Sunday, April 8, 2012

Road Trip: Austin in the Springtime

by Robert Boyd

Yesterday was pretty much a perfect day to visit Austin--everything was green and beautiful, the day warm but far from oppressive. My goal was to look at as many of the exhibits listed in Glasstire as possible. But my real goal was to see some Austin art venues that I had never visited before. And I managed to hit a bunch. These are my impressions of each space--I'll talk briefly about the art I saw, but these aren't reviews. This is more about place than works. (But I have plenty of photos of art, which hopefully will make up for the lack of serious reviewing.)

Grayduck Gallery

GrayDUCK Gallery. None of the galleries I visited were out in the suburbs, but at the same time, none of these were very closely clustered. GrayDUCK is in South Austin. If you weren't looking for it, you wouldn't find it. But I was impressed with the art they had. The current show, Momento Mori,  featured paintings of ghosts of soldiers by John Mulvany.

The Unpredictable Past I
John Mulvany, The Unpredictable Past I, acrylic on panel

The Unpredictable Past I by John Mulvany seems to show the ghosts of WWI soldiers, although the guy in the cloth hat suggests it might be from the Anglo-Irish War.

you Take Me and I'll Be You
Suzanne Koett, You Take Me and I'll Be You, archival silver halide photograph

But the artist I liked best at GrayDUCK was Suzanne Koett. She was showing a suite of very enigmatic photos like the one above.

Yard Dog

 Yard Dog. Yard Dog Gallery is on South Congress in amongst a bunch of quasi-hip businesses. Parking on Saturday morning was a nightmare. It's a popular area. Yard Dog is a gallery similar to La Luz de Jesus in Los Angeles or the new Heights Art Gallery here in Houston. These galleries affect a deliberately funky vibe. Unlike the white cube gallery (another affectation), these galleries tend to be quite cluttered, both with merchandise but also in the way they are designed.

Yard Dog

The kind of art you see at these galleries falls broadly into the categories of "Low-Brow" and outsider-ish art. Yard Dog seems to identify itself as aligned with outsider art, but most of the artists there were not what I would call outsider artists. Instead, I'd call them artists who play with American vernacular images. The show in front was, for example, Tony Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a fantastic printmaker, whose busy images are kind of a nostalgic clutter. He has a great website where he riffs on each image.

Bazooka Hulk
Tony Fitzpatrick, Bazooka Hulk, etching

For instance, I really liked his ruminations that accompanied Bazooka Hulk. Artists has a natural inclination to let the work speak for itself, or to try to put everything into an artist's statement, which tend to be unsatisfying pieces of writing. But Fitzpatrick has real style.

Dust Radio
Tony Fitzpatrick, Dust Radio, etching

The Tiger Koi
Tony Fitzpatrick, The Tiger Koi, etching

Cowboyd Talk
Fort Guerin, Cowboy Talk, acrylic on wood, 19" x 19"

Mexican Wrestler
Camp Bosworth, Mexican Wrestler, carved wood, 16" x 14" x 17"

I was surprised and delighted to see several wood pieces by Camp Bosworth, an artist who's work I've seen and loved on occasion in Houston. And even more amazing was that some of Bosworth's work was surprisingly affordable.

various Bosworth
Camp Bosworth, Drug Money, carved and painted wood, 8" x 4" x 2"

Bosworth's carvings of Drug Money, for instance, were only $100. I thought that was a steal (no pun intended), so I bought one. Bosworth is one of many Texas artists who is taking the drug war in Mexico and Texas as his subject matter.

Jon Langford installation
Jon Langford installation

Don't Feel Alone
Jon Langford, Don't Feel Alone

Jon Langford founded the Mekons. This is another thing this gallery has a lot of--artwork by musicians. In addition to Langford, they show work by Jad Fair and David Fair (Half-Japanese) and Ian McLagen (the Small Faces and the Faces). (I'm surprised they don't have Daniel Johnston's work.)  The thing about artwork by musicians is that people crave it because of the association with the musician (especially a cult musician). Which is good for Yard Dog, but it makes critical evaluation difficult. Langford's portraits of musical heroes are corny, but generally I like his work.

Yard Dog seems to stand outside much of Austin's art scene. But I quite like the work they were showing and greatly admire artists like Fitzpatrick and Bosworth. Yard Dog isn't a white cube; their artists don't necessarily have MFAs; they aren't cutting edge in the ordinary sense of the word. It's important that there are galleries like this. I think Yard Dog is a valuable part of the Austin art environment.


Domy. We have a Domy in Houston and Austin's Domy is not hugely different in its range of merchandise. The reason I stopped by was to see the Wayne White show. But this store is different in one significant way--it has a larger footprint. The books are a little more spread out and there are more facings (a bookstore term for when you display a book face out instead of spine out). Artwise, this means that the display space for art doesn't have to share space with books or magazines. The display space in Domy Houston is not that good because it's so cramped.

Wayne White installation
Wayne White installation at Domy

You can see how different it is at Domy Austin (if you're familiar with the Houston space). I don't know if Domy Houston could even mount a show like this. Domy Austin's art space is a little like the old space attached to the Brazos Bookstore. It gives art pride of place.

Wayne White vitrine
vitrine containing various zines and ephemera from Wayne White

The Wayne White exhibit, by the way,  is small but wonderful.

So Long, Losers!
Wayne White, So Long, Losers! Hey Guys I'm Back!, acrylic on found offset lithograph

Wayne White, Schadenfreude, acrylic on found offset lithograph

Lora Reynolds Gallery. Unlike all the other galleries I had visited, Lora Reynolds was the  most mainstream. It felt like a Chelsea gallery plopped down in Downtown Austin. Crisp, clean and professional. The art on display was impressive. The main show was by Irish political artist Tom Molloy.

Tom Molloy art
Tom Molloy, Dream, cut paper, two books in plexiglass, 7-3/4" x 5-1/8" each, 2009

Dream was amusing, but the two works that impressed me most require video to give you their full effect.

Tom Molloy, Protest, approximately 800 cut black and white photos, 290" x 11" x 10", 2011

Tom Molloy, Shake, Set of 59 framed, found photographs , 2011

Then in the back room is an installation of hand-painted replicas of 45 single sleeves called Record Shop by Conrad Bakker.

Record Shop
Conrad Bakker, Record Shop

Tiny Park Gallery. While I was in Austin, I briefly met up with Salvador Castillo, and he said that in his opinion, a lot of the current energy in the Austin scene was coming out of two apartment galleries, Red Space Gallery and Tiny Park Gallery. Red Space is only open by appointment, but I was able to see Tiny Park. The two galleries are close to one another, on either side of Lamar in North Austin. Conveniently (for me), they also happen to be right near Austin Books & Comics, my favorite comic store in Texas.

Tiny Park was showing videos by PJ Raval, which were quite powerful, and paintings and drawing by Nick Brown.

Nick Brown, Poppies, oil on canvas, 36" x 60", 2010

Brown is a super-heavy impasto artist. For some reason, I've been finding myself attracted to artists who work like that. In any case, I liked his paintings immensely.

Nick Brown, Innocence, oil on canvas, 57.5" x 27.5", 2011

I was quite impressed with Tiny Park. I like seeing that kind of small-scale, entrepreneurial approach done so well.  But I have to say that it seems like kind of an odd neighborhood for it. I don't know Austin that well, but my feeling is that the hip parts of town are South Austin (but maybe it's had its day, I dunno) and East Austin, which has Domy and Okay Mountain the East Austin Studio Tour in the fall. But North Austin seems a bit characterless. All you Austinites--if I'm wrong, please pipe up!

Laguna Gloria. Laguna Gloria is the location of the Austin Museum of Art ever since they closed their downtown location. (Of course, they have a downtown location now due to their merger with Arthouse.) I went yesterday to see Art on the Green, an exhibit of artist-made putt-putt golf holes. Now this kind of thing is just a step above cow parades. But my elementary-school-aged nephews went on Friday and played golf there, and I think it is important to have art that can engage 2nd graders, so it is a little snobbish of me to look down my nose.

School Night
Okay Mountain, School Night

And in the end, they were quite witty. Okay Mountain's School Night was a putt-putt green designed to appear that it had been vandalized by beer-drinking teens.

The Five Wonders of Land Art
Go Sculpture Go, The Five Wonders of Land Art

The Five Wonders of Land Art by Go Sculpture Go featured obstacles that referenced Lightning Field, Sun Tunnels, Double Negative, Storm King Wavefield, and Spiral Jetty.

The Five Wonders of Land Art
Go Sculpture Go, The Five Wonders of Land Art

And finally, Boozefox created Nutrioppossumus, a giant mutant rodent/marsupial mix. Its droppings are brown golf balls.

Boozefox, Nutrioppossumus

Boozefox, Nutrioppossumus


1 comment:

  1. Please come visit us at Red Space, Dean! I would love to catch up and show you what the gallery is all about.