Art Palace, Austin TX
I didn’t get a chance to see the entire Texas Biennial while I was in Austin this week for the SXSW Interactive conference — time restraints and disperse gallery locations shut down a lot of viewing opportunities — but I did manage to catch few highlights thanks to Claire Ruud over at Might Be Good. Granted my impressions are limited due to the amount of time I was there, but based on what I saw and several conversations I had with various Austin based art professionals, I didn’t come away marveling about their robust art community. There are a few serious venues and professionals in town and like anywhere else, an array of forgettable production projects not likely to last long.
Erick Michaud at Art Palace
Art Palace, probably the most highly regarded venue amongst everyone I spoke to, lived up to its reputation even through the midst of an install. I was particularly thrilled with the batch of Major League Artists cards the gallery gave out, which listed resume collection and exhibition highlights. Each card identified each artist as a right handed hitter — a nice touch but a statistic I find dubious at best. Erick Michaud, a wood burning/engraver virtuoso opens tonight. Based on the pieces I viewed prior to installation this seems an exhibition not to be missed.
Stuffed Underpants at Domy, Artist unknown
Just down the street, Domy Books will host a Lucky Dragons performance this evening, so those in Austin might try to make both events. Those following my twitter feed, will likely already know I was particularly smitten with a pair of stuffed underpants shoppers can pick up at the store. Who doesn’t need wadded underwear?
Consider this a highlight inside the Mexican American Cultural Center.
Other stops in Austin included the Mexican American Cultural Center, and Women and Their Work, both of which provided a venue for the Texas Biennial. I wasn’t overly impressed with either show, but at least Women and Their Work were friendly and weren’t quite so fond of amateurish painting. The Mexican American Cultural Center, on the other hand, represents a significant institutional low. Past the issue of the museum being closed when we arrived because no one was at the front the desk, the gallery was almost wholly filled with unambitious work. Most of it was so bad I didn’t bother taking pictures — I assumed there would be at least one of two shots on their website — a decision I now regret. The Mexican American Cultural Center also has the worst institutional art website I’ve seen in recent months, failing to even mention that the show exists, let alone provide photos.
Doug MacWithey, from the exhibition Selections From the Seals of Philosophers
testsite, an exhibition space/open studio/temporary residency program of Fluent Collaborative was the last stop on my Austin art tour and certainly amongst the most enjoyable. Of course, I’m likely biased — my tour guide for the day, Claire Ruud, edits Might Be Good, a biweekly publication published by Fluent-Collaborative — and it’s not like it’s any secret I have an interest in artist writer partnerships. In this case, Art in America critic Dee Mitchell had been carrying on a ten year conversation with artist Doug MacWithey about his work [pictured above], so he interviewed himself for his contribution to the exhibit. I’m posting a small portion below both as a means of closing off the post and providing additional background on the image above.
What are the seals of the philosophers? The seals are 160 copperplate engravings that originally appeared in the Opus medio-chymicum of Johnann Daniel Mylius, a 3000 page alchemical text publsihed in 1618. The circular engravings commemorate both real and imaginary alchmists trhough allegorical images. The hermetic symbolism and Latin mottos served both didactic and mnemonic functions for practisioners of the art. Does Macwithey see himself as an alchemist or his art as a kind of alchemy? No. Then how does use the seals? He begins by emptying them of their content and creating his own set of 160, roughly circular shapes. From where does he derive these shapes? By tracing the outline of partially crumpled, 31/2 inches, foil pie pans.
Visit testsite to read the full piece.