Austin greatest hits: art

caitlin red spaceA couple of years ago I read about  “apartment galleries” opening around town. Basically, these are private apartments where the curators (the people who live there) offer whatever they have—an extra room, or even just a couple blank walls—to an artist each month to show their work. I contacted Caitlin McCollom, the founder and curator of Red Space Gallery (1203 W. 49th St.) and told her I wanted to volunteer. Since I am not a visual artist, we weren’t sure what I would do, but Caitlin generously offered that I could michael siebentake photos at the openings. I only did it a few times, but it was really fun and exciting to witness this sort of homegrown art scene coming to life. I made it to shows at SOFA Gallery (1319 Rosewood) and even bought my first piece of art at Tiny Park Gallery, a drawing by skateboard-artist-hero Michael Sieben.

I know many talented artists here—photographers and painters, multimedia and performance artists, letterpress and graphic designers—I can’t wait to see what they do in the future. I can’t list them all here, so instead I will tell you about my three favorite big shows.

El Anatsui // Blanton Museum

el anatsuiThis blog post does a really nice job of showing El Anatsui’s work. He (and his army of apprentices) turns things that we think of as trash into astoundingly beautiful metal tapestries. It is the scale of these works that really blows you away—they look like sparkly blankets that could cover the whole world. He uses liquor bottle caps, signifying the alcoholism that plagues the people of his home country of Ghana, and at the same time, the phenomenal, almost other worldly beauty that is possible when discarded things (and discarded people) are seen from a new perspective.

Nick Cave // AMOA-Arthouse

nick-caveWe happened upon this show while walking downtown on a day off. This is not Nick Cave the musician. This Nick Cave is a sculptor and performance artist from Missouri who makes these unbelievable “sound suits” — wearable art that are sometimes part of performances and flash mobs.

Norman Bel Geddes “I Have Seen the Future” // Harry Ransom Center

i have seen the future pinI am going to miss the Harry Ransom Center the most. For one thing, it is free. Even if they don’t have an exhibition that interests me, I would go just to look at the busts of famous writers lining the entryway, or to see what art they have displayed in the halls (they have a Frida Kahlo!). They have David Foster Wallace’s papers and Vivien Leigh’s dresses from Gone With the Wind!

albany-costume

Bel Geddes design for Albany costume in King Lear

I went to the very last day of I Have Seen the Future: Norman Bel Geddes Designs America at the HRC last week. Bel Geddes started out as a set designer for theater productions. His designs completely re-imagined productions that had been done for centuries, such as King Lear and The Divine Comedy. His designs were striking and HUGE in scale, conveying both fear and awe. The industrial aspects of his sets—the clean lines and sharp corners—reflect the skyscrapers and bridges, the massive concrete and metal structures of post-industrial America, while at the same time, conveying something primal and dark, the smallness of man against the overwhelming power of God.

Bel Geddes went on to design everything from clocks to airports, and entire cities to Macy’s parades. (And then his daughter, Barbara Bel Geddes became an actress who played Ellie Ewing on the show Dallas.) This blog post does a nice job of describing the exhibit. But the bottom line is: Get ye to the Harry Ransom Center!

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