By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
As a child growing up in the University Hills neighborhood, Karen Hawkins eagerly awaited the day when the bookmobile arrived.
The thrill of perusing books in the small confines of the transitory library left an indelible impression.
"I just loved to read. And books took me everywhere," Hawkins says. "And the bookmobile always felt like it was made for me — it was just my size."
Now, with a solo presentation of her sculptural work made from vintage and discarded volumes at Gallery Shoal Creek, Hawkins pays homage to the book.
"I see (my work) as reverence to this object that is gradually disappearing," she says. (And she admits to dreaming of finding a 1960s bookmobile, refurbishing it to be a roving art gallery of her book-related art.)
Most arresting in the current exhibition is "Totem Installation," a forest of 14 pole-like sculptures that hang from the ceiling. Ranging in length from 8 to 10 feet, each is a string of delicate geometric objects crafted from books whose pages have been exquisitely folded and reformed. Hawkins removes a book's cover, fanning the pages inside out to form an orb before carefully plaiting each page.
One hanging totem is made from old volumes of music scores. A couple are crafted out of University of Texas yearbooks from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.
Wander through "Totem Installation" and the musty, nostalgia-laden aroma of old books surrounds you while shadows cast by the geometric forms make for a delightful illusory effect.
"I was always fascinated by the book as an object, too, not just as something to read," says Hawkins on a recent walk through the gallery. "I like the way books feel, I like the way they smell."
Elsewhere in the gallery hangs a rectangular grid made of, as Hawkins calls them, book bricks: Hunks of book spines, covers removed to reveal the details of a book's binding, the stitched-together pages and the layer of leather or paper used underneath a hardcover book's spine.
Hawkins dips the bricks in beeswax before assembling them in wooden frames, the neatly lined arrangement more than subtly suggesting the lines of text on a page. So do two rectilinear collages of neat strips of book covers: One is made of varying shades of red, the other of blue; each is shot through with lines of yellow like highlighted text.
Hawkins haunts estate sales, used bookstores and flea markets to gather books, primarily selecting volumes for their visual appeal and physical properties.
Of course, then there was that 1917 encyclopedia set she found at an estate sale.
Each volume of it bulged with a lifetime of paper ephemera that had been neatly stashed between the pages. Hawkins discovered receipts from livestock sales, carbon copies of typed letters, pages from financial ledgers, snippets from magazines and myriad other documents.
She took that paper ephemera and neatly fringed it, creating a fluttering collage, again arranged in page-like form. She titled the piece "A Personal Narrative."
"They had to be important to somebody," Hawkins says of the encyclopedia inserts. "They form somebody's personal narrative."
Hawkins, who turns 50 this year, makes something of her debut with her show at Gallery Shoal Creek. It's her first foray into exhibiting with a professional gallery.
"I did things a bit backwards," she says with a smile.
Hawkins went to college, completing a bachelor of fine arts at the University of Texas a few years ago, after raising five children with her husband, pharmaceutical industry entrepreneur Rick Hawkins.
Currently a board member of nonprofit arts organization Women & Their Work, Hawkins credits artist-professors Margo Sawyer and Beili Liu — who both create cerebral installations of delicate beauty — with having an enormous influence on her own work.
And she credits her grandmother, too, with inspiring and fostering the desire to make and create.
An avid quilter, her grandmother, Hawkins explains, would take the extra squares of fabric and, after stacking them together, roll them up tidily.
"She called them 'jellyrolls' and I remember loving the patterns of the colorful layers of fabric all neatly stacked up," Hawkins says.
So she made similar "jellyrolls" of book pages — some 1,500 to be exact, each no more than a couple of inches long and a tight roll, the colors of page ends forming variegated swirls. All are arranged in an arbitrary fashion on the gallery wall.
"There's a meditative aspect to the repetition of making that I love," Hawkins says. "It's about the process for me — the step-by-step action done again and again. And I'm proud of the things women have always made — we should be."
by ERIN KEEVER
Printmakers are a notoriously collaborative bunch, but when they live thousands of miles away from one another, their interactions lie less in the studio or printshops, and more in a collective mindset. That’s not to say their relationships are strictly virtual, rather these artists, their works, and their ideas cross actual paths at professional conferences, workshop demonstrations, academic programs, and in this case International Printmakers / An Invitational Exhibition in Austin, Texas. This exhibition is part of PrintAustin 2014 (January 15-February 15, 2014) and is on view at Gallery Shoal Creek (at Flatbed Headquarters). It features the work of seven contemporary artists working in a variety of printmaking media. The selection of artists includes Brian Curling, Ina Kaur, Karen Kunc (also the exhibition’s curator), Monika Meler, Michael Schneider, Annu Vertanen and Koichi Yamamoto. Now based in the United States and Europe, these artists have lived and worked in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan and Poland. Some of these places are traditional centers for printmaking. Others, while once considered outside the art world, are now home to exciting art communities within today’s global environment. Whether through passport or internet; artistic communities are crossing boundaries and connecting like never before, making the international aspect of this show not only apparent, but as Curator, Karen Kunc says, "paramount."
Selecting the works in this show, Kunc says she "thought geographically" as she “mentally roamed around the world, wanting to represent global diversity.” The product of her search is work that addresses diverse issues using a range of strategies, yet with distinct intersections between experience (geographical, professional, academic, technical), approach (including an unwillingness to be confined to preconceptions about printmaking) and aesthetic decisions (choice of visual elements such as composition, color, line and scale). Kunc says, "All the works of these artists have a strong graphic nature, but with elegance of forms, shapes, colors, line. There is so much work in contemporary printmaking that can have a bombastic, crude aspect, or that is simply narrative, illustrative or representational. So I feel it is important to feature other quality printmakers’ works, who have a more distilled way of seeing important things in the world, and to say it with beauty, quality, and intelligence in unusual ways."
Connections between visual aspects of this show can be made. One common characteristic is an interest in exploiting empty space. Often marks are given plenty of room to breathe, lending forms elegance not always associated with the graphic arts. Such is the case with Annu Vertanen’s abstract images, which contain wandering black lines, circling in and around one another. These lyrical lines vary in width and appear almost freehand. Enclosures are often punctuated with random and at the same time deliberate dots of bright color. Vertanen’s abstraction actually derives from human movement she observes. The artist says she pictures "mental or emotional movements as well as physical" and makes "routes or tracks."
While many of the printmaking procedures in this exhibition overlap, several participants caution not to limit the discussion to that of technical concerns. Certainly this desire for work not to be reduced to technique is another strong connection. Historically prints were second-rung and painting was privileged. Today many college printing programs are emphasizing digital processes so much that, some wonder if the print, as we (used to) know it, is obsolete. And while some of this exhibition’s artists use traditional methods and some of the works are still signed and numbered collectibles, the artists are keen to point out an increasing fluidity between mediums. Prints are crossing boundaries: becoming installation, performance-related, small handouts, published book art, and all sorts of other print-based media. Images and text can be printed on any imaginable surface including three-dimensional objects, taking prints sometimes off the wall and rendering them sculptural or installation-like. Artists might use drawing or photography or they might combine printing and painting, making original monotypes, instead of multiples. Maybe they make use of sequencing, commenting on printmaking’s “copied” character or “printed” quality.
Ina Kaur’s work shows recent trends in printed work and its creative potential. Born in New Delhi, India, Kaur uses repetition in an installation called "Constant Shift". Here there is no printmaking used. Rather handmade cup-shaped paper forms, inlaid with colored thread, are arranged and affixed to the wall in various dimensions. Playing with the print condition of multiplicity, there is no need for matrix or a press. This approach suits Kaur’s exploration of complex systems of communication and points of convergence between dichotomies of "East and West, local and global, and ancient and modern."
A native of Japan, Koichi Yamamoto teaches in Tennessee School of Art’s prestigious printmaking program. With a strong background in ceramics, many of his works are quite sculptural. In this show he offers five origami folded prints in deep shadow box frames. The folded prints’ smallish size (10” x 12”) belies their strong impact (He admits to recently studying facial expressions and some figures seem reminiscent of William Blake’s visionary work.) Dramatically different in scale are two towering (96” x 39”) monotypes (2013). Painterly and luxurious with nuanced application of viscose pigment, their broad swaths of black remind me of a Franz Kline painting, but more graceful.
Having studied semiotics, Michael Schneider is interested in communicative strategies and his prints are meant to be read (even installed in a horizontal order that encourages this). By juxtaposing fragmentary photographic images of Viennese buildings and structures, he makes theoretical implications. References are made between Vienna’s Jewish sites such as the cemetery in Währing, and the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial designed by British artist Rachel Whiteread. His next print shows part of the Museum Quarter, a reference to artwork (much of it once owned by Jewish collectors) that ended up in Austrian museums during the Nazi period. On top of all of that, he combines images of petroglyphs that he says, "are open for interpretation and in some cases are a play with maps to locate a certain place."
Monika Meler examines memory in her abstract work. Born in Poland and having moved to Chicago at the age of ten, she revisits her roots by investigating Polish folklore. Her works are intended to be hung in space (instead of against a wall) so that light emanating through them literally illuminates honeycombed and web-like structures amidst rich fields of color. Her hybrid print/ installations reflect upon and reawaken forgotten or re-imagined landscapes drawn from personal recollection and visualization. Viewing a work from two perspectives by an artist who has experienced both Eastern and Western European culture is also provocative.
Though many of this exhibition’s artists know each other, of course the most obvious link between them is Karen Kunc, the show’s curator and participating artist who knows all of them. In addition to making remarkably complex and colorful woodcuts herself, Kunc has taught a few of these artists and learned alongside a few more. For example, she mentored Brian Curling, also in this show. Curling uses woodcuts depicting elements from nature and also creates large-scale public installations and collaborative letterpress books. Kunc stands apart as someone with a broad reach, not just socially but intellectually, as a student of the world. Together the selections show her understanding of what she has seen both in the United States and her numerous travels abroad. Unpacking a few of the issues in these artists’ work reveals a common desire to examine personal histories and express universal ideas.
Even with its constellation of connections and similarities, this group invitational’s work is varied enough to create fruitful conversation. As Meler puts it, “Exhibiting in groups creates a multi-lingual dialogue in one space, which is much like being in a foreign airport, where you hear many different sounds. As a traveler, I know these sounds mean something, but it takes time to decipher exactly what. And in that mystery I find myself being excited and aware of every moment." Ultimately, printmaking, whether technique or strategy, and in whatever shape it takes, is a way of communicating as well as manifesting one’s thoughts or feelings. As Kaur says, "Printmaking continues to be an inclusive medium of expression, rather than exclusive."
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
When Flatbed Press first opened in the 18,000-square-foot warehouse on East Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in 1999, the concept of a community of artists and creative professionals seemed new for East Austin.
A few indie theater groups had begun to transform neighborhood buildings before 2000. And some modest-size artist workshops already called the east side home, including Slugfest Print Workshop a few blocks from Flatbed.
But 14 years ago when Flatbed — a nationally recognized fine art print publisher — converted the enormous former shoe store warehouse into a place for its own operations and for other artists and galleries, everyone wondered if the art crowd would follow.
For years, Flatbed had occupied a brick building in a then-forgotten corner downtown near the Seaholm Power Plant. But when a demand for more space and the threat of nearby development loomed, it was time to move Flatbed's fine art presses.
"We didn't know if people would find us, though," says Flatbed co-founder Katherine Brimberry.
In fact, more than 1,000 turned up at Flatbed's East Austin debut in 1999.
Flatbed is now a fixture on the arts landscape. For seven years, the University of Texas rented out space in Flatbed for its student and faculty exhibits while its own art building underwent a major remodel. And Flatbed has a very Austin-esque buzz, too: Sandra Bullock stopped in recently to see Flatbed's current exhibit of etchings by her pal, Austin indie rocker Bob Schneider.
With the popular East Austin Studio Tour launching its 12th iteration this weekend, the Flatbed complex is just one of the 160 official stops on the free two-weekend tour. And it's just one of many large East Austin facilities that act as collective homes to artists, galleries and creative professionals. (See the sidebar on other artist hives to check out.)
Earlier this year, the Flatbed complex gained its newest tenant — Gallery Shoal Creek. And while seemingly not a big change on the arts landscape, the relocation nevertheless speaks of East Austin's now intractable profile as an arts destination.
Nearly half a century old, Gallery Shoal Creek is Austin's oldest fine art gallery. As its name implies, the gallery called the West Austin area around Shoal Creek home since its founding in 1965.
Owned by Judy Taylor since 1989, the gallery, which represents artists from around the country, most recently occupied digs on San Gabriel Street, just off Lamar Boulevard. But when Taylor's lease was ending last year, she got restless and started looking around town for a place where there was a little more art action.
"I wasn't at first specifically looking at a location in East Austin," says Taylor. "The attraction was Flatbed and what Katherine was doing here and the synergy of sharing a place with other like-minded businesses."
Taylor reports that business is good since the move. "Our long-time patrons and collectors had no trouble following us, and we get a lot more traffic through the gallery now — people stopping to see something else and then discovering we're here."
For EAST, Taylor is featuring four Austin artists — Shawn Camp, Catherine Dudley, Katie Maratta and Sandra C. Fernandez.
The vagaries of Austin's changing creative cityscape also landed photographer Tina Weitz at Flatbed.
After more than a decade operating her Studio 2 Gallery on South Lamar Boulevard, which specialized in fine art photography, Weitz closed up shop in 2012, when a rent increase proved more than she could afford.
By the time her gallery closed, Weitz had already been producing pop-up exhibits at Flatbed during EAST. And then after joining the Flatbed Press staff last year, Weitz rebooted her own exhibition operation there.
Now Weitz's tiny Photo Méthode Gallery is a Flatbed tenant. And she coordinates Flatbed's O2Gallery, an exhibit space rented out to a changing roster of artists. For EAST, Weitz is exhibiting her Polaroid-based art as well as photographs by Laura Pickett Calfree.
"It made sense to restart my gallery here," says Weitz. "It's good to be in a community where everybody is on common ground."
Flatbed's immediate neighborhood buzzes with a different vibe than it did in 1999 when it was edged by empty stretches of urban brownfield land.
Now, there's the MetroRail MLK Jr. Station just a block away. (And yes, people have used it to travel from downtown to Flatbed).
The Sustainable Food Center hosts a weekly farmers market across street. A few blocks away, a luxury mixed-use development is under construction.
A long-term lease means Flatbed will continue for at least the foreseeable future, Brimberry says.
"We've got a good community here now. We'd like to keep that," she says.
Landscape Perspectives / Jerry Ruthven + Kirk Tatom
Review by Erin Keever
Some artist pairings work better than others. Looking at landscapes by Jerry Ruthven alongside those of Kirk Tatom highlights both artists' strengths.
Ruthven's work is familiar and nostalgic, but he is not your average bluebonnet painter. Rather he skillfully composes dramatic and sweeping hilltop views that are sometimes cinematic in scope. Subjects include pristinely unpopulated creek beds interrupted by slow-moving water, prairies carpeted in impressionistically daubed flowers, and of course cloud strewn blue skies. Trees are lush and atmosphere is sunny and bright. Bathed in pink light, the Texas Hill Country never looked so good.
Tatom treats light much differently. His light is cool, his images more stark. Black bare-branched trees ascend scenes as calligraphic tendrils are silhouetted against planes of winter white and gray. Not surprisingly, Tatom was once a printmaker and the clarity of his imagery reflects that experience. That is not to say there aren't painterly elements that emerge, mostly in the form of scratches and delicate but rough texturing on painting surfaces. Occasionally Tatom also uses expressive colors like fiery oranges or creates an extreme vertical or horizontal composition.
Looking at theses landscapes one is struck by how significant the treatment of light is to our interpretation of landscape and place. Different qualities of light let Ruthven celebrate his Central Texas roots while Tatom re-imagines his Midwestern origins. Perhaps through communing with nature, they simply are connecting with their own sense of home.
NICE, LONG SPACES
by CLAIBORNE SMITH
Writer and journalist S.C. "Sam" Gwynne grew up in Connecticut; his wife, artist Katie Maratta, grew up in West Virginia. Those places must seem somewhat foreign to them now, so tied to Texas they've become. The couple first fell in love with the West when they moved to Truth or Consequences, NM so that Sam could work on an investigative book he was writing at the time about the corrupt bank BCCI with his then-writing partner, Jonathan Beaty. If you've ever been to Truth or Consequences, you know that it is a little, depressed town, but that didn't matter to Gwynne or Maratta. It was the vastness and beauty of the place that hooked them. They both live in Austin now, and arrived here in an almost random way.
Now that they are here, they have become two of the most respected interpreters of the West working today. Gwynne, who writes for Texas Monthly, is the bestselling author of Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History. Gwynne managed to take a story–the abduction of Cynthia Ann Parker in the 1800s and her eventual, tragic return to white society– that had been written about many times before and make it seem fresh, partly because he expands the story of Parker's kidnapping into the broader history of the entire Comanche tribe.
Maratta's "horizonscapes," as she calls them, are intimate, almost eerie recreations of epically flat West Texas land. Maratta uses graphite pencils to draw long landscapes across an elongated panel that is usually only one inch high: the effect is to cause the viewer to scrunch their eyes up as they approach her art to detect the small, telling details (a run-down taxidermy store, a tiny Dairy Queen sign) anyone from West Texas would immediately recognize. Because her pieces are up to 48 inches in length, though, the feeling of Maratta's work isn't at all small. It's a canny and poetic recreation of the feeling this East Coast native gets when she hangs out in West Texas.
I talked to Gwynne and Maratta over dinner recently about why they first came to Texas, and why they've stayed.
KM: We were living in New York and Sam was a business editor at TIME magazine. You started on Tuesdays, working eight hours and then by the end of the week, you were spending the night in New York City to close the magazine by Saturday. It was a brutal schedule. We had just had a little baby and were living in Larchmont and my parents said, 'You would be getting more help if you had just checked into a home for unwed mothers.' Sam was just not around. When he got home, he was exhausted.
SG: It was the actual 80-hour work week. K M : There were many, many divorces at that magazine. SG: Alcoholism and divorces, usually both.
KM: The good thing back then was that TIME had a bunch of bureaus and you could walk in and say, 'The New York thing isn't working for us' and in Sam's case, they said, 'We have Houston' and we said, 'Okay, we'll take Houston.' And then all of Sam's friends said, 'If you're going to live in Texas, you need to live in Austin.'
SG: The only issue TIME had was, 'How quickly can you get to a plane to cover a story?' They said yes, so we showed up here, sight unseen. We drive in through Palestine and then we come down and we drive in on I-35, driving south, and we said, 'Oh God, what have we done? It's just like south L.A. or Detroit.'
KM: That wasn't the way we should have come into town. We had lived in Truth or Consequences, NM for about six months while Sam was working on a book about BCCI, the "outlaw bank." It was a little sabbatical out there. It was so fun, we just thought, 'Anything that gets us closer to there would be a good thing.'
SG: [My writing partner at the time] Jonathan and I had an office on Main Street where we wrote our book.
KM: At one point, I took the dog for a walk and I get back to the house; the yard is full of police cars. I'm like, 'What is going on?' And they said they couldn't find Sam or Jonathan. TIME magazine couldn't find them.
SG: This was a story about a bank that killed people.
KM: There was a certain nefarious side to this and they'd gone to their office downtown and there was hot coffee in cups, cigarettes burning in ashtrays, doors unlocked, computers on. But no Sam and no Jonathan.
SG: And what happened was, we'd been working closely with Robert Morgenthau, the New York district attorney, on this story and Morgenthau pulled the chain. Morgenthau is a big deal. We got a big advance on this book and Jonathan bought a boat with it and he shows up at the office with this brand new Wellcraft and he's dying to show it off and we just got in the car to go see the boat.
Sam started working on The Empire of the Summer Moon in 2005. They describe their mutual love and fascination with West Texas as a kind of aesthetic accident.
KM: We ended up covering a lot of the same ground.
SG: I'm writing about West Texas and she's making art about it. It was not planned. Didn't even occur to me until a few years ago.
KM: It's not just Texas, it's mythic Texas. It's everybody's iconic Texas.
SG: I'm sure Nacogdoches is somebody's idea of iconic, but it doesn't seem that way to us. For us Yankees, it's West Texas.
KM: It still gets to me, the landscape and the sky.
SG: Katie grew up in a vertical land and I grew up near the ocean. It's the opposite of where she grew up and it reminds me of the ocean. Joe Ely said that in Lubbock, it's so flat that you can see 20 miles in any direction and if you stand on a tuna fish can, you can see 50.
KM: I realized I'd never really seen the horizon until I got to Texas. It doesn't exist on the East Coast unless you go to the ocean. The ocean is stunning, it's pretty powerful, but it's better when it's land.
K M : When Sam and I go out to West Texas, Sam's my chauffeur but I go out by myself too and we head out on these roads and just head out in a direction. It's great to have GPS and AAA to tow you out of ditches. I make photographs and sketches. I can't tell you how many people have come up to me and said [about her finished artwork], 'That's my grandmother's house.'
I'm pretty sure it's not but there's a certain style, early ranch style, boarded house with a porch, a couple of trees. It is all over West Texas. Sometimes it has its own water tank, sometimes there are cows in the front yard. These places are so eternal. They're very poetic. They're extremely powerful little moments on the edge of this nothing. It's just miles and miles of nothing and you see this little porch light and you see this little house with the wash in the side yard. It's really evocative.
SG: But what you get, what you end up with, in the artwork is an idealized landscape. Elements exist–that fence line exists, that field may exist sort of, but Katie modifies things, too. I watched her do a tumbleweed from scratch, from nothing. What happens is you get a recombination of things. That silo was not next to that fence line, which was not next to that cow. So you get an idealized landscape. It is idealized because people in Texas who grew up there see it that way.
KM: And I'm not doing portraits. I came out of cartooning out of college and I was doing a lot of cartooning professionally and after the newspapers started to tank and I got out of cartooning, I thought, 'What am I going to do?' I knew I was going to do art, but what kind of art? I did some sculpting and painting classes and it's so funny to come all the way back around to a black-and-white horizontal narrative, which is basically what cartoon is only it's a little story line with punch lines.
I always had to put the punch line at the end in a cartoon but it's basically the same format. That's what I like about these pieces. I'm not restricted to a certain 1-2-3; I can have nice, long spaces where nothing is happening. I find all those broken-down ranch houses to be enormously appealing.
By Wayne Alan Brenner
"Here," says Wally Workman kindly, "you should really use a blanket."
So I do, I use the ultrasoft blanket that the gallery owner provides, snugging it around my volleyball-toned shoulders in the gathering gloom.
Tell you what: Nothing quite as enjoyable as eating roasted pork loin and savory veggies at a fancy public table with a loquacious cadre of visual-arts movers & shakers on a hill in the center of Austin, with rush-hour cars flooding by on nearby Cesar Chavez and over the Lamar Bridge, with the clouds of another Texas sunset illuminated all pink and orange over the shining waters of Lady Bird Lake.
Especially with a blanket over one's shoulders to ward off the increasing chill.
There's no increasing chill on the local arts horizon, though, it seems.
The good people of online Aether Magazine – Rachel Stephens of Wally Workman Gallery, Amanda Gorence of REP! Curation + Production, and Judith Taylor of Gallery Shoal Creek – staged this al fresco fête for the aforementioned movers-and-shakers (gallery owners, arts facilitators, lucky journos), to celebrate the goodness of the community and to let us know what's up and what's ahead in the coming months and years.
You probably already know about the Sonya Berg reception at Tiny Park tonight? And the Tracey Harris exhibition opening at Wally Workman Gallery tomorrow? And the way the West Austin Studio Tour and the Texas Biennial approacheth in the near distance? And all the other smaller-scale things covered in your Chronicle's weekly listings?
Please also know these three things:
1. Gallery Shoal Creek, longtime tenant over there in the tony retail edifice that also houses that fine eatery called Fino, will be picking up shop and moving in a month. Which sounds like a potential for disappointment all around, right? But, see, the venue's moving into a new big space at Flatbed World Headquarters on East MLK. Especially considering the number of shows in which GSC's featured stunning handprinting techniques in recent years, this seems like a match made in heaven. (It's not precisely heaven, no, because Elizabeth St. Cafe remains over there in Bouldin Creek – but that's another story.) (OK, it's not even "another story," it's just my personal culinary obsession, but, well, there ya go.)
2. Austin's Art In Public Places has some righteous things in store for Downtown that'll make you shake your head in wonder as they near completion over the next year and more. An entire sculptural wall around a Seaholm substation? A total, artist-fueled reworking of a section of Second Street? Amazing plans with the new main library going up in the same area? So much awesome shit that I really should've taken notes instead of stuffing another stalk of braised asparagus into my ravening maw? Yes, for real. The taxes that we and the various Big Fat Corporations pay in this town, at least a small portion of those funds are going toward making your ATX even more liveable and brag-worthy than parts of it already are. Infrastructure, yes: Infrastructure with style.
3. That long table we were eating at, with its glazed aluminum surface looking like a tablecloth hanging lacily over the sides? That potential dining platform at Sand Beach Park, with the multi-lamped lightposts surrounding it for illumination when darkness falls? That's an AIPP project, too, a functional sculpture built by Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt in 2010. And, listen: Its use requires no reservations, it's a first-come first-served deal, and you should really go and enjoy it for yourself sometime.
[Note: Feel free to invite me, friend. If it's still cold out, I swear I'll bring my own blanket.]
Opening Night, January 17, 2013
Artist Katie Maratta creates panoramas in miniature
By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
Katie Maratta has drawn miles and miles of Texas.
That vast, endless horizon holds endless artistic inspiration for the Austin artist. But, in a seemingly contradictory twist, Maratta renders those expansive yet minimalist panoramas in miniature.
Maratta's so-called "horizonscapes" — sketched in graphite and ink — are a mere inch tall. Some are a foot long, others up to four feet long. One of her longest drawings was some 70 feet long.
Maratta debuts new work at Gallery Shoal Creek on Thursday in an exhibit that continues through Feb. 16. Maratta shares the gallery with painter Jill Lear.
"I grew up in West Virginia where with all the mountains you never saw the horizon," Maratta explains.
In college in the 1970s, Maratta's penchant for representational drawing was distinctly out of time with the then-prevalent trends of conceptionalist, abstract art.
"I felt like what I did was ancient, totally out of step, compared to everyone else," says Maratta.
Maratta also spent years as a cartoonist, penning a syndicated strip, "Silent Pictures," that satirized Hollywood and which appeared in newspapers across the country (including the American-Statesman).
That cartoon-esque kind of measured visual storytelling that methodically takes — or perhaps insistently leads —the viewer across the pictorial plane serves Maratta well in her horizonscapes. To take it all in, you're forced to travel across the horizon.
But perhaps more importantly, Maratta's oddball use of scale — rendering a vast vista in miniature — compels you to look, and then to look again. Walk up on one of Maratta's drawings in a gallery and you might mistake it for a strange little white strip running across the wall. Only on closer viewing are you rewarded with the impeccable detail of her horizontal narratives.
Trees, swirling dust devils, highway signs, horses, hay bales, pump jacks, barns, farm houses, silos and endless stretches of roads and fences seem to roll by in cinematic fashion. Or perhaps it's like viewing Texas through a car window on an invariably long road trip, watching the flat expanse of land roll by as you drive.
A diminutive flat expanse, that is.
Maratta's mini-murals are like the clever opposites — or whimsical contemporary cousins — of the mighty 19th-century Western landscape paintings, the grandiose vividly colored scenes of Albert Bierstadt or Thomas Moran that celebrated the conquering expansion of Manifest Destiny philosophy.
But there's no sense of authoritarian conquest in Maratta's little horizonscapes. It's quotidian markers such as wind turbines, state highway signposts, messy utility poles or a Whataburger franchise that Maratta memorializes.
Artist Jill Lear branches out in new gallery show.
By Christine Imperatore
Jill Lear has traveled the world in pursuit of her subjects, celebrating the beauty and tranquility of nature through watercolors, paintings, sketches and wall installations. She brings her work to Austin this month with an exhibition at Gallery Shoal Creek.
"This is a different kind of exhibit," Lear says. "It's a mix of all the different ways I see the world."
Gallery owner Judith Taylor was first in contact with Lear a few years ago when she was actively looking to feature an artist who worked mainly on paper. Since then, Lear has presented multiple exhibits at the gallery, and they have been very well received.
"She approaches structure and form so differently. Most others will get a compositional pattern that they're comfortable with; they use color much more to make their statement. And it's just her structure that fascinates me, whether she's working large or small," Taylor says.
Lear's journey as an artist is a truly interesting one. She first studied medieval literature and fashion design in France before finding her true calling at the New York Art Studio. Lear travelled to Orcas Island, WA, after finishing school, where she discovered her love of trees and a desire to capture them in her work. She sees trees as "survivors through the ages."
"When I saw her trees, it was just such a nice mix of reference to the landscape but very contemporary, so I was quite intrigued with them," Taylor says.
In this particular exhibition, Lear presents a collection of work in paint, drawing and photography. She paints and draws the trees not as they look outright, but in a more abstract way that captures something deeper.
"The paintings are a more immediate response to what it feels like to be in that space. And then the drawings are more methodical and more recording of the particulars of it," she says. "The photographs, I think, are the inspiration for all of it. They sort of record the inspiration."
Lear credits her schooling for giving her a strong work ethic, but she says it is her stepfather, actor Adam West, who inspires her to think outside the box.
"He is an amazing painter in his own right, but he is the opposite of me; he's super spontaneous. He just sits down and grabs whatever and creates these magical, crazy, weird things, so that inspires me to be more spontaneous and open."
Although she doesn't live in Austin, Lear is very much involved with local environmental organizations. She has supported the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center for a number of years. She donates work to the center's auction every year and spends a great deal of time on the grounds when she is in town. While she was in Austin for the opening of this exhibition, she got involved with Pease Park Conservatory.
This month's exhibition also features the work of Katie Maratta, whose "horizonscapes" offer a great contrast yet complement to Lear's pieces. Maratta's graphite-and-ink sketches stand only an inch tall, but some are up to four feet wide.
"[Jill] and Katie have admired each other's work for some time and they were interested in pairing up for a show," Taylor says.
"I like for people to go up to the work and come to their own conclusions about it and not be told exactly what it's about," Lear says. "I hope that they will take away something that is their own from each piece."
The exhibition runs through Feb. 16.
Opening Night, Nov 29, 2012
By Wayne Alan Brenner
The land and the wind, and the wind upon the land: "Post Linear" at Gallery Shoal Creek brings us three forces that the world calls artists, trapping and domesticating primal elements in ways that might confound a viewer accustomed to more rigid strictures and structures of capture.
Beili Liu unveils a sophisticated version of kindergarten's blowing-on-tempera-paint-with-straws, filling canvas with dark pigmental diaspora, the sort of organic fractals that can be reached by sumi ink under the pressure of breath. Main streams of black go raggedly arterial and shade to a transparency that reads as gray against the huge swaths of pale fabric. Look: It's a collection of tenebral rivers, legendless and mysterious, a mix of Styx and Lethe and that unnamed delta forming before the ocean of Jung's realm of shadows. Look: These large works are paired with smaller creations by Liu, negatives to the positives of the Wind Drawings. The light-on-darknesses boast a wealth of shreds, potential frameworks of lace for some wayward Calabi-Yau manifold, the result of hand-cut paper and graphite applied to birch panels.
Shawn Camp's oils on canvas are works we've enthused about the relatives of in previous issues. Whether working with a single piece large enough to fill a room's wall or rendering a series of segments that could be obscured, one on one, by a dinner plate, the artist is (our history of image-immersion insists) taking geographic cartography based on aerial photography and making it his painterly own. It often seems beyond a human touch, even, as if vast landscapes chosen for their genius skills with brush and brightest mud had been encouraged to create abstract self-portraits. The vastnesses hinted at by these striking works can almost turn the gallery into a TARDIS if you squint at them the right way.
The paintings of Sandra Pratt seem, appropriately, as if the seen-from-above perspective of Camp's vision has shifted to a closer, more street-view map of representation. Here, among the artist's thickly applied planes of grays and blues, signs of humanity can be seen: a house or a group of houses wherein dwell, perhaps, viewers who will appreciate an artist's work – or people who are artists themselves – or scientists – or bricklayers – or those who collect single-petticoat glass insulators – or some other iteration of this busy monster whose recorded perceptions define the elements of wind and land and the whole classical caboodle.
ESTAMPAS DE LA RAZA /Contemporary Prints from the Romo Collection (UT Press, 2012)
While much attention has been paid to Chicano painting, Estampas de la Raza: Contemporary Prints from the Romo Collection is one of the first books about the vibrant and exciting prints created by American artists of Mexican and Latino heritage in the decades following the Chicano movement of the 1970s. Drawn entirely from a major gift to the McNay Art Museum by Drs. Harriett and Ricardo Romo, among the most important collectors of this material in the United States, Estampas de la Raza is a significant document of the development of printmaking in the Latino community and a stunning survey of many of the best prints to emerge from such influential print shops as Self Help Graphics, Modern Multiples,and Coronado Studio.
Photos by Austin photographer Scott David Gordon.
Exhibtion Catalogue / Fall 2012
Gallery Shoal Creek's fall exhibition featured work by Aleksander and Lyuba Titovets. The exhibition, with catalogue, marks the 20th anniversary of the classically trained duo's arrival in the United States and celebrates the artistic success each has achieved in their adopted country. Essay by the gallery's owner/director, Judith Taylor, who has had a close relationship with the Titovets for sixteen years.
KOZO PAPER / Handmade and favored by artists
Known for her abstracted woodcut prints, Karen Kunc has a preference for Japanese kozo papers made from long-fibered mulberry bark. The lush exuberance of her saturated colors bleeding off the deckled-edges of these papers are just one of the traits that distinguish her work.
A recent article in the New York Times Magazine, Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization, by Mark Levine, gives insight into the process of making the type papers that Kunc and others favor. The article explores the story of Timothy Barrett and his passion for preserving the ancient processes. Barrett has spent a lifetime unlocking the mysteries of paper. The article is a great read and a must for anyone who enjoys works on paper, rare books, or the conservation of historic documents.
Can a Papermaker Help to Save Civilization? [ excerpt from New York Times Magazine, Feb 19, 2012]
Each November, a papermaker named Timothy Barrett gathers a group of friends and students on the grounds of the University of Iowa Research Park, a onetime tuberculosis sanitarium in Coralville, Iowa, for what he bills as a harvest event. Armed with hook-shaped knives, Barrett and his party hack away at a grove of bare, shrublike trees called kozo, a Japanese relative of the common mulberry. At his nearby studio, which is housed in the former sanitarium's laundry facility, the bundles of cut kozo are steamed in a steel caldron to loosen the bark. After the bark is stripped from the kozo, it is hung on racks, where it shrivels to a crisp over a matter of days. Eventually the bark is rehydrated and sliced apart from its middle, "green" layer, and that layer, in turn, is sheared from the prized inner layer. It takes about a hundred pounds of harvested kozo trees to yield eight pounds of this "white bark," from which Barrett will ultimately make a few hundred sheets of what connoisseurs consider to be some of the world's most perfect paper.
Marc Burckhardt + Gustavo Torres'
By Wayne Alan Brenner
Some fool somewhere is always going to say: "Well, that's not really art, is it? That's, well, that's just illustration." At which point your personal fate hinges on whether or not you have a fatal, stress-related embolism before or after you assault the offending citizen with a tire iron.
So be wary of the presence of any such fools wandering the elegant, small rooms of Gallery Shoal Creek when you go to see the two-man exhibition of works by Marc Burckhardt and Gustavo Torres.
Certainly, Torres' cast bronzes of strangely enhanced or inhabited water vessels won't confuse even the most foolish: There's something about three-dimensional objects created from metal alloy, especially when they're as darkly sublime as what's on display here, that signify art to even the least aware among us. But it could be that Burckhardt's paintings in acrylic and oil on panel – no less sublime in their subjects and execution, even richer in color and more dense with narrative – might confuse the sort of people who'd also relegate Norman Rockwell or various Wyeths to the mere-commercial-graphics category. It didn't confuse the Texas Commission on the Arts or the Legislature that named Burckhardt the Texas State Two-Dimensional Artist in 2010, though, and it won't confuse you as you stand there, enthralled, reveling in beauty so close to home yet bigger, in its implications, than all of this storied Lone Star State.
ARTS REVIEW / Austin Chronicle,
[ SHAWN CAMP's ] newest show, "Sum of All Parts" is the kind of thing that makes galleries worth going to and causes folks to build new rooms just to have a place to display art.
Shawn Camp's solo show at Gallery Shoal Creek is called "The Sum of All Parts," and you'd be well compensated if you journeyed from all parts to see some of these works. What did we say last year, reviewing Camp's work as part of the Telos exhibition at the Butridge Gallery? "[I]mmense oil paintings, abstracts with a thickness of colors like high aerial photography of barren earth ... riddled with meandering ribbons of metallic paint like braids of glass, like glades of brass."
Yes, like aerial photography, we said; but of a barren earth rendered with a depth and density that also brings to mind what we know of the atmosphere of Jupiter. Mostly what we know of that is the color palette, of course, and you'll see such colors – stunning reds, algal shades of green, whites and grays mixed like some matte mother-of-pearl in a depressive phase – gone approximately two-dimensional and gracing the tony walls of Shoal Creek. Only approximately two-dimensional, yes, because Camp's technique here (and his usual technique) is what the scholars call impasto: thick smears of paint, of pigment, applied with a palette knife or maybe God's Own Trowel, covering canvas the way the eerier bits of Yellowstone cover the part of tectonic plate on which that national park resides.
But, then, are the artist's works more redolent of this planet's geology or of Jupiter's thick gasses or of, maybe, what? The shifting sands of Barsoom? The dromozoan-swarmed landscapes of Shayol? Listen: They're "The Sum of All Parts," abstract and beautiful, and you don't need anything but terrestrial transportation to reach them.
KATIE MARATTA / The Grand Rapids Press
Katie Maratta caught the attention of ArtPrize goers at the recent contemporary arts invitational at the Grand Rapids Art Museum last month.
Joseph Becherer of The Grand Rapids Press wrote:
MARC BURCKHARDT / Texas Book Festival's 2011 Featured Artist
Bravo to Gallery Shoal Creek artist MARC BURCKHARDT! His painting, FULL CRY, was selected for the 2011 Texas Book Festival poster. Marc joins an impressive lineup of Texas artists whose visual imagery has been featured in conjunction with the annual festival: Lance Letscher (2010), David Bates (2008), Julie Speed (2004), Malou Flato (2003), Carmen Lomas Garza (2002) and photographers Keith Carter (2009) and Kate Breakey (2001). Marc will join sculptor Gustavo Torres for a two person exhibition here at the gallery, which opens on November 11 and runs through early December.
Congratulations are in order for two of our favorite authors, who will be honored at the festival. Pulitzer-winner Lawrence Wright and his friend and collaborator, New York Times bestselling author Stephen Harrigan, will be given this year's Texas Writer Award. "The Texas Book Festival is thrilled to honor these thoughtful writers," said Heidi Marquez Smith, executive director. "Because of their wide-ranging accomplishments as writers, screenwriters and journalists, and because they are invaluable mentors to many other Texas writers, their contributions will continue to enrich the lives of countless writers and readers." Wright and Harrigan have both been actively involved in CAST, Capital Area Statue, a non-profit devoted to celebrating the history and culture of Texas through public sculpture. The group's projects include "Philosopher's Rock" (Barton Springs Pool entrance) by Glenna Goodacre and "Angela Eberly" (Congress Ave) sculpted by renowned cartoonist Pat Oliphant.
For the 2011 Texas Book Festival, TBF Literary Director Clay Smith has put together an expanded lineup of 250 authors. Visit the Festival's website for a complete list of authors; then, make plans to enjoy the weekend events, October 22 -23, in and around the Texas State Capitol. The 2011 poster will be available for purchase at the Festival or online. http://www.texasbookfestival.org/
René Alvarado at the Latino Cultural Center, Dallas
An overview of Rene Alvarado's work is the subject of the 2011 Maestros Tejanos Exhibition at the Latino Cultural Center through August 20.
In writing for the Dallas Art News, Kent Boyer suggested .... Spend some time really looking at these paintings and you see that the magic of Rene Alvarado's art is that he is a consummate visual storyteller, decorative artist, and beautifully technical painter as well. [Read the review]
Initiated by the Latino Cultural Center in 2008, the annual Maestros Tejanos exhibition seeks to recognize the talent and contribution of leading Latino Texas artists. Past exhibitions have featured Benito Huerta, Tina Fuentes, Celia Alvarez Muñoz, and Jesús Moroles.
If you are in the Dallas area this summer, don't miss the chance to see Alvarado's large-scale paintings at LCC's impressive facility designed by world-renowned architect Ricardo Legorreta.
Titovets inducted into the Artists' Hall of Fame
Deane Miller, president of the International Museum of Art in El Paso, introduced Aleksander Titovets as a "great success story" when the Russian-born artist was inducted into the museum's Artists' Hall of Fame on October 29. Sasha - as he is known to his friends - was the guest of honor along with his wife, Lyuba, and daughters Anna and Nina, at the museum dinner and ceremony where a bronze bust of the Russian-born painter was unveiled for the Hall of Fame. When Sasha shared the news with his Mom in Russia via Skype, she was perplexed as to why someone would want to cast a bronze bust of him when he was still alive.
By Wayne Alan Brenner
The work of a quintet of artists making marks on paper, making marks with paper, currently fills the halls of Gallery Shoal Creek. Five artists like the dissimilar fingers of a hand that holds the key to creation within a world that river-raised papyrus spawned long ago.
Melissa Jay Craig's array of bookish objects that double as bright fungi, constructed from kozo fibers and colored as fancifully as fairy-tale toadstools, sprouts from the venue's vestibule walls, a three-dimensional, mycological greeting to this current exhibition. Leonard Lehrer spent many years creating the paintings, watercolors, and lithographs that he now dissects and repurposes, via digital technology, into complexly overlapping collages – represented here by a series of "Gardens" whose polychrome aquatic and piscine elements suggest a Japanese woodcut feel. Karen Kunc's prints are made from literal woodcuts, with pigments applied so meticulously to the blocks she's bladed to abstract shapes and patterns that the resultant images jar the eye with distinct and fully saturated colors.
Francesca Samsel works in an intaglio process called viscosity etching, creating prints that juxtapose textures and portions of natural objects and machinery, as if providing the catalog for two opposing styles of wunderkammer or attempting to prove through sheer graphic beauty that God is in the details. Catherine Dudley creates mixed-media collages, but the media she's mixing with were also created by her: Screenprints based on the vernacular of urban signage and architectural patterns are chopped and cropped, estranged and arranged on backgrounds of paper further embellished by handpainting and precise drawing.
These works of art are presented thoughtfully within the elegant Shoal Creek gallery – allowing enough space for viewers to enjoy each piece by itself, yet concurrently providing a fine flow, a faint current of visual pull to draw one deeper down this river of printed, paper-based beauty.
THE ART OF PAPERMAKING
Clive Philpott, once in charge of book acquisitions at MOMA, stated that artists' books were not artists' books unless they were part of an edition of 100. While his opinions are still embraced by many, particularly in academic environs, they incited a bit of rebellion in Chicago artist Melissa Jay Craig.
In creating (S)Edition, Craig limited the site-adaptable installation to exactly 99 copies. Each book is a unique piece of art sculpted from handmade paper - abaca fiber embellished with cotton rag. In September, thirty-six copies of (S)Edition will be installed at Gallery Shoal Creek as part of PAPER 2. The complete (S)Edition was unveiled this summer at the Morgan Conservatory, a Cleveland Foundation supporting the art of papermaking.
The idea of creating an art center devoted to the preservation of papermaking was conceived by Tom Balbo and Ted Morgan, for whom the center and foundation is named; in 2006, Balbo began the renovation of an old machine shop which opened in 2008. Today, the Morgan provides educational programs, artist residencies and papermaking facilities for artists. In the garden, bark is harvested from kozo trees which provide a renewable source for pulp. This year the urban garden has been expanded to include herbs and flowering plants from which natural dies can be extracted.
THE SHINER CHAIR
Austin architects Jose Minguell and Laura McQuary showcased their new locally grown, metal chair this fall here at Gallery Shoal Creek. Designed and manufactured in central Texas, the indoor/outdoor stackable Shiner Chair is a modern variation of the steel lawn chairs of the 1950s.
The Minguell-McQuary Architecture+Design team take a holistic view of architectural and furniture design, focusing on sustainability, ergonomics and ease of fabrication. On a formal level the Shiner Chair is composed of two continuous 1/2" bent steel rods with a pressed sheet metal seat. These two continuous bent loops create two halves that mirror each other. Its simple construction and tack welds are reminiscent of industrial farm machinery design. Likewise, the chairs have a durable powder coat finish that comes in iconic "tractor colors".
The chair is named for the small town of Shiner, Texas, home to the Kaspar Wire Works and Shiner Beer. Started in 1998, the Kaspar Wire Works once made barbed wire and corn shuck baskets; today they manufacture truck grille guards, shopping baskets, and the sleek, modern Shiner Chair.
Meet the Floral Designers
Walk into Benoit Ballon's floral studio and you'll think you are in Paris. The French-born and trained master designer brings a European sense of aesthetics to Austin from his centrally located shop, King Florist.
The structural elements of Laurie Frick's collages mirror Benoit's approach to design. In his unique signature pieces, he balances impact and simplicity to create the unexpected. At a distance, movement and color intrigue; up close, the textures and details captivate.
Interpreting art work is not new to Benoit. While living in San Francisco, he was a guest designer at the prestigious Bouquets to Art at the Honor of Legion Museum for six years. For IN BLOOM, he plans to engage us with an interactive installation that is certain to capture the visual rhythm of Frick's Man Men collage.
David Kurio has been designing flowers with passion for over 30 years. Since 1985, his events services company - David Kurio Designs - has defined creative environments for Austin's most memorable events. His clientele stretch far beyond Austin and includes major corporations and Hollywood celebrities.
Design versatility has been key to Kurio's success. His creative visions range from the conservative and practical to modern and minimalist or all the way "over the top". In 2009, he was recognized by ISES (International Special Event Society) with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
In planning for IN BLOOM, David studied the intricacies of Rene Alvarado's Las Tres Lichas, exploring the artist's devotion to symbolism and bold color. It is this use of a strong palette that most intrigued Kurio as both artist and designer intuitively paint with broad strokes and saturated color. In this case, a mass of yellow.
Jennifer Myers is both gardener + artist. She has created a natural oasis on an historical property in central Austin. Here, stone walkways and heirloom plants mingle. A work in progress, the grounds are her artistic canvas.
For IN BLOOM, Jennifer immediately connected with Alexey Krasnovsky's organic paintings. The warm hued tropicals and stately blue agave were, for this multitalented artist, an extension of her surroundings.
Jennifer and her daughter Madeleine turned their love of entertaining and designing into Jennifer's Gardens Floral Designs providing personalized floral design for weddings and events. Not surprisingly, the lush grounds of Laguna Gloria are Jennifer's favorite spot for doing weddings. The 19th century Italian villa is the perfect architectural backdrop for Jennifer's floral creations. Again, stone and flowers mingle.
MARIO GAITAN + KEITH BURNHAM
Mario Gaitan and Keith Burnham, co-owners of Westbank Flower Market, are passionate about flowers - "to the point of obsession," says Keith. They cultivate orchids in their own greenhouse with Nepenthes and Cattleyas varieties being Keith's pride and joy. "Since only rainwater will do for them," notes Mario, "you can imagine the problems in our current drought."
With an eye for the unusual, the partners work side-by-side in their shop on Bee Caves Road. The space is filled with exotic plants and stylized containers; flowers from around the world stand alongside locally grown organics from the Texas Hill Country.
Texture and form are central to the team's design approach; surfaces complement the natural elements and lines move seamlessly from container to flowers completing what is always an artful composition. For IN BLOOM, that same soft, linear flow will parallel Tony Saladino's abstract landscapes as their installation stretches through the gallery entry way.
Alongside Austin's most well-know designers, IN BLOOM features a young emerging talent - Bonni Taylor. Bonni has had an interest in design since she was a teenager and following several years of designing high-end boots and Mediterranean interiors on the island of Majorca, she set her creative talent to floral design. Bonni is training with Benoit Ballon, owner of King Florist. "We are certain to see more from this young designer," says her mentor.
For IN BLOOM , she chose Force and Duration, a stunning piece by Chicago-based artist Melissa J. Craig. She beautifully captures the rhythmical flow of Craig's handmade/hand dyed paper sculpture with a literal interpretation created with hand tinted roses and red metallic wire.