Nov 24, 2011

REVIEW | Colby Bird: Dust Breeds Contempt, Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX

Colby Bird, Boxes, 2011

Just west of Austin's downtown warehouse district, the Lora Reynolds Gallery is located at the very south end of Nueces St.  Situated next to a smoothie shop and Thundercloud Subs, I walked past it 3 times before realizing its location.  Upon entering, I was greeted by a docent and was offered a plethora of information related to the exhibit.  The current exhibitions during my visit were Colby Bird’s “Dust Breeds Contempt” as well as Bradney Evans' "Still".  For this review, I will be focusing on "Dust Breeds Contempt".  After viewing the exhibit by myself, the docent encouraged me to view it again with her while she was more than happy to talk about each individual installation.  I found this very insightful and was enthralled with the personal service.

Colby Bird graduated from the University of Colorado and the notorious Rhode Island School of Design.  Currently residing in New York City, Bird is originally from Austin and just so happens to have work showing simultaneously at the Arthouse at The Jones Center as part of "The Anxiety of Photography".

"Dust Breeds Contempt" is a combination of photography and sculpture that is never in the same arrangement on any given day, rather in a state of self-fluctuation or one that is chosen by the gallery on a daily basis.  All of the sculptures in this exhibit are designed in a way to promote a non-static existence.

The works in this exhibition seek to establish an equivalence between three distinct phases of their own existence: the creation of the artwork, the display of the artwork, and the adaptation and ageing that the artwork undergoes in the hands of the eventual owner. These phases are presented as non-hierarchical--the aesthetic and contextual changes of the works during each phase are of equal importance.
Bird has authored a specific combination of physical variations to accompany each work in the exhibition. These variances prevent the works from ever truly being static objects, and disallow any definitive formal or conceptual solution, thus equalizing the labor of the work's creation and the labor of the work's subsequent alteration. The concept of "measureable efforts" is central to Bird's sculptural practice, and relics of this effort (scuffs, dust, cuts, etc) imbue the works with existentially essential concepts such as logic, balance, and gravity.

The above installation, Boxes, caught my eyes first.  Large slices of cardboard painted with heavy acrylics and rich color droop and bend with their own weight, creating a sculpture in a state of self-fluctuation.  The docent informed me that this is an ode to Birds passion for photography, as the colors used here are those of the color separation guide one finds in photography.

Colby Bird, Cord, 2011

Cord was my favorite in this exhibition.  I am a big fan of sculpture with special consideration for cascading repetition.  Upon first viewing, I assumed this sculpture was all one-piece bound together board by board with nails.  After speaking with the docent, I was informed that each plank was dependent upon the one below and above, with nothing holding it together aside form the friction existing between the paint.

Colby Bird, Chair 3, 2011

In the center of the main gallery room was a long beam with 4 sculptures resting upon itself.  All 4 sculptures make up the series called Chairs.  The docent informed me these were all made from the leggings of thrown away children's chairs that Bird found in New York City.  Like the rest of the sculptures here, these are engineered to be altered and not set in permanence.  Each chair contains either an alabaster piece of fruit or an actual living fruit which helps keep each sculpture from teetering off the beam.  Upon purchasing, the owner will decide whether or not to choose a living fruit or one of the alabaster fruits.

I highly recommend you swing by the gallery when you have some free time.  A pleasant experience, helpful staff, and intriguing exhibit have sparked my interest to maintain more of an active role in visiting my local galleries.

-Patrick Murray


  1. I appreciate the feeling you gave me while reading this review. In the beginning I felt as if I were walking throught the gallery with you. I think its interesting that Bird's sculptures relate to her life and photography, and like you I feel very interested in this. I think you should keep writing in this style because it's enjoyable to read.

    -Luke Cisneros

  2. When you say "that is never in the same arrangement on any given day" does she physically move it every day? I also find it very interesting that she has created the Cord sculpture using basically gravity and weight.

    Diana Babson

  3. Colby Bird is a guy and he does not move any of the work in the gallery himself after installing it. The docent replaces the fruit when it begins to rot, and can also change out the photographs in the show, at your request. Pretty interesting show.

    -Julie Morrison

  4. Thanks for the feedback! Apologies for not being more clear on the mention of "that is never in the same arrangement on any given day".

    -Patrick Murray