale, Young-Vin Kang's digitally-influenced sculpture matrix, and a number of works by artists already mentioned are strong enough to contend for top honors in a city-wide exhibition, the works in 22 to Watch do not readily compete with each other. Neither commenting on nor detracting from the adjacent pieces, the works in 22 to Watch manage to stay self-contained. They hook a viewer, making her excited to see more of that artist's work, but do not offer themselves as objects for comparison. They get along. Harmoniously, Karen Skloss seems to say, "This is what I do," and Hunter Cross says, "Here's my work, it's different." And then the curators step forward to Interject, "Yes, and you're both quite

Now that AMOA has achieved a great show, the task seems so simple. We have interesting art being made here all the time and we have curators who can spot it and install it intelligently in a downtown space. We have a viewing public that is excited to see more. Duplicating the quality of this show, however, will not be an easy task. With open eyes and much anticipation we wait and watch for the next 22 to Watch.

"Who Wants Some 'aMOA?" A Second Helping of 22 to Watch with Insights from Austin Readers

Here are a few of our favorite reader responses to 22 to Watch. The remarks come from Austin artists, curators, and art lovers:

"Advantageous use of space and adventurous use of artists."
"Good show. Selected artists look strong. Dense installation, but it should be. Excellent energy-justifiable hope for the Austin artscene!"
"The wail texts were great. Ledia's piece [Ledia Carroll's transparent plumbing sculpture] really blossomed when you went down that little side hall to the bathroom."
"Wouldn't Duchamp have loved Samantha Krukowski's exploding bubble pieces!"
"I think exhibitions like 22 to Watch are great motivators for Austin artists to take it to the next level. I happened to have an out-of-towner curator visiting during the opening
weekend and it was great to be able to show her some of the more exciting work being made locally. Now she wants to know more..."
"Shaune Kolberis photographs made me think of Friedrich [German Romantic landscape painter Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840)]. The internal photographers were standing Just where I wanted to stand. Very nineteenth-century. A little too pre-conceived for my taste at times, but great background colors."
"Barna's [Barna Kantor] piece just looked so elegant."
"Austin...live art capital of Texas. We're working on the world. Kudos to all."
"AMOA is so hot right nowl Give me some' aMOA."
"Top Three Pieces: 1. Young-Min's [Young-Min Kang] two pieces 2. The Video [by Karen Skloss] and then a tie between all of Mike Osborne's photographs, the tree [by Hunter Cross], Barna's hanging, and the mezzotints [by Jeffery Dell]. And I liked Ledia's a lot too."
"I don't think I can remember a video piece that had so much going on formally that was so closely related to the content as Karen Skloss' video in this show."
"I moved here a year ago and this was the best show I've seen in Austin. It's also the best big group show I've seen anywhere in a few years."
"I would rather see more work by any one of these artists than anything by Andy Goldsworthy."

New Work by Jason Singleton and Dave Bryant: angel baby
Navi'-ad MAN at Camp Fig
On view starting Sunday, August 28 from 7 to 11 PM

A brief interview with Dave Bryant about his upcoming installation with Jason Singleton at Camp Fig, angel baby Navi-dad MAN:

...might be good: So Dave, what is your show at Camp Fig going to be like?

Dave Bryant: It's an installation I'm doing with Jason Singleton. We haven't drawn it out yet. It'll be really organic - a response to the space.

...mbg: But, specifically, it will feature new work by you and Jason?

DB: Neither of us would have a show that's like, "This is what I do. This is what's in my studio." Neither of us would be like, "Here are six drawings on the wall. This is on the
wall, this is what it is."

...mbg: How does the title of the show, angel baby Navi-dad MAN, relate to what you are going to do?

DB: It's just something Jason and I came up with.

...mbg: Have you and Jason worked together before?

DB: Not like this. But, we'll probably do projects together for the rest of our lives. (Long pause.) We had hoped to do a larger installation before but had space constraints.

...mbg: Would you say that you and Jason are collaborators, or is this going to be a two man show?

DB: It's not going to be a collaboration in the sense that we'd be working on one thing that's by both of us. The show will have some things by him and some things by me.

...mbg: When will it go up?

DB: The opening is from 7 to 11 at Camp Fig on Sunday.


Fluent-Collaborative Wishes Dave Bryant Farewell!

In the August 19 issue of the Austin Chronicle, Rachel Koper's article, "The Utter Daveness of Dave!" paid tribute to a good friend of ours, the co-founder of the Fresh-up Club and a long-time employee of Fluent-Collaborative, Dave Bryant. As a farewell gesture to Dave, who is moving to New York at the end of the week, ...might be good has republished portions of Koper's text below. The article can be read in full at www.austinchronicle.com.

"The Utter Daveness of Dave!"

A self-made man, artist, and co-founder of the Fresh Up Club, Dave Bryant is moving to the Big Apple. For an acclaimed artist and curator, it's a common move. What is uncommon are the unretractable memories that Bryant has given to countless area visual artists over the last few years. This is a tribute piece, because I know he has spent countless hours and his own dollars so that Austin could see his art shows and his vision. To me, Bryant is oddly intense, kind, intelligent, supportive, encouraging, rebellious, productive, and a generally fascinating dude. I look back in amazement at the time when he was too shy to meet the local artists he admired from afar, like Andy Coolquitt and Heyd Fontenot. He overcame these social fears rapidly and came to righteously and enigmatically serve as a visual arts community leader. He had the energy and smiles to see things through.

I asked some artist friends to write up stories about Dave, and here are their attempts to describe the mysteriously humane and endlessly entertaining artist. He once described his art installation for the show "Ode or Odd" at Gallery Lombardi to me something like this: "I'll have some really hot rainbows, and it'll be very much bulletin board, with paper letters, back-to-school sort of stuff with markers and photographs. It will also be about Muslims. I'll get pictures from the Internet of guys with beards, like me, who could be misconstrued as Muslims just because we have beards." I listened to him and just said, "Sure, Dave." With that fourth-grader-with-a-beard installation, he made me think about freedom, the primarily subconscious aspects of stereotyping, and his childlike abandonment all at once. Thanks, Dave.

From Peat Duggins:

It's hard to write about Dave Bryant because, really, what does he do? Why are we talking about him? Is it because he looks like Charlie Manson and doesn't wear a shirt indoors? Is it because he's always nursing a Lone Star and you know it's probably his fifth? Is it because he's down with the kids and adored by Ann Richards?

Or is it his art? His half-assed Crayola-stripe doodles on computer paper juxtaposed against Agnes Martin quotes? What are his skills? After I abdicated from the Fresh Up
Club, he'd still call me to "relight" the exhibitions. I would come to the gallery and find that the bulbs just needed replacing. He literally cannot change a light bulb.

All that said - and it's all true -I suspect we're talking about him because others feel like I do. I went to a fancy East Coast art school while Dave barely slipped through an East Texas high school, yet I value his opinion above all others on art. And I adore him to boot. Not just because of his know-how, but because he is zealous about art like a teenager who just discovered punk - rare indeed in art circles. Dave gets it and we all admire him for it.

From Reed Posey:

I'm overwhelmed by the surprising success Dave and Peat had with the FUG. Finally, an Austin gallery showing artists from Texas who weren't known as 'Texas Artists." Sure, other spots did that, too, but it seems like most of those places had to go to NYC to look for artists from Texas. I think they just started looking for people whose art they believed in ... almost spiritually; It was never about the art or artist as a commodity, they showed a lot of art by people who didn't go to art school, but they never never showed any "folk art." And whether everything shown was good or not, it was always thoughtful. Something was different, and people could tell; suddenly, the cool kid thing to do was to go to an art gallery In a garage warehouse with a huge steel open sewer grate In the center of an asphalt floor.

Fluent~Collaborative and Friends Say Goodbye

It's only been 3 years, but we can say that it's hard to remember a time when we didn't know DAVE. He always has this endearing way of speaking straight from the heart that is both refreshing and unsettling. New York won't know how to handle it... Dave, here is a quote from one of your favorite artists to send you on your way. The adventurous state of mind is a high house. To enjoy life the adventurous state of mind must be grasped and maintained. The essential feature of adventure is that it is going forward into unknown territory. The joy of adventure is unaccountable. This is the attractiveness of art work. It is adventurous, strenuous, and joyful." (Agnes Martin)
~Regine Basha and Gabriel Perez-Barreiro

We've shared an office for a few months now and, to be perfectly honest, I still have no idea what you do or how you get it done. A phone call here, a conversation there, and voila! an installation goes up or a concert somehow happens. You're everywhere and nowhere at the same time and have an inexplicable ability to pull rabbits out of your hat without such basic implements as a magic wand or a book of spells.

I have a hunch that my inability to figure out what you do is somehow tied to the fact that our desks face in opposite directions; mine looking north, yours south. Now, with my eyes pointed toward you in New York, I'm hopeful that your feats won't seem so much like sleight of hand.
~Caitlin Haskell

I'll never forget my first impression of Dave, or my last when he was singing. Both were fun. It's too bad I didn't know him long enough to have more in between.
-Catherine Walworth

In the few months that have passed since I moved to Chicago, I have been asked many times about my two years in Austin and its "scene" (in terms of art and otherwise) and each time I find myself bringing up Dave Bryant; his tireless work with both the Fresh Up Club and Fluent~Collaborative, his unique vision for contemporary art in Austin and his energy to see this vision through. His efforts (and risks) have raised the bar for contemporary art within the Austin community while also asserting Austin's presence in the contemporary art world on an international level. Best of luck in New York, Dave!
-Elizabeth Blackburn

don't go, dave
inspiration / exasperation
student I mentor
erratic / loyal
poor / rich
artist / dealer (well, kinda!)
my god, the boy can sing a song...
you gotta go, dave
-Laurence Miller

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