MBG Issue #97: A General (and Unanswerable) Question

Issue # 97

A General (and Unanswerable) Question

April 18, 2008

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Performance Documentation of Etiquette. Created and produced by Rotozaza (London). Presented as part of the Fuse Box Festival. Image courtesy of Rotozaza. (detail)

from the editor

This issue opens with the second installment of a series of conversations with art critics spearheaded by our Associate Director, Caitlin Haskell. This installment, an interview with New York-based critic and art historian Katy Siegel, complements Caitlin's interview with Barry Schawbsky in Issue #95. In both conversations, Caitlin raises important questions about the role of the art critic and the state of art writing today. In addition, Caitlin recently had a chance to see How Artists Draw, organized by newly appointed Chief Curator of the Menil Collection Drawing Institute and Study Center, Bernice Rose. Caitlin’s review of the show considers the expansive vision of “drawing” that Rose presents through How Artists Draw, the Institute’s inaugural exhibition.

Also in this issue is a double feature on Cult of Color: Call to Color, the intrepid collaboration between visual artist Trenton Doyle Hancock, choreographer Stephen Mills and composer Graham Reynolds. The ballet, based on Trenton’s visual and textual mythology of the Mounds and the Vegans, is certainly grand, taking on such themes as religion and rebellion and boasting delightful costumes designed by Trenton himself. Both the costumes and Stephen Mills’s choreography display a sense of playfulness, and I found the dance to be quite funny at times. In fact, if Cult of Color has a weak spot, it’s that the ballet becomes almost too cute at moments, and thus loses some of the edginess of Trenton’s mixed media drawings and paintings. In addition to the interview with Stephen and the review of the exhibition at Arthouse in this issue, readers might also be interested in John Aielli’s podcast interviews with the collaborators and Jeanne Claire van Ryzin’s preview and review of the ballet in the Austin American-Statesman.

Finally, in response to an interview with Gabriel Perez-Barreiro in Issue #96, I received a letter to the editor from some of the faculty in the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas at Austin. The letter celebrates Dr. Jacqueline Barnitz, a pioneer in the field of Latin American art history, who recently retired from the department.

Looking ahead, Austin’s Ron Berry and Refraction Arts have created an outstanding lineup of performance, dance, music, film, poetry and visual art for Fuse Box Festival 2008, which begins next Thursday, April 24, and runs through Saturday May 3. If the 79-page catalogue, which lists events all over town, seems too daunting to digest, here are a few of our picks:

Stacked Cow and other dances performed by Scott Heron, whose work has been presented at The Kitchen, Movement Research at Judson Church and PS 122, and HIJACK, the Minneapolis-based duo Kristin Van Loon & Arwen Wilder (Salvage Vanguard Theater, May 1, 7pm, May 2, 8:30pm & May 3, 4:00pm).

Double Fantasy, an exhibition of five collaborations between Austin-based artists and artists from New York, Mexico, France, Chicago and Utah, curated by Ron Berry and Jade Walker (Big Medium Gallery, opening reception May 3 from 7 – 9pm).

Neal Medlyn’s Lionel Ritchie Opera, composed entirely of songs from Ritchie’s greatest-hits album “Back to Front” in the order they appear on the album (Blue Theater April 25 & 26, 10 pm)

The Living Whale: a marathon misreading of Moby Dick, a film, video and performance project inspired by the New Bedford Whaling Museum’s annual marathon reading of Melville’s classic (Blue Theater, April 28, 8pm).

Etiquette, Rotozaza’s half-hour experience for two people in a public place (in this case, Café Mundi) wearing headphones that tell them what to say and do (April 24 – May 3, for reservations call 512.927.1118).

As for …might be good, our next issue will be guest edited by Austin artist Eric Zimmerman, and will include interviews with artist Micheal Jones McKean (Chicago) and architect Thomas Bercy (Austin), an essay by the Museum of Natural and Artificial Ephemerata (Austin) and an Artist’s Space with founder of the Itinerant Laboratory for Perceptual Inquiry, Katherine Bash.

As always, we welcome responses to us or any of our writers at info@fluentcollab.org.

Claire Ruud is Managing Editor of …might be good.


Katy Siegel

By Caitlin Haskell

Peter Young, #13, 1970, Acrylic on canvas stretched on Ponderosa pine, 17 x 21 inches. Watkins Collection, American University Museum. Gift of Marvin and Florence Gerstin. Included in the exhibition High Times, Hard Times: New York Painting 1967-1975, a traveling exhibition organized and circulated by iCI (Independent Curators International).

For the second installment in ...might be good’s series of conversations with outstanding critics, we are pleased to present Katy Siegel. Katy is a contributing editor to Artforum and an associate professor of art history at Hunter College, CUNY. She is also a distinguished alumna of the University of Texas at Austin Department of Art and Art History and a visiting critic in Austin this spring as part of the 2008 Viewpoint Lecture Series. Katy spoke with Caitlin Haskell in February.

…might be good: The first thing I hoped we could talk about was something that you brought up briefly in your Viewpoints talk yesterday: What was it like moving from Austin to New York in the 1990s? What were the advantages and disadvantages you found, coming from a place like Austin?

Katy Siegel: Well, I had a pit stop for three years in Memphis before moving to New York, but the great thing about New York was that there was so much art there. To be honest, I didn’t realize while I was in Austin that people were making “contemporary art.” Even though I had written about art of the 1940’s, 50s and 60s from the perspective of people making it, strangely, it hadn’t occurred to me that there was an art scene in my own time like there was in New York in the 1960s. The disadvantage of coming from Austin was that I was totally out of it—maybe in a way that students aren’t today. I really was a historical researcher when I was here. I was buried in the library. Compared to other students, coming from other universities, who were already aware of and plugged into New York, I was really naïve, in a way.

…mbg: I’ve heard a few prominent art writers complain that academically trained critics regularly fall into is this tendency of writing contemporary artists into a particular historical trajectory—of writing artists into a narrative that is contrived or confining. Is there a way that someone coming from Austin—who’s going in wide-eyed, as you say—could escape that tendency?

KS: Critic-critics—like Jerry Saltz and Roberta Smith—and poet-critics—like John Yau and Peter Schjeldahl—in general, dislike academics. [Laughs.] I think they make some kind of a weird exception for me—sometimes. They might dislike me for other reasons, but they don’t always lump me into the group of “academics.” When they say academic critics, they really mean Rosalind Krauss, Hal Foster, Benjamin Buchloh, and a series of other related people. And those people do have a narrative, they have an ideology. And that narrative is the avant-garde and then the neo-neo-avant-garde, or the modern and then the post-modern, or the failure of yada-yada-yada. They also have a style, which is, oddly, not academic in the sense of being truly historical, but tends to be both turgid and self-consciously “magisterial,” that is, both overwritten and generalizing.

I think the great advantage of coming from Austin was not only that I didn’t have bad habits—again, I was naïve in some ways—but also that I had very good habits that came from studying with Richard Shiff, who is anti-ideological in a serious way that I think puts him in sympathy with a lot of artists. To put this another way, I think anyone struggles to understand what’s really going on in the art of their own time period—to see it clearly—and I do want to put that in historical context, but I don’t come to art with a program of what that history has to look like. I think that’s the biggest advantage of coming from Austin.

…mbg: What are some strategies that you employ to remain open now—to avoid constructing or contributing to a narrow narrative?

KS: Part of it is easy—I just don’t have a program, which is probably bad for me professionally because, just like an artist without a signature style, you don’t have a way that you’re easily represented to the public that can compete with other people’s broad representations. You know, in a Coke versus Pepsi kind of way. That part is easy. The harder part is that, as you get older—and I was talking to Carlos Basualdo about this the other day—he said it’s so hard when you get older (and I’m 41) to keep looking at stuff and asking “Is this good?” “Is this not good?” “What’s it doing?” The hardest part is to not build up what Carlos called a “protectiveness.” In other words, a defensiveness so that you protect your viewpoint of the world, or your generation’s viewpoint, or your group of artists—whatever it is—and to keep yourself open to new things. You need to be willing to revisit things you might have missed the boat on. I often find myself liking something that I didn’t like initially. This might mean keeping your mind open to a younger artist, or learning enough about another culture so that you begin to understand art that you didn’t previously. Or it might mean revisiting someone—maybe like a Kara Walker—who is not a new artist ... With her art, I thought it was good, but now I think she’s great. You need to be able to say, “Gee, maybe I didn’t quite get it the first time I saw it.”

…mbg: Who are some other artists you’re warming up to?

KS: I always warm up to artists just as they’re on the way out. [Laughs.] Kara Walker has had her big show. Robert Gober is somebody else I really wasn’t interested in—I have a natural cringing from surrealism—but now I see how connected his work is to Americana and I find that really interesting. I’ve been working on this idea about what is peculiar about the intersection of American history and modernist art history. So Gober’s interest in the weirdness—“old weird America,” as Greil Marcus called it—has become really compelling to me. He’s someone I feel like I’m changing my mind about. Other artists don’t take warming up to, but just finding, like the group of painters from the 60s and 70s in High Times, Hard Times, the show I curated, many of whom, like Jack Whitten, were just not visible to me before researching for the show, and who I now think are truly significant. I’m not going to say the artists I thought were great who might not have sustained that—artists whose work has dropped off. Some art is only meaningful, or strongly meaningful, in a particular moment.

…mbg: As you’re trying to remain open as a critic, how would you go about supporting an artist whose work you would like to back emphatically? Is this something that critics should do today, in your opinion, or has this possibly become more of a job for a curator?

KS: I think it’s hard. Partly, when a critic is promoting their artist they’re promoting themselves—it’s their version of what art should be. Someone like Dave Hickey states this very explicitly: If this is a democracy—by which he means a free market economy, a marketplace of ideas—when you’re promoting your artist, you’re asserting your vision of the world. I think most people believe that tacitly—for example, Krauss. When you say Richard Serra is the best artist ever, or when you say Marcel Broodthaers is more important than any painter who has come out of New York in the last 40 years, you’re contesting a particular position. But again, I’m not interested in promoting a program that represents me. People have told me that my taste seems “catholic,” maybe a polite way of saying arbitrary, but I can’t help liking some painters, but also photographers, etc., thinking in terms of mediums. I think that generally, my taste often coincides with people who do not behave as proper avant-gardists, whether that means an artist engaged with the popular, like Lisa Yuskavage or Jeff Koons, or someone who insisted that painting could be radical in the late 60s, like Alan Shields, or someone like Sigmar Polke who refuses to behave like a good, “critical” artist. It may be a psychological preference, or maybe this mindset on the part of the artist produced better art.

…mbg: So, as a final question—which feels a bit out of place, given what you’ve just said—what projects are you working on right now?

KS: My Jeff Koons book is finally out this month, as is an Artforum essay on Lee Lozano, the rediscovery of artists of the past, and the market. I’m working on a Paul Pfeiffer catalog for Spain in the short term. The long-term project I’m working on involves a group of paired terms—beginnings and endings, primitivism and apocalypse, success and failure—that I think are descriptive of the post-war art world, as it was centered in the United States. I believe that our present is still primarily the unfolding or rearrangement of the political and cultural world after 1945; the refusal of people to look seriously at that moment has led to misunderstanding contemporary art. I hope this project refocuses things, for whoever is interested.

Caitlin Haskell is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative

Stephen Mills

By Clare Croft

Trenton Doyle Hancock, Vegans and the Mounds, Production still from
Cult of Color: Call to Color, 2008, Collaborative performance with Ballet Austin. Photo: Tony Spielberg. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York and Ballet Austin, Texas.

Ballet Austin has just finished presenting Cult of Color: Call to Color, a new dance created by company Artistic Director Stephen Mills in collaboration with visual artist Trenton Doyle Hancock and composer Graham Reynolds. In order to learn more about the Spring’s most talked about collaboration, Clare Croft sat down with Mills.

Clare Croft: Initially, what drew you to Hancock’s work? How did you all decide to collaborate on this project?

Stephen Mills: I think the very first time I saw Trent’s work was at a show at Dunn and Brown Contemporary in Dallas. His paintings are so rich in texture and narrative—and I think that’s the reason I’m intrigued by his work. A painting by Trent is not one of those paintings that you just walk by and say, “That’s nice.” You look at it [Hancock’s painting] and you get drawn into it. You start to question, “What is that?” You start to ask why he made these choices. Later I was talking with my friend Sue Graze at Arthouse about my desire to work with a visual artist. She asked me who I would be interested in working with and I immediately threw out Trent’s name. She laughed because she knew him—she actually gave him one of his first shows. So she picked up the phone, and she called him.

CC: What makes this collaboration so compelling for you and for Ballet Austin?

SM: There are things you want to work on and there are things that come out of the blue that you have no idea how you found yourself in the middle of. When I said I wanted to work with a visual artist, I never expected to be actually working with Trent. I never expected the collaboration to be as rich as it is—not just with Trent and with Graham, but with Arthouse and all the other visual artists in the community that are interested in Trent’s work.

I think that this collaboration is important for us as a company because, just like any other ballet company in any other city across the country, we have things that are important for us to do to broaden the cultural education of our community in dance. And then there are other things that we need to do to challenge the cultural identity of our community, and I think that this is one of those times. I think this is just another example of how we’re interested in challenging people’s notion about what it is to see dance in a theater. This collaboration crosses borders in the sense that I’ve asked the artist if I can inhabit his environment, his intellect, his ideas, and make them my own.

CC: What kind of world has been created in this piece?

SM: The idea is an old idea: it’s good versus evil and that struggle. You always want good to win—that’s the natural human condition. In this story it’s a world in which all color has been taken away. It’s a black and white world and an ordinary creature is called to service to bring color back to the world. No matter how much good you want to do, there’s always something standing in the way that you have to overcome.

CC: How is the ballet represented at Arthouse in the exhibition Cult of Color: Call to Color - Notes on a Collaboration? How does including dance and music affect a visual arts exhibition?

SM: We had to go around and around about how we were going to represent the collaboration at Arthouse. You can’t have dancers there for a month showing movement. Within the gallery Trent has divided the space into four different ideas about the ballet: There’s a forest area, a cave area, a place he calls “ossification,” and a place that he calls “characters.” There are drawings—sketches that he’s done for costumes. There are sketches that he’s done for scenery, as well as the mockettes and fabrications that the fabric workshop did of the forest backdrop. Graham is represented with these large sound bubbles that you can stand under that are representative of the forest and the cave. With dance, there are four places where there’s video of the dancers and me creating movement and rehearsing in the studio. There’s also photographic documentation of that. It’s very even. It’s a very democratic experience. They’ve done a good job of expressing the fact that this piece is a three-legged stool.

CC: Where have you found that the language of dance, music and visual art overlap, and where have you had to do some close listening and reshape your process to be able to understand each other?

SM: It’s been a fairly easy collaboration. I think visual artists don’t always have to work collaboratively, but as a choreographer I’m collaborating everyday with my artists. I think Graham is sort of in the middle, working with musicians, but as a composer you don’t need musicians to compose necessarily.

The process of deciding what it was we were going to do was not really difficult at all. Trent said this is the part of the mythology I want to tell. That was fine with me. There’s ten years of this mythology; I would never be able to identify which part to use. Graham was very open and amenable to changes in the score. It was all learning for us: Trent had never done a ballet before. Graham had never composed for a dance. I had never worked with a visual artist. So we were all curious about the others’ world, and how each of us gets our work done. It’s very interesting, so it didn’t become a turf war.

But if I think that if there were any challenges, it was based on the different worlds we come from. The world of art is a very different thing than the world of dance. People who build scenery and paint scenery, while they’re artists, the way they sense intellectual property is very different. It’s that whole question of: if an artist touches something, is it art now or is it scenery? It was questions like that that we had to work on.

CC: What have you learned through this process that you think will inform future work?

SM: I think that the visual arts are really important to me. If I had any talent as a visual artist, that would be my next career. I love that world, and I enjoy being able to share it with the dancers. I think it’s important for artists to not just lightly touch these other art forms, but to really be able to have a rich experience with them.

Clare Croft is a freelance dance writer and a PH.D. candidate in the Performance as Public Practice program at the University of Texas-Austin.


How Artists Draw: Toward The Menil Drawing Institute and Study Center
The Menil Collection
On view through May 18, 2008

By Caitlin Haskell

Willem de KooningUntitled, 1968, Charcoal on paper, 18 3.4 x 24 1/8 inches. The Menil Collection, Houston, gift of Janie C. Lee, in memory of James A. Elkins, Jr. © The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photograph: Hester + Hardaway.

"How do artists draw?” When Roger Fry addressed this question a century ago, he came to the conclusion that “drawing has at different times … expressed so many different conceptions, and has used such various means, that it would seem to be not one art, but many.” Bernice Rose, the newly appointed Chief Curator of the Menil Collection Drawing Institute and Study Center and the organizer of How Artists Draw, has reopened this question for consideration with a remarkable exhibition of nearly 200 “drawings” (some could be mistaken for paintings or sculptures) that supports Fry’s expansive view. In so doing, Rose has answered her exhibition’s central question unequivocally: “Artists draw any way they want, any way they can.”*

How Artists Draw unfolds chronologically from a group of four works on paper that reflect the surplus of emotion, imagination and technical innovation in the period Fry chose to call Post-Impressionism—Cézanne’s pencil and watercolor study Montagne (ca. 1895), Van Gogh’s Garden with Weeping Trees, Arles (1888), Redon’s L'oeil végétal (The Vegetal Eye) (ca. 1885) and Seurat’s conté rendering of “a corner of a factory,” Coin d’Usine (ca. 1883). These late nineteenth-century works, all of which come from the Menil’s permanent collection, occupy one face of a freestanding wall in a room dense with Cubist, Surrealist and Dada experimentations. But they also converse with two of the exhibition’s most contemporary selections—Sol LeWitt’s site-specific Scribble Drawing #11 (2005/2008), in view just outside the gallery entrance, and Richard Serra’s site-specific Wedge (2008) in a neighboring hall, a 38-foot drawing so thickly coated with black paintstick it seems to suck in light from the gleaming white walls around it. Viewed together, the exhibition’s earliest and most recent works achieve a compelling resonance. Seurat’s method of constructing solids from concentrations of agitated, spindly lines finds a twenty-first-century echo in LeWitt’s Scribble Drawing; and the tendency one has to perceive medium and support as thoroughly coextensive in areas of Coin d’Usine recalls Serra on a small scale.

Something Rose surely considered in her preparations for How Artists Draw is the likelihood of viewer-fatigue in an exhibition of 200 works, the vast majority of which are worthy of extended contemplation. It’s a good problem for a curator to have, but a problem nonetheless. The proximity of works, especially in the first rooms where the individual objects tend to be smaller, sends a clear message: There’s a lot to take in. But Rose found a couple of ways to mitigate fatigue. First, she selected truly rewarding drawings. The works I chose to spend most time with—early Cubist collage pieces, de Kooning charcoal drawings from 1968-1975, and late Johns works—all generously repaid my viewing. Second, Rose created areas where a single artist’s work (or sometimes two contemporaries) could form its own small viewing enclave. Structuring the layout in this way may not be the most conceptually daring approach, but it has the result of making the exhibition as a whole more manageable, while providing extensive individual platforms for artists like Claes Oldenburg (represented by 41 works from GeometricMouse) and Cy Twombly (represented by 24 Poems to the Sea and numerous later works).

The artists represented in How Artists Draw create with cameras, scissors, styluses and paint brushes. They work in contemplative solitude and toil alongside studio assistants. In the end, Rose seems convinced that “how”—a question of making—is not the proper one to ask when determining if something is or is not a drawing. So perhaps a definition based on the work’s reception—rather than its production—is in order. Viewers are free to look at the objects in How Artists Draw “any way they want, any way they can.” But it’s likely that they will choose to look at these pieces in the intimate way that works on paper have traditionally shown their charm—through close looking from close range. Standing before the works in How Artists Draw, one can take the show’s title as a technical question to be asked of each artist, or as a general (and unanswerable) question about the attractive force the works exert on an attentive and curious eye. Whether or not we choose to call the compositions in How Artists Draw “drawings,” few will deny that the works can draw us in. And, in this light, the works, as much as their makers, can draw.

*I quote Bernice Rose from her essay in the exhibition pamphlet and Roger Fry from “Bushman Paintings,” The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs 16 (March 1910): 334.

Caitlin Haskell is Associate Director of Fluent~Collaborative.

Cult of Color: Call to Color
On View through April 27,2008

By Rachel Cook

Trenton Doyle Hancock, Untitled preparatory sketch for Cult of Color: Call to Color, Ink and colored pencil on paper. Image courtesy the artist and Dunn and Brown Contemporary, Dallas.

Arthouse’s exhibition, Cult of Color: Call to Color - Notes on a Collaboration, attempts to narrate the complex collaboration between choreographer Stephen Mills, composer Graham Reynolds and visual artist Trenton Doyle Hancock, which resulted in a dance performance of the same name at Ballet Austin. The ballet’s narrative is drawn from the epic story that has been the subject of Hancock’s body of work for over a decade. This epic story—as seen in Hancock’s paintings and installations—revolves around the activities of two groups: the Mounds and Vegans, fantastical creatures that are often at odds with one another. The ballet relates a recent chapter of Hancock’s mythology, in which the Vegan minister Sesom encounters the goddess Painter. Painter encourages Sesom to form the Cult of Color, but his attempts are thwarted by his Vegan antagonist Betto.

The exhibition’s organizers have laboriously documented every step of the collaboration—and the effect is overly didactic. The presentation of Hancock’s drawings, Reynold’s score and Mills’ choreography at Arthouse fails to successfully unite the diverse products (images, music, dance) of the collaboration. Rather than suggest the dynamic feeling of the ballet, the installation at Arthouse is, for the most part, disappointingly expository and surprisingly lifeless—reminiscent of a history museum display.

Any number of exhibitions have taken on the monumental task of recreating visual art, music and dance collaborations, and done so with greater success. One recent example that comes to mind is Trisha Brown: Dance and Art in Dialogue, 1961-2001 at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, in 2003. Dance and Art in Dialogue was less concerned with explaining every detail of the collaborative process, and more concerned with presenting art objects in a visually compelling way. The show transformed the galleries into a theatre-like stage full of dynamic objects from the sets of performances. Not only could viewers imagine dancers and their movement through the space, dancers actually performed Brown's seminal piece Floor of the Forest within the gallery.

Cult of Color: Call to Color - Notes on a Collaboration most successfully evokes the spirit of both the collaboration and the performance in four environmental installations that employ an approach similar to Dance and Art in Dialogue. Each of these four installations—The Forest, The Cave, The Miracle Machine and The Battle—is inspired by a scene in the ballet. The most engaging of these installations is The Forest. Here, the viewer encounters the score from the portion of the performance that takes place in the forest, the backdrop of trees Hancock made for the ballet while in residence at the Fabric Workshop, Hancock's painting Sesom’s Mission, a projected video of a dance rehearsal, and various fabric swatches from costumes in the performance. Collectively, all of these art objects create the sensation of being on the stage during a dress rehearsal.

For a viewer who did not attend the live performance, the exhibition might serve as encouragement to see the actual performance, but it falls short as a way to unravel the collaboration. As curator Robin Held commented about the difficulties of presenting Dance and Art in Dialogue, “How does a museum showcase collaborations between visual artists and choreographers? The challenge is to give the full sense of the work while maintaining its ephemeral character,” says Held, “and to make it come alive for people more used to seeing drawings and paintings on the wall than performance documentation.”*

* http://www.artsci.washington.edu/news/WinterSpring04/TrishaBrown.htm

Rachel Cook is an artist, writer, and independent curator currently living in Austin. She is currently working on a show for DiverseWorks in 2009 entitled “Now that I’m by myself,” she says, “I’m not by myself, which is good.”

to the editor

Re: Dr. Jacqueline Barnitz
April 15, 2008

To the editor:

In reference to the interview with Gabriel Perez-Barreiro in your most recent issue, we write as colleagues of Jacqueline Barnitz to celebrate her 25-year teaching career in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Texas. Not only did Dr. Barnitz pioneer the art historical study of Latin American art as an academic discipline, she made the University of Texas a centerpoint for that study. During her career at UT, she advised over 30 M.A. students and over 15 Ph.D.s, one of whom recently won the Outstanding Dissertation Award presented by the Graduate School. The field of modern Latin American art is populated by her students, who hold tenured positions around the country and curatorships in the US as well as in Puerto Rico and Peru. Moreover, Dr. Barnitz literally “wrote the book” on the subject: her Twentieth-Century Art of Latin America, based on her primary research and interviews with artists in Latin America and New York over four decades, is the standard text now used by teachers of the subject.

While we look forward to a new era that begins with the arrival of Dr. Andrea Giunta in fall 2008, we will miss deeply our treasured colleague Jacqueline Barnitz—from whom students and faculty alike have learned so much over the years.


Linda Dalrymple Henderson, David Bruton, Jr. Centennial Professor in Art History
John Clarke, Annie Laurie Howard Regents Professor in Fine Arts
Richard Shiff, Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art
Dept. of Art and Art History, The University of Texas at Austin

project space

Rell Ohlson

Even such is time, that takes on trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
My God shall raise me up, I trust.

~ Sir Walter Raleigh, "Even Such is Time," 1618

Walter is a tribute to Sir Walter Raleigh. The animation developed out of research I was doing for another project, Austin Video Bee's DVD compilation Failure. However, numerous technical disasters prevented me from participating in Failure, and, in addition, my work on Raleigh began to drift away from the theme. Initially, I was drawn to "missing" civilizations and colonies—in particular the missing colony of Roanoke and the mythical city of El Dorado. Both Roanoke and El Dorado led me to the legendary figure of Sir Walter Raleigh. Soon, I began obsessively researching Raleigh. I read his poems and discovered numerous myths about him. I was especially drawn to Raleigh's repeated missteps; I found him to be a comical yet sad figure, constantly trying to climb the ladder of social hierarchy.

Walter is a terrible vision that visits Sir Walter Raleigh. This vision offers Raleigh the promise of wealth and glory, but it also foreshadows his ultimate failure and death. The last thing he sees in this vision is the Tower of London, where he will be imprisoned for years. Raleigh's delusions of grandeur are both funny and tragic. My obsession with Raleigh stems from a simultaneous repulsion and attraction: on one hand, his megalomania repels me, but on the other, his tragic fate draws a kind of sympathy from me. I needed to see his ghosts.

...mbg recommends

Ewan Gibbs: Pictures of Pitchers
lora reynolds gallery
On view through April 19, 2008

By Allison Myers

Ewan Gibbs, Cleveland, 2007, Pencil on paper, 11 5/8 x 8 1/4 inches. Courtesy the artist and Lora Reynolds Gallery.

Pictures of Pitchers, Ewan Gibbs’s series of drawings currently on display at the Lora Reynolds gallery, are elaborately simple. Working on grid paper, Gibbs slowly builds the drawings using thousands of tiny, precise hash marks, varying their weight to create swaths of tonal ranges. Much like Chuck Close, Gibbs works from photographs, transcribing each bit of information so that, at a distance, these miniscule markings congeal to form a startlingly realistic whole. On close examination, however, the marks disengage from the photograph and communicate more as an abstract pattern. As Gibbs claims to have been inspired by knitting diagrams, this isn’t surprising. There is a compelling tension between the part and the whole that causes our eyes to read one and then the other in a constantly shifting game—an interesting play on the idea of mark making versus image making.

Gibbs’s choice of subject also seems to underscore this interest in the part to the whole. Here, he has selected various images of baseball pitchers in the dynamic moment just after they’ve released the ball. Each figure is standing on one leg in a twisted contortion that is only made visible by the camera’s ability to freeze a single moment in an otherwise seamless progression of time. The drawings are at once ephemeral and stable, liminal and photographically precise. They invite intimate engagement—if anything, just to figure out how Gibbs could make such beautiful renderings with such a simple hash mark.

Allison Myers is pursuing an M.A. in art history at the University of Texas at Austin.

Announcements: exhibitions

Austin Openings

Ali Fitzgerald: Swan School: The Matriculation
Art Palace
Friday, April 18 from 8:00-10:00 pm

Swan School; The Matriculation is Ali Fitzgerald's second solo exhibition at Art Palace. Fitzgerald's current body of work explores victimization and violence within a forged adolescent caste-system. Through drawing based sculptures, dioramas and site-specific installations Fitzgerald surveys a dystopian boarding school complex, within whose misleading facades, we see residue of girlhood gone awry.

Atelier 2008: Selections from the Department of Art and Art History Faculty, The University of Texas at Austin
The Blanton
April 19 - June 8, 2008

Blanton Museum of Art and the Department of Art and Art History will host Atelier 2008: Selections from the Department of Art and Art History Faculty, The University of Texas at Austin from April 19 to June 8. Atelier 2008 is the first faculty exhibition being organized by a guest curator, and begins the newly formatted triennial basis in which future faculty shows will now occur. This year, curator James Elaine from the Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles has selected works by faculty members, among them some of the country's most respected artists and artistic scholars highlighting trends in contemporary art.

Poutine Never Sleeps
Gallery Lombardi
Artists Reception: April 24th 7-10pm; on view through May 10

Gallery Lombardi is pleased to present 9 Canadian artists whose painting and drawing skills have garnered international acclaim and commissions. Curated by Patrick Thompson and Felix Berube Poutine Never Sleeps is reference to a work ethic and the food. Poutine is cheese curds and gravy on french fries it can be purchased 24hours a day in Montreal where these artists live. Our event will launch the art exhibit, and the weekend long, 10 year anniversery of B-Boy City 15 National Battle and Hip Hop Festival. Romeo Navarro and crew will demonstrate breakdancing alongside the graffiti stylings of these fine artists. We believe that the 4 elements of hip hop -graffiti, breakdancing, rapping and djing are an international language that brings disparate communities together in celebration. For the purposes of Poutine Never Sleeps we have the Canadian street artists together with the Texas dancers and djs.

Austin On View

We've Got Tissues
okay mountain
On view through April 19, 2008

We’ve Got Tissues features the individual works of Jesse Greenberg, Lizzie Fitch, Brian McKelligott and the Austin premiere of Ryan Trecartin’s I-Be Area. Of the exhibition, the four artists write. "The work should be viewed like a venn diagram with the overlapping content being a natural effect of our shared experiences, with all of the intimacy and drama of a really realistic theatrical put-on that is actually happening in real time."

Yoon Cho: Nothing Lasts Forever
Women & Their Work Gallery
On view through May 10, 2008

Women & Their Work proudly presents Nothing Lasts Forever, a solo multimedia exhibition by Austin-based artist Yoon Cho. Recently named by the Austin Museum of Art as one of Austin’s “20 to Watch,” Cho uses video and digital photography to examine the ways we constantly create and re-create our identities. Utilizing blurring, pattern overlay, image insertion and other digital techniques to manipulate photography and video installations, Cho trains a sly and poignant lens on the ephemeral and ever-shifting nature of human persona.

In Katrina's Wake
Workspace Gallery, Blanton Museum of Art
On view through May 25, 2008

How do artists respond to calamity? In New Orleans, many resident artists and a number of those observing from outside have been moved by the need for community relief, healing, and support and have directed their work to address these immediate social and spiritual concerns. This group exhibition —the result of a year's research by curator Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, a former resident of the city — will feature film and video, drawings, photographs and mixed media works by artists including Willie Birch (New Orleans), Paul Chan (New York), Dawn Dedeaux (New Orleans), Jana Napoli (New Orleans), Cauleen Smith (Boston) and others.

Benito Huerta: Intermezzo
The Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River Street)
On view through August 31, 2008

In this exhibition, the artist Benito Huerta uses the intermezzo—a short movement separating the major section of a symphonic work—to confront contemporary issues such as the economy, immigration, and natural disasters, either directly or in a more poetic form. A recipient of the Dallas Center for Contemporary Art’s 2002 Legend of the Year Award, Huerta's work is in several museum and corporate collections through the United Stated and Huerta's work was recently presented in Soundings: Benito Huerta 1992 – 2005 at the Art Museum of South Texas, Corpus Christi and the El Paso Museum.

San Antonio On View

Candace Briceno: Wonderment
Cactus Bra
On view through April 20, 2008

Wonderment, a solo show by Austin-based artist Candace Briceño, presents Briceño's narrative reinterpretation of landscape. She translates her observations of landscape into soft sculpture vignettes that are hand sewn and hand dyed. Her dying process incorporates her painting background with her fascination to further explore abstracted forms of landscape, shadows, and colors with the integration of drawing, painting and sewing.

Kate Gilmore: Girl Fight
Hudson (Show) Room, artpace
On view through April 20, 2008

Girl Fight, curated by Artpace Executive Director Matthew Drutt, includes nearly a dozen videos by Kate Gilmore. The exhibition is the debut of Girl Fight, a video documenting Gilmore’s attempt to pile a motley collection of furniture in Artpace’s ground-floor courtyard. Once the colorful mountain of discarded sofas, chairs and dressers reaches the second-story ledge, she ascends the precarious tower dressed in a ball gown and wearing high heels, and enters her exhibition space via a red-carpeted ramp. During the run of the exhibition, only the video and piled furniture will remain as evidence of her Sisyphean task.

Julieta Aranda: You Had No 9th of May
Sala Diaz

Sala Diaz is pleased to present a new work by Julieta Aranda, organized in conjunction with guest-curator (and Fluent~Collaborative founder) Regine Basha. Though we are conditioned to experience ‘time’ or the immaterial concept of time, as a linear passage –measured conveniently by clocks, calendars, and other devices, isn’t it possible that the markers that we use to signal it: ‘yesterday’, ‘today’ and ‘tomorrow’ are an imposition ? Can’t we instead be the arbiters of our own experience of time? Can time be bent, sliced, poked through, stretched, flashed and collapsed?

Unfurnished Room
Unit B
On view through May 2, 2008

Inspired by the idea of an emptied suburban house functioning as a gallery, Unfurnished Room brings together a group of artworks that mark or inscribe presence. Curated by Jacob Robichaux, the exhibition includes artists Josh Blackwell, Rachel Foullon, Sam Gordon, Barbara Hatfield, Jamie Isenstein, Matt Keegan, Siobhan Liddell, Peter Mandradjieff, Adam Putnam and Sara Saltzman.

New Works 08.1: Margarita Cabrera, Regina Jose Galindo, Rodney McMillian
On view through May 11, 2008

See Laura A. Linderberger's review in Issue # 96.

Arte Latina: ROAR
Blue Star Contemporary Art Center
On view through June 8, 2008

An exhibition of work by Latina artists curated by Arturo Almeida.

Dallas On View

Real Time: Live Streaming Video
Dallas Contemporary
On view through May 10, 2008

The art of the mobile phone is the art of the hurried, the time starved, the always on. It is the art snapped while waiting in lines; art captured while sitting in traffic and mind numbing meetings. It is the art of the exhausted, overworked American. Real Time collects these fleeting images to reveal a larger reflection of our overworked society.

Palace Does Dallas: Sterling Allen, Peat Duggins & Ali Fitzgerald
Road Agent
On view through May 3, 2008

Road Agent is pleased to announce the three-person exhibition, Palace Does Dallas, part of the gallery’s ongoing exchange with Austin gallery Art Palace. This show features new work by Austin-based, Art Palace artists Sterling Allen, Peat Duggins and Ali Fitzgerald.

Fort Worth On View

Martin Puryear
Modern Art Museum of Forth Worth
On view through May 18, 2008

See Stephanie Ball-Piwetz's ...might be good recommends  in issue #95.

Houston On View

Dario Robleto: Oh Those Mirrors with Memory (Actions 1996-1998)
Inman Gallery
Opening: Saturday, April 19; Open House from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm

First included in the 6th Mercosul Biennial curated by Gabriel Perrez-Barreiro, this series of text pieces by Robleto reads both as object labels and small poems.

2008 Core Artists in Residence Exhibition
Museum of Fine Arts

Each year the Museum of Fine Art's Glassel School provides residencies to a group of emerging artists through its Core Program. Go see work made by this year's participants: Mequitta Ahuja, William Cordova, Kara Hearn, Andres Janacua-Lauren Kelley, Nicholas Kersulis, Sergio Torres-Torres and Jeff Williams.

Design Life Now: National Design Triennial
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
On view through April 20, 2008

Design Life Now: National Design Triennial presents the experimental projects, emerging ideas, major buildings, new products and media that were at the center of contemporary culture from 2003 to 2006. Inaugurated in 2000, the Triennial seeks out and presents the most innovative American designs from the prior three years in a variety of fields including product design, architecture, furniture, film, graphics, new technologies, animation, science, medicine and fashion. The exhibition presents the work of 87 designers and firms from established design leaders such as Apple, architect Santiago Calatrava, and Nike, Inc., to emerging designers like Joshua Davis, Jason Miller and David Wiseman.

Jay DeFeo: Where the Swan Flies
Moody Gallery

Although artist Jay DeFeo (1929-1989) is well known for her epic painting The Rose, much of her work remains little known. This exhibition offers a fresh view of DeFeo's artistic practice, presenting some of her works on paper.

Dawoud Bey: Perspectives 160
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
On view through May 11, 2008

Since 1992 Chicago-based photographer Dawoud Bey has been working exclusively on large-scale portraits of American teenagers. In his recent work—portraits of teenagers taken in high schools around the country—Bey has included texts that the subjects have written about themselves. For Bey, the creation and presentation of these portraits and texts allows for a more complex and nuanced representation than the photographic portrait alone.

Announcements: events

Austin Events

Graciela Sanchez and Amy Kastely to speak about the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
Payne Theatre Lobby of the Winship Building (23rd and San Jacinto)
Friday, April 18 at 2:00 pm

Graciela Sanchez, founding director of San Antonio's Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, a cultural center supporting the work of people of color, women, GLBTQ individuals, and legal scholar Amy Kastely will talk about Esperanza's work, as well as about The Esperanza Center vs. the City of San Antonio (2000), a fascinating and telling case about the nature of city arts policies and community-based arts and culture public practice.

Screening of Ryan Trecartin's I-Be Area
Okay Mountain
Saturday, April 19, 3 pm

Okay Mountain would like to invite you to the final screening of Ryan Trecartin's I-Be Area. If you'd like chance to view the video in its entirety and intended sequence, please attend the 3pm screening on Saturday the 19th inside Okay Mountain. We have a limited amount of chairs so feel free to bring a lawn chair if you'd like and if you'd like a cold beer, feel free to bring that as well.

Truck Lecture: An Ambulatory Exploration of Land Arts of the American West
Art Building Steps, University of Texas at Austin (23rd and San Jacinto)
Wednesday, April 23 at 8:05 pm

Chris Taylor, an architect, educator and co-director of Land Arts of the American West, will present the history and evolution of Land Arts to examine earth works as a measure of the intersection of geomorphology and human construction--beginning with the land and extending through the complex social and ecological processes that create landscape. This itinerant lecture will begin on the steps of the Art Building at 23rd and San Jacinto and proceed to other locations on campus.

Terraforming Earth Works: A Gallery Talk by Chris Taylor
The Blanton
Thursday, April 24 at 12:30 pm

Chris Taylor, an architect, educator, and co-director of Land Arts of the American West , will discuss Atacama Lab: 07, a conference and workshop he led to investigate terraforming within the Atacama Desert of Chile by extending the interpretive frame and working methods of Land Arts along the axis of the Americas. Public events in Santiago and a ten-day field session in the Atacama Desert brought together artists, architects, designers, and scientists to explore the expanding interconnections of our work in direct response to the landscape.

For the Love of 'Art,' or, the Queerness of Visual Culture : A Talk by Richard Meyer
WIN 2.112, Department of Theater and Dance, University of Texas at Austin
Friday April 25 at 2:00 pm

In this talk, Richard Meyer argues for the value of visual ephemera, private scrapbooks, physique magazines, and mail-order photography as forms of queer history. Meyer is an Associate Professor in the Department of Art History and Director of the Contemporary Project at the University of Southern California. He is the author of Outlaw Representation: Censorship and Homosexuality in Twentieth-Century American Art (2002), and co-author, with Anthony W. Lee, of Weegee and Naked City (2008). With David Román, he co-edited Art Works Part I and II, two special issues of GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies. He is the guest curator of the exhibition Warhol's Jews and is working on a book titled What was Contemporary Art?

Marfa Event

The Writings of Donald Judd: A symposium hosted by the Chinati Foundation
Chinati Foundation
Saturday May 3 - Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Chinati Foundation is pleased to announce a symposium dedicated to the writings of the late artist and museum founder Donald Judd. The symposium will offer a diverse range of presentations and subjects. Among the topics to be considered will be the relationship of Judd's writings to his art; his use of language and syntax; Judd's political views; how Judd produced and edited his essays; and Judd's art criticism and its relevance today. The weekend program will be moderated by Richard Shiff, Director of the Center for the Study of Modernism at the University of Texas, Austin.

Fort Worth Events

Artist's Talk: Dean Byington
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
Tuesday, April 22 at 7:00 pm

Dean Byington, a San Francisco-based artist known for creating visually packed narrative landscape paintings with varied storylines rendered in the style of nineteenth-century illustrated books, presents the ideas and processes behind his mesmerizing work in a conversation with Curator of Education Terri Thornton. A self-described horror vacui enthusiast, Byington explains, “My intent is to insert as much information and as many layers into a painting as possible.” His intentions result in complex works, both large and small, that unfold as the viewer searches and studies the surfaces with great satisfaction if not absolute conclusions.

Houston Events

Slide Jam!
Contemporary Arts Museum Houston
Thursday, April 23 at 6:00 pm

Slide Jam programs introduce figures from Houston's diverse art community to those who want to follow new developments in contemporary art. Presentations begin at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday evenings in the Cullen Education Room. Artists: Gabriela Trzebinski and Lauren McEntire.

Austin Events

Soundings: A Project by Wura-Natasha Ogunji
The corner of Pedernales St & Canterbury Street (near Metz Park)
Saturday, April 26 at 11:00 am

Soundings is a public performance piece by Wura-Natasha Ogunji. In Soundings, performers visualize and negotiate their relationships to their own power and to each other through the basic element of thread. Soundings occurs in multiple public sites, including: the United States, the island of Haiti-Dominican Republic, Brazil, and on a ship across the Atlantic. The performances are visually recorded to become part of an infinite-channel video projection.

Announcements: opportunities


Executive Director
The Center For Contemporary Arts
Application Deadline: April 30, 2008

The Director of The Center for Contemporary Arts, who shall be the Chief Administrative Officer of the Museum, oversees the day-to-day operations of the Museum as well as fiscal management. He/she should be a proven leader with vision, excellent management and fundraising skills with an enthusiastic interest in the arts and the long-range development of the CCA. For a complete job description and application information, please click here.

Executive Director
Art League Houston
Application Deadline: June 30, 2008

Art League Houston is currently seeking applicants for the Executive Director position. Art League Houston cultivates awareness, appreciation and accessibility of contemporary visual art within the community for its cultural enrichment. The Executive Director implements the strategic goals of the organization and is responsible for organization, direction, and administration of the agency, including its policies, programs and services. To view position announcement and job description, click here.

Fellowship Opportunities

The Stone Summer Theory Institute
Application Deadline: May 5, 2008

Held each July at the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, The Stone Summer Theory Institute is designed to investigate some of the principal themes of contemporary art.. The theme for 2008 will be: What Is An Image? This event gathers some of the most influential historians and theorists working on images, in order to come to an understanding of what the visual has come to mean. Faculty include W.J.T. Mitchell, Marie-José Mondzain, and Jacqueline Lichtenstein; the event is co-organized by James Elkins and Gottfried Boehm. For further information, please click here.

Artist Residencies

La Maison Jaune Residency Program
Application Deadline: April 30, 2009

The Maison Jaune residency program provides living and working opportunities for emerging international artists in all media of the visual arts (e.g. painting, sculpture, photography, performance, new media). The fellowship includes production costs up to CHF 3.000 per artist upon request. Artists are generally invited for a period of 4-6 weeks. The application has to include a CV, images of works produced in the past five years (not more than 20) and a letter of intent (one page max). Please send the requested material to residency@patricialow.com.

Lawndale Artist Studio Program 2008-2009
Lawndale Art Center
Application Deadline: May 30 at 4:00 pm

The Lawndale Artist Studio Program is part of Lawndale’s ongoing commitment to support the creation of contemporary art by Gulf Coast area artists. With an emphasis on emerging practices, the program will provide three artists with studio space on the third floor of the Lawndale Art Center at 4912 Main Street in the heart of Houston’s Museum District. Artists have full access to their studios 24 hours a day, seven days a week; access to visiting artists, writers and curators; and will receive a $500 monthly stipend for the duration of the program together with an initial $1500 materials budget. If accepted, artists are expected to present a workshop or presentation to the general public and the local arts community to share their practice or explore a related topic. Works produced during the program will be exhibited at Lawndale Art Center during May 2009. For application details, please click here.

Call for Entries

Chicago Underground Film Festival Accepting Entries
Early Deadline: May 15, 2008; Regular Deadline: June 16, 2008

Entries are now being accepted for the Chicago Underground Film Festival. For further information and entry details, please click here.

2009 Texas Biennial
Call for Entry runs April 16-May 31, 2008

Starting April 16, 2008 and running until May 31, 2008, the 2009 Texas Biennial will be accepting submissions from artists living and working in Texas via our new website, www.texasbiennial.com. All submissions will be digitally submitted online and artists of all medias are encouraged to submit. The 2009 Biennial website will provide all information on the Call for Entry process. The Temporary Outdoor Project will be funded by the City of Austin and will award budgets for complete projects ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. Both the Group exhibition and the Temporary Outdoor Project call will run simultaneously and artists have the option to submit to one or both.

Call for Artists

Municipal Court/Police Substation Project.
Deadline to Submit Statement of Intent with Qualifications: May 2, 2008

The City of Austin Art in Public Places (AIPP) program of the Cultural Arts Division seeks to commission an artist or artist team to create art for the new Municipal Court/Police Substation facility. AIPP requests a statement of intent with qualifications from professional visual artists who live or work within the United States. Up to three finalists will be selected to travel to Austin to meet with the project team, learn about the site and artwork opportunities and present their qualifications to an interviewing panel. One artist or artist team will be selected for the project. This facility will constitute an adaptive reuse of a former big box retail store located near IH-35 and St. Johns in North Central Austin, and will house the municipal court and also provide space for a police substation. The construction will be part of a design-build process, with the artist participating in the design process as it progresses. Multi-media, digital media and other innovative approaches are encouraged. Call to Artists and Application System for Austin Public Art (ASAP!) available here.

Call for Exhibition Proposals

Diverseworks: Call for Exhibition Proposals

Diverseworks welcomes proposals for projects in the Main Gallery, a 3,000 square foot space dedicated to showing the work of national and international artists, and The Project Space, DiverseWorks' small gallery dedicated to showing the work of emerging and under-recognized artists. Proposals are accepted year round. For further information and applications details, click here.


Travel Grants for San Antonio-Area Artists
Application Deadline: April 30 at 5:00 pm

In an effort to foster the growth and vision of an artist's career and encourage an ongoing dialogue between local and international art communities, Artpace San Antonio is pleased to announce a call for Travel Grant applications. The award will assist an artist with travel related to his or her creative growth, and proposals may include research or project-specific travel to visit an exhibition, collection, institution, or geographic location. For more information or to apply, click here.

Arts Writers Grant Program
Creative Capital / Warhol Foundation
Application Deadline for Letter of Intent: May 5, 2008

The Creative Capital/ Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant is a three year pilot program designed to support writers whose work addresses contemporary visual art through project based grants issued directly to individual authors. The Arts Writers Grant Program issues awards for books, articles, short-form writing and blogs/new alternative media and aims to support the broad spectrum of writing on contemporary visual art, from general audience criticism to academic scholarship. For further details about the application process, please click here.

2008 Texas Filmakers' Production Fund Grant
Deadline: June 2, 2008

Applicants must be residents of Texas and be the creative author of the final work. This year, Alpha Cine Labs has joined the Texas Filmmakers' Production Fund as an in-kind sponsor. Now, in addition to requesting cash and Kodak film stock, you can also request up to $5,000 in services from Alpha Cine, a full service digital motion picture lab offering services ranging from 35mm, S16mm, 16mm, S8mm color, B&W, reversal processing, telecine, printing, color timing, digital to 35mm transfers, HD color correct and mastering. For more information and applications, click here.

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