Nov 24, 2011

REVIEW | Chromophobia, David Batchelor, Reakiton Books, 2000

I am a color snob. I will own up to it. So, when I first came across David Batchelor’s book Chromophobia, complete disgust came over me as I took in the front cover. A small book, its cover is neon pink with lime green text, and a delightful microscope photo of some brightly colored biology. It just screams annoying. That was precisely Batchelor’s point. Thankfully, his writing was not as annoying as the front cover color choices.

REVIEW | Thresholds | Pearl Fincher Gallery | Spring, TX

Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak, Gates: Sacred and Profane, clay, paint, paper mache/wood, 1990
What defines a threshold? Literature tells us its an old saying for a doorway or crossing point according to Urban Dictionary it's a rating system of the physical appearance of men and women on a scale of one to ten. However, in this solo exhibition, consisting of just a handful of pieces, Lydia Bodnar-Balahutrak explains in her artist statement that a threshold is not just a crossing point between to places but a process as well. Marking a place of transition from one place to another, light to darkness.

REVIEW | International Artist Series | Bismarck Studios | San Antonio, TX

Bismarck Studios, San Antonio, TX

On the north side of San Antonio, quietly tucked away in the busy Stone Oak area, Bismarck Studios Contemporary Art Gallery offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere in a bustling city.  The cold, clean lines of the concrete walls and floor were nicely juxtaposed to the large windows with a view of the natural green foliage just outside the building.  Upon entering, I was immediately greeted by the owner, Christa Brothers, who openly invited me to look around at the currently featured the works of international artists Rolando Rojas, Amador Montes, and Daniela Sacramento.

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.

REVIEW | After Auschwitz, Monica Bohm-Duchen, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, 1995

After Auschwitz: Responses to the Holocaust in Contemporary Art, Monica Bohm-Duchen
We have all heard one too many Holocaust jokes in bad taste. You laugh, but that little part of your soul that isn't black makes you feel just a little guilty. That's part of the beauty of jokes and laughter right? That they can take the edge off of things. And they are never "too soon," because there is almost always the one person who bursts out laughing. I think art has the same talent that jokes do. Iffy topics and controversial subjects seem to be taken more lightly when are on Jay Leno, in comics or an art gallery.

REVIEW | Cowboy Boots The Art & Sole, Jennifer June, Universe Publishing, 2007

Cowboy Boots Art & Sole, Jennifer June, Universe Publishing, 2007
Being born in Texas and also being of Hispanic heritage, boots have always been a very common accessory in the daily wardrobe in my family and people around me. Personally I have never owned a pair or have been interested in them, but nevertheless I have learned through this book that owning boots is just a way of living for some people.

Nov 23, 2011

REVIEW | Telling Tales by Kiki Smith

What once began as a simple gallery show later grew into a major installation and book. The exhibition catalog “Telling Tales” depicts a variety of media including sculpture, painting, drawings, and stop animation video works used by contemporary artist Kiki Smith. Almost all referencing characters from children’s books, Smith also portrays biblical figures. By intentionally creating an exhibition catalog that resembles a children’s book, Smith claims this would “evoke the viewer’s memories of the stories” being portrayed along with the vulnerability of childhood.

REVIEW | Thin Skin:the Fickle Nature of Bubbles, Spheres, and Inflatable Structures, Stephen Robert Frankel [Ed.], Independent Curators International, New York, 2002

Thin Skin: The Fickle Nature of Bubbles, Spheres, and Inflatable Structures is an exhibition catalog for the traveling exhibition of the same name.  The exhibition itself is not only about bubbles, spheres, and inflatables but, more importantly, is about the reasons behind the artists choices to use such ephemeral things to make art. The catalog follows suit by providing two essays by the co-curators (the curator being Independent Curators International, New York), Barbara Clausen and Carin Kuoni, which explain their interest in the trend and the motives behind. After the essays we are presented with the exhibition itself which is sorted into 22 full page spreads, with each spread being dedicated to a different artist in the exhibition.  

Kuoni is responsible for the first essay, and Clausen the second. Both essentially come to the same conclusions as to why artists use bubbles and inflatables in art. They compare the bubble to “the in-between spaces neither virtual nor real” in our society. It is the perfect medium to study the differences between inside and outside and all borders both physical and emotion between people, environments and situations.  Another reason is that the bubbles strong connection to breath lends itself nicely to tackling ideas of creation, the body, and time. They see use of air as a nod to breath as spirit and as “the quintessential metaphor for exchange”. Kuoni also sees the sphere as a representation of Utopia. The word Utopia is Greek and is derived from ou, which means no, and topos, which means place. Thus a Utopia is a “nowhere”. Kuoni has this to say of Utopias:

                What better way to capture this eternally hopeful vision of an ideal world, one in an endless cycle of such unattainable visions, than by “the perfection of the circle, the feminine curvaceousness, the metaphorical womb of life awash in amniotic fluid, forever protected and preserved from the outside world?” The circle was utopias first form.
The last major idea tackled within the bubble is temporariness and nomadism. The bubble allows the artist to look at the temporariness of situations and things, and to deal with ideas of movement through time and culture and space.

Overall, I thought the essays were very illuminating and thought provoking, though the way they are laid out in the book made it a little confusing to follow them at first. Instead of simply flowing through paragraphs the essays are broken up into sections with headlines, this makes each section feel more like its own essay rather than a part within a whole, but after going back over the content several times I’ve come to realize that this sectioning of the essay seems to follow the theme of the exhibition. It gives the essay spaces and compartments within itself that, even though they are defined, are really not their own. The use of headlines turned the essay into a landscape to traverse; they became borders that couldn’t keep me out, but instead invited me in.

The artist section of the book was very nicely laid out. Each spread had a full page picture of the artists exhibition piece on the left and an essay on the right written by either Kuoni or Clausen explaining where the work fit into the ideas represented in the beginning essays and how the piece fit into the exhibition. It was nice having an alteration of the two authors. They both have the same ideas surrounding the works and the exhibition, but each speaks just a little differently. The interchange helped to give the catalog a bit of rhythm in a way which definitely made reading it more enjoyable for me.

In total there were 22 works/artists ranging from Haluk Akakçe and his computer animation video,The Measure of All Things, which parodies "the basic human desire for ultimate freedom and the perverse solution generated by the birth of the information age", to Elin Wikström and her tableau vivant, What Does a Human Being Do When There Is Nothing to Be Done?, which consists of a hired protagonist (who changes every hour) sitting silently on a couch forlornly as cartoonish voices emanate from various balloon characters around the room.

As a whole I think the catalog works well as a supplement/companion to the exhibition. The range of ideas and artists represented within the exhibition could easily become overwhelming and chaotic without something to thread the pieces together, and with such weighty concepts being thrown around I think the essays in the catalogue were the perfect way to bring it all together.

-Sara Marie Miller

REVIEW | Storm Chaser: A Photographer's Journey by Jim Reed

To be frank, my only basis in the subject of storm chasing derives from the 1996 film Twister. With that in mind, I don’t even remember the storm chasing in the film as much as a certain eagerness to copy Helen Hunt’s bangs for my next haircut.

REVIEW | Art and Fear, David Bayles & Ted Orland, Image Continuum, 2001

Art and Fear: Observations on the Perils (and rewards) of Art Making, David Bales & Ted Orland, 2001

"Writers block", the exact thing I got when I sat down to write this blog entry. A creative halt on putting my vision in to words, but a vision is useless if it isn't put in to execution. This is just one of the ideas that Bayles and Orland discuss in the book. It is also something that plagues us artists when we have an idea that we wish to put in to play. We fear the creativeness, uniqueness, worthiness, talent of our work and that can sometimes hold us back from finishing the art we set out to produce.

Nov 22, 2011


For sale sign at Teeny Tiny Show
What better place to explore local Austin art than to visit the E.A.S.T. Austin Studio Tours. For those of you who have never heard of it, E.A.S.T. is a weeklong open studio tour that allows for the public to experience up-and-coming art from local artists in—you guessed it—East Austin. The art is sometimes displayed in local businesses or hair salons. However, more often than not, the artists open up their own workspaces and their art is setup within it. I found this to be an exciting detail about the tour as I am always curious to know how and where something is produced.

REVIEW | Sound, Caleb Kelly, MIT Press, 2011

Sound, Caleb Kelly, MIT Press, 2011
Noise! SOUNDS! What we choose to allow our attention at has become a great measure of what we dictate as important or meaningful. The times we choose to accept or appreciate forms of sound have become a growing wave of social and even political acceptance; like the annoyance of someone banging against the ground upstairs, or the sound of a construction site as we walk by. These are examples of artistic beauty that many have grown to substitute or even forget about, something that editor Caleb Kelly has taken the time to consolidate attention to by producing the contemporary art book Sound.

REVIEW | Learning To Love You More, Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July, Prestel, 2007

Book Cover and Assignment 39: Take a picture of your parents kissing, Al & Mae, Judith Wigren-Slack, Roseville, California
"Sometimes it is a relief to be told what to do."

In 2002 Artists Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July founded the website Learning To Love You More. Visitors were invited to complete an assignment and send in the required report (photo, text, video, etc.).  After which the report was posted on the website for viewing. Five years later there were more than five thousand reports and they stopped accepting new additions and began working on a book.

REVIEW | The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks, Three Rivers Press, 2003

The Zombie Survival Guide, Max Brooks, Three Rivers Press, 2003
ZOMBIES!! How will we ever survive? Let me be the first to say, most won't. However, there is a ray of hope for this dismal prospect of the apocalypse. The Zombie Survival Guide is your one stop shop for detecting and combating the unrelenting undead. This guide describes how the virus infects humans, the physical attributes and behavioral patterns of the zombies. It lists the outbreaks from mildly spread panic to total shit storm. Not only does the survival guide provide information about the best possible weaponry to use, it also describes an array of combat techniques that will assist you on the best possible ways to protect yourself in a variety of terrains.

REVIEW | Home Sweet Home | Women and Their Work Art Gallery | Austin, Texas

Jasmyne Graybill, Crested Buttercream Polyps, Muffin pan, polymer clay, 2008

There’s an infestation brewing inside the Women and Their Work art gallery. Colonies of mold are taking over the crevices of fine china and spoons. Fungi of different colors are beginning to form along the walls and inside teacups. It is disgustingly beautiful. 

Review | Yard Dog | Austin Texas

Grit, Standard Grit, Cotton, 2011
Living in downtown Austin has multiple advantages, as both artist and student. One being there is so much to do in your own very back yard, and mine just so happens to be the South Congress Drag, and conveniently close to me is the gallery Yard Dog.

Nov 21, 2011

REVIEW| Thunderbox Road | Gallery on the Square | Wimberley, Texas

Betty Rhodes with her Thunderbox creation.

Betty Rhodes’ center of creativity and work belongs to her converted garage-studio in Wimberley, Texas. The Texas Hill Country plays backdrop to her passion for color and zeal in paint. She says that she paints “happy." After viewing her work, one can truly see through her vibrant colors that the Texas hill country sparkles through every work she produces.

What does “everything” include? How about she was selected with eleven other artists for the first “Thunderbox Road” art project. I had no idea what a Thunderbox was, but apparently “country folks” recognize the nickname for an outhouse. Yep, that is what I said: an outhouse.  This forced me to twist my face in confusion. I couldn’t help but wonder how such an unexpected structure could edge its way into the art world.

REVIEW | Charles LeDray's Miniatures, MFAH 2011

Charles LeDray, MENS SUITS, 2009

New York based artist Charles LeDray’s exhibition, workworkworkworkwork, made its grand finale in the enormous Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Cullinan Hall at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. I strolled into the MFAH late one afternoon in early September with little to no knowledge about the current exhibition, which was nearing its final days of life. As I made my way up onto the raised, open hall in the middle of the building I was at first struck only by the vastness of the space itself. The smooth granite floor of the hall is boxed in by three soaring white walls that create a beautiful, cavernous space. Only after a few moments did I become aware of the current exhibition itself. A chill ran down my spine.

TREND | Biology on a Microscopic Level

Luke Jerrem, Swine Flu (spherical), glass, 2009

Swine Flu, Influenza, AIDS. How do these viruses have anything to do with art? A common misconception held by many is that art and science simply do not mix. Although science and art are rarely associated with one another, several contemporary artists are blurring the lines between these two fields in an effort to incorporate scientific concepts in their work, more specifically biology on a microscopic level.

REVIEW | The Ongoing Moment, Geoff Dyer, Pantheon Books, 2005

The author of such a pretentious title as Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It, Geoff Dyer takes on a similar endeavor with this book, though the seeming ostentatiousness is manifested in the actual material, rather than the title. Dyer has composed a book that analyzes photography while he does not even own a camera. At first, this seemed like a troubling concept, conveyed in the jacket of the book I deemed interesting enough to open. I found myself returning to the book after replacing it for another in my search through the shelves; the premise gave this book such an interesting perspective that I'd never explored, much less considered.

REVIEW | The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, Twyla Tharp, Simon & Schuster, 2003

The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life, by Twyla Tharp

Twyla Tharp is best known for her choreography. I was interested in her book, "The Creative Habit", because of how wide spread this book, a guide into finding your inner-self and its' creative habit, translated to people in and outside of the world of art. 
Chapter one begins, and with no more than a few paragraphs in do the comparisons starts. Tharp's comparisons are about other artist - whether they're painters, dancers, musicians, photographers, and so on - even people outside the arts/liberal arts - and their difficulty of feeling confident in ones ideas.

It's no different for a writer rolling a fresh sheet of paper into his type writer... or a painter confronting a virginal canvas, a sculptor staring at a raw chunk of stone, a composer at a piano with his fingers... the moment before creativity begins - so painful that they simple cannot deal with it."

REVIEW| SAMA Contemporary Art Collection

The San Antonio Museum of Art is well known for its large collection of ancient and historical art.  However, in a small section above the gift shop, a small collection of contemporary pieces are housed.  Ranging from sculpture to painting to mixed media and video, the collection is widely varied and also includes several newly acquired works. 

Nov 20, 2011

TREND | Caricatures in Life

George Clooney

Growing up with a certain standard of physical looks, and having to adhere ourselves to the criteria of the perfect body became part of everyday life. Over time, the physical traits of human beings became distorted through certain expectations that led to the creations of slender plastic dolls to ballerina glass figurines. Yet, what made those images bearable were the creations of cartooning or caricaturizing the human figure. The fascination of over exaggerating of the human facial features added a humorous aspect in life. The caricature artist provides viewable pictorial images of average people to celebrities to ease our dependence on physical looks.