Monday, May 27, 2013

Big Frame Up in Austin

Robert Boyd

This giant blue genie had nothing to do with Frame besides being across the parking lot from Big Medium

East Austin has become a locus for Austin's art scene.  Of course there is EAST, the East Austin studio tour, but studios are the loam out of which other things grow--galleries, artists spaces, etc. Frame to me seemed to be about promoting the next stage of the evolution of an art district. Some institutions have sprung up, and to help people realize this, they join their voices like the citizens of Whoville, shouting "We are here!" The four participants were Tiny Park, MASS, Big Medium and Co-Lab. What's interesting is that this grouping includes a commercial gallery, a non-profit and a couple of artist-run spaces.

Big Medium is a nonprofit that organizes EAST and the Texas Biennial. Soon they will have their own storefront space in a new development called Canopy. Right now, Canopy is empty. I think they'd like to full of galleries and complimentary businesses. Big Medium arranged for two of the spaces to be used on a temporary basis. So on the day of Frame, Fahamu Pecou: All Dat Glitters Ain’t Goals (curated by Salvador Castillo) was having its closing night and The F.R. Etchen Collection; Selected Works and More was opening.

Fahamu Pecou at Big Medium

Fahamu Pecou is an Atlanta-based artist who uses self-portraiture, video and performance to reflect on images and stereotypes of black manhood in the era of hiphop. The big canvases were impressive and projected an ironic sense of overblown masculinity, but the videos were the star of the show. They came across as modest and homespun (although they included some clever effects), with forceful but ironic raps.

The other Big Medium show was a show of Russell Etchen's personal art collection. Obviously this is a curatorial idea I have no real objection to. In Etchen's case, a lot of his collection comes from his colleagues in Sketch Klubb, various folks on the Houston art scene who are about his age, bits of comics-related artwork, and other odds and ends. Etchen is a cash-poor collector, which makes his collection all the more interesting--each piece has a story and is not simply the result of a cash exchange.

Mark Flood, Blue Skies for Russell Etchen

For example, Etchen has an astonishing collection of Mark Flood paintings because he designs Flood's publications and is more-or-less a member of the Flood entourage.

Mark Flood, Kitchen Mirror

Clockwise from the top: Jonny Negron drawing; 2 Geoff Hippensteil paintings; Travis Kent, Fan

Johnny Ryan

I loved Johnny Ryan's tribute to D.J. Screw.

Tim Kerr, Coltrane

John Porcellino, Skunk Cabbage

My next stop was MASS Gallery, a co-op operation that includes studios and a giant exhibition space. They were opening with a group show called Wally, which was apparently about the relationship of art to the wall. Unless you are radically examining this concept as William Anastasi did with Six Sites, it seems like a trivial theme for a show. The ways that the work addressed "walls" were not particularly profound. But it was a group show, and the thing about group shows is that one can usually find a few things to like.

Leah Bailis, Cinderblocks, 2013, cardboard and paint

Something like Cinderblocks by Leah Bailis strikes me as painfully obvious in terms of "walls," but quite appealing in terms of being a piece of sculpture. Because of their cardboard structure, they have the feeling of cartoon cinderblocks--the kind that Popeye could bust through easily.

Lee Piechocki, I Have a Lot of Faith in This Model, 2013, plexiglass, wood, sculpy, paint, paper, vinyl, found objects on shelf

As someone whose job revolves around making computer models of real things, I liked I Have a Lot of Faith in This Model by Lee Piechocki. The models I make are generally opaque to the people I make them for, and a lot of what I do is convince them that I believe in the model and that they should as well. This mysterious grouping of objects is also asking us to take it on faith that it works. And I do.

Yashua Klos, Totem, 2011, woodblock prints collaged onto archival paper

And I thought Yashua Klos's Totem was simply beautiful.

Kansas City Plein Air Coterie (KC PAC) Open Session 

After checking out the show, I went out into the vast concrete "courtyard" where several people were set up painting. This was an activity open to all but led by the Kansas City Plein Air Coterie (KC PAC) with artist Lee Piechocki.

Then off to Co-Lab, which was having an exhibit and performance by Brooke Gassiot called The Stories Our Neurons Tell. It consisted of several sculptural objects, some incorporating video elements.

piece by Brooke Gassiot.

This one, whose title I didn't catch, was quite powerful. At first, you saw a large circular structure supporting a curtain that was about 7 or 8 feet high. You had to walk into the corner of the gallery space behind the structure to find a gap in the curtain. When you did, you saw the bathtub with a video projection in it above. I couldn't tell if the woman in the tub was crying or exhausted, but it's a strong image. And the way it provides a glow within the otherwise dimply-lit scene made it stronger. A projected image like this is a ghostly image--I didn't feel like it was meant to portray something existing now but rather the memory of something, possibly something very bad. Something that makes a woman cry in her bathtub.

scar piece by Brooke Gassiot

And memory is continued in this piece. You can't really see them in this photo, but the lightbox there is covered with little drawings. Gassiot was drawing these in the next room. People would sit down and show Gassiot a scar, which she would draw. As she drew, her subject told the story of that scar to her. Mine was a scar on my right palm, acquired in the late 80s on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, stitched up in an emergency room in Houma, Louisiana. Then using needle and thread, she sewed up the drawing of your scar with the same number of stitches you actually got. Then you took the drawing and added it to the pile. It was a very personal experience between you and the artist. (And the artist got to hear a bunch of great stories, so she got something out of it as well.)

My favorite show was at Tiny Park, my last stop on my Frame Tour.  It was a show by Joel Ross and Jason Creps. Their work consists mainly of signs that they have made and left someplace. This is Ross's part of the process. The residue of the work are photos of the signs in situ (taken by Creps, who is also a commercial photographer. He did the cover photo for Neko Case's album Middle Cyclone.)

Joel Ross and Jacob Creps, IN THE FUTURE (Installed and abandoned, Bradley, IL), 2012, archival pigment print, 42 x 55 inches

In addition to the photographs, the show consists of signs and word pieces. Their power is somewhat diminished being in a gallery setting (instead of just being out in public), but Ross makes up for that by being so amusing and clever.

Joel Ross, #UC!&+%, 2012, vinyl and acrylic paint on pine, dimensions variable

Joel Ross, #UC!&+%, 2012, vinyl and acrylic paint on pine, dimensions variable

 Joel Ross, It Was a Bad Idea, 2010, flashe and graphite on paper, 60 x 30 inches

Still, the problem with these in the gallery setting is that they seem like clever one-liners of a sort. It's only out in the world that these things gain power. So Ross did an installation. He did it at the studio of OK Mountain over on Cesar Chavez, so he wasn't strictly removing it from an institutional setting. Nonetheless, it must have given people whiplash as they drove by it at night.

Joel Ross, TORTURE SOUNDS INCREDIBLE, 2006, electronic LED sign, 57 x 84 x 7 inches

All in all, I thought Frame was a success. But it would be even better if there were a bunch of galleries at Canopy. Frame is trying to force a beneficial clustering effect, and that may work, but it needs to get bigger and more dense in the long run.


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