Monday, September 29, 2008

I Need A Home.

I still don't have power. I'm totally pissed.


A Brief Reprive

Austin is retarded. The best exhibit I saw there was retarded. Well, maybe the next best. The next best was retarded; the best was dramatic, complex and cost me way more than I intended it to.


They say that building in the middle is Illuminadi
who the fuck is they???


I took a tour of Austin art spaces all at once. That way I would run out of time and not see them all. I never got to Paul Slocum’s video game show at Arthouse and I didn’t see the Austin Museum of Art. That still left a good bunch of museums and galleries to hit in four hours, and I made the most of it. I started off the day by getting lost at the 290/MOPAC interchange on the south side and driving all the way to Round Rock to use the computers at the Art Institute of Austin. That place is in love with Andy Warhol. If it wasn’t for a Romare Bearden and a Rothko it would’ve been another Warhol museum. The Art Institute is clean and new; they were still building out an admin office over the weekend and the noise made it damn hard to hear the Ryder Cup on the big screen. Besides the pervasive use of Vista I wouldn’t have complained at all. I found a route, a big backwards C starting at the University of Texas, curving through the eastside down Pleasant Valley Road and back into downtown on Cesar Chavez.

I was excited to visit The Blanton for the first time, the fanfare for its new building a couple of years ago was promising, and I had hoped that the capitol of Texas would have a world-class permanent collection. After parking on campus I walked past an installation I had seen at the MFAH's Inverted Utopias show of Latin-American modernism. What I hadn't seen before is someone tie a bunch of the yellow plastic ropes together and make a swing out of it. Those college girls were laughing their asses off, swinging about.


The entrance to the museum is wide and empty, the brilliant white of the lobby was overpowering. It was totally Cloud City for a second there. Without a wisp of accoutrement the Blanton presents a stark and imposing figure at first. At the top of the staircase (pretty much the whole museum is on the second floor) one is greeted by Roman statues, remarkable in their cleanliness. Then you see that they are reproductions. 19th century reproductions, but still. Weak. They even have a room labeled on their map called "19th-Century Casts of Greek and Roman Sculpture".

In the European section of the collection I was startled to see so many famous subjects in familiar poses- but Caravaggios and Titians these are not. My favorite out of pure lewdness was Orazio Riminaldi's Saint Agatha, 1620s, with it's almost Dutch sense of shadow. Agatha holds a pair of scissors in front of her bust, with the other hand she holds a platter bearing her two breasts, nipples erect. The images are 2nd and 3rd generation; Mannerists and Italian and French Caravaggisti who were so devoted to their forefathers they stole subject matter and poses without remorse, like the difference between Sweet Home Alabama and that crappy song Kid Rock sings about singing Sweet Home Alabama in Michigan. WTF, really. To make up for it the Glickman Galleries are chock full of great prints- but come on- do you want to devote so much of a museum to prints? The current exhibition is about Raphael's continuing impact on printmakers throughout the last centuries- beating the derivative is good drum like a ball-peen hammer to the skull. There was blood everywhere.


How gay.

After writing Mannerist crap on the museum map in my hand, I walked through a great computer room open to the public with a great view of downtown through large windows. On the other side of the "eLounge" LOL was Kehinde Wiley's Le Roi a la Classe, 2006, translated the exterior toughness of thug culture to it's roots in a flaneur lifestyle, androgynyzing prison-inspired life choices by lifting the veil of homosexual undertones to 50 cent and Jay-Z. Alfredo Jaar's Gold in the Morning documented the brutal conditions in a strip mine. A video by Alejandro Paz aped Vito Acconci's early work- the artist paid a bodyguard to shadow a homeless man all day, and Paz followed them, filming the whole back-of-the-head thing.



The Modern galleries of the Blanton are great- really great. A triumvirate of post-ab ex painters is installed next to the Tate Gallery; Morris Louis' Water-Shot, 1961, is a human-sized canvas of organic but vivid vertical stains; High Yellow, 1960, by Ellsworth Kelly is social commentary buried deep in formalist objectivity, and a Helen Frankenthaler demonstrates the mark-making potential of the short period after the genius of Rothko had work thin and minimalism had yet to take hold. With fleshy pinks and atmospheric blues treated loosely in a gridded haze of marks, Philip Guston's The Alchemist, 1960, was a treat to see, his early style's power seen today in the light of his figurative late work's intense subjectivity and humanity. A small, early Rothko traces the line of inspiration from early abstraction that created the New York School; a 1946 Gorky looks intensely similar to Matta's work, a major influence in America's post-war period.


Thomas Hart Benton, Romance

To the left, in smaller galleries, The Blanton has a good selection of famous-from-textbooks Americana, including Thomas Hart Benton's Romance, 1931, and Phillip Evergood's Dance Marathon, 1934, a smart and sketchy sweep through American society. I had never noticed in reproductions, but death's bony hand holds out a $1000 bill towards the foregrounded winners from the top left. Jacob Lawrence's Eviction, 1936, was not on display, but it's place was held by a small card- and I wished it was another day. In a good show of prints, Disturbing Narratives: Cuevas, Toledo, and Tonel is a coarse, cartoony, sexual and grotesque show of Mexican printmakers capped off with Cuevas' 1976 Mirate en este espejo, which if you don't know what it means you should go see for yourself :)


Robert Rauschenberg, Treaty

I wasn't so happy with my visit, and as I descended the staircase I was determined to mine the lobby for something happy to see me off. Around the corner from the bathrooms I found three works by three great Texans. If you are at UT, skip paying to go into the museum and ask to use the restroom. Down the hallway to the left you will find an Untitled trio by Donald Judd, 1982, of linear permutations; next to that is Robert Rauschenberg's Treaty, a 1974 transfer work of black and bright red. Make sure to turn around and catch John Alexander's Queen for a Day lithograph.

After I left the Blanton I headed east through campus, bright yellow signs warning me not to park ANYWHERE on campus or I would be towed at exactly 11:59pm. After all, there was a football game the next day and I'm sure the administration wants to squeeze as much as possible out of those Longhorns fans. A few blocks away was the Harry Ransom Center, a great and academic institution I first heard about when they exhibited Jack Kerouac's original scroll he wrote On The Road upon. Their exhibition The Mystique of the Archive sounded entertaining enough for someone as boring as me, and after poring through scraps of paper for the first twenty minutes I got to the meat and was not disappointed. Skip right to the back wall for Picassos and Man Rays if you're impatient. Drawings big and small by writers and artists. Surely the best I saw in Austin.

When I tried to leave the campus, I took my ticket up to the booth and paid my 4 bucks for parking for over an hour. The attendant handed me a pink card and I went to drive out of the building. After seven, no eight, no nine confusing turns I reached the exit and reached over for the ticket. There was a receipt alright, but no ticket! I parked in the middle of the lane and seached for as long as I could before I felt I was really causing a traffic jam. People didn't honk, they didn't get impatient or anything. That was nice. When I drove up to the attendant, receipt in hand, he told me it was ten bucks if you lost your ticket, which totally didn't seem worth it. I parked and started tearing through the front seats. cards from parking in downtown Houston were everywhere, receipts for Stop-N-Go, Starbucks and Jimmy John's, scraps of paper, envelopes, business cards, tampons, paper bags, plastic wrap, dime store novels, straws still in paper, pennies and quarters. Seriously, I looked fucking everywhere. When I went back I brought the reciept and tried to pay the ten bucks as a total- since I had already paid four. No dice. I went to the other window, badgered the bald guy, pleaded with the lady at a desk in the back, and got really fucking angry- to no avail. I paid fourteen bucks to get out of that building, good grief.


They say that building in the middle looks like an owl.

After that I found a roach in my car; I was totally pissed. By the time I got through the traffic jam leading to 35 (aka 2 blocks) the classical station playing Bach had calmed my nerves. Driving through East Austin helped too, and as I rode over rolling hills up to Miriam Street I almost felt at an even keel. Creative Research Lab had an exhibit of UT Art Department faculty, and Flatbed Press had a split show of two painters. The hallway is always dark and cold, and the exhibit of horrific war scenes by Chris Reno and Robert Levers kept the mood detached. They felt awkwardly part of history, as the anti-war movement (but not the Iraq War) slowly slips into the past.

CRL, a division of UT somehow, has there Fall Faculty show up through this Sunday, and if you have the chance make sure to avoid this exhibit. It really sucks balls. If UT has this kind of derivative shit shovelers on their payroll then they deserve Renu Khator as their next president. She'd shave that art department down to a nub and good riddance to bad rubbish.

Around the corner is Slugfest- which has a totally cool name. Not a totally cool show. Poppy contempo-Japanese prints but more like a Key West tourist art gallery than Kyoto.


Hook 'em horns.

I took Chestnut south to catch Pleasant Valley Drive, and on the way to First Street I heard a funny little ditty on the radio. Apparently some rapper made a song about the Longhorns kicking everyone's asses, and while it was definitely original it was unintentionally hilarious to anyone who hasn't been drinking the Longhorns Kool-Aid.


the show I missed.

I missed Art Palace. When I got to Domy I stopped and asked them if they knew where it was. Yes, she said, and they're not open today. She gave me a flier and told me that it was open two days a week. Oh well. Elaine Bradford and Seth Mittag are from Houston, and I would have loved to have seen their show, but I have seen their stuff before. The Okay Mountain show was Okay. A little academic, a little William Wegman, very wordy. My lips were chapped by the time I left, but it was a very thoughtful show. At Domy Cody Ledvina was setting up his show to open the next night. He asked if I would like to add to a painting so I cut three triangles out of it. I don't think that was what he meant. He had just come from Houston and he was feverishly stretching canvasses. I guess Nick and Lane were hauling a precarious sculpture down 290 at right about the same time. Cody said his show was retarded.


Okay.

Houston feels retarded right now. I feel it.

Down Cesar Chavez and back into downtown, I ended up on Sixth Street. Fuck if I know how that worked. Maybe I closed by eyes. Oh yeah! Now I remember, I took Guadalupe for a minute. Well, anyway, I went to Gallery Lombardi. It was in a tony building but they had asked a tagger to paint all around their logo. I hope other take notice and get the rest of that alleyway- it should look real seedy to scare the rich people. Their show of Mindy Kober, Hector Hernandez, Enrique Martinez and Eric Uhlir was pretty good, even-keeled, shiny and new. It was nice to see Kober's work fleshed out some more, her paintings about states give the viewer a better look into her head than her mandala-like corporate-logo paintings. Eric Uhlir's work is dramatic and strange, here he does not fail to amuse. Hector and Enrique are sex-obsessed; Hernandez in pop absorbed vignettes and Martinez with Zapp Comix-esque porno freak mutant drawings. Cool show, even cooler wall on the building next door, covered in overactive freak-style.



Walk a couple blocks south on Nueces and you'll see the neon sign for Mellow Johnny's, an odd place to look for an art show, but the only place to see a large installation of Barry McGee in Texas this month. The touching tribute to McGee's days as a BMXer and three well-worn street racers are mixed with his drawings and collages. Totally sweet. Also included are tagger KAWS, art historian C. R. Stecyk III, conceptual artist Ashley Macomber and New York turn-of-the-century darling Phil Frost. Good shit.

7 comments:

Jenny said...

Houston is retarded. That's why I love it.

And still NO power?

salvo cheque said...

"On the other side of the "eLounge" LOL was Reimagining Space and New York Graphic Workshop 1964-1970."

Nah.
Those shows are downstairs and they weren't open while you were in town. They just opened the 28th.

b.s. said...

Thanks Salvo. That's what I get for cross-referencing and writing quickly. The downstairs galleries wereclosed when I was there, which made the museum seem top-heavy.

salvo cheque said...

No biggie.

Not sure if its the same swing you saw, but I untied a giant knot in the Soto on Friday afternoon.

Anonymous said...

they say those buildings on the left represent the great pyramids of egypt. oh wait, maybe it was the one on the right?

Anonymous said...

The first floor of the Blanton has 2 large galleries for temporary exhibitions so they must not have had an installation when you were there. and btw - the Blanton is first and foremost a teaching museum for UT, so the 19th century casts do serve a purpose for art classes

Anonymous said...

u say that like it s abad thing