This weekend I had a long overdue visit to my brother in Austin, Texas. Yes, Austin, that shining beacon of Bush-bashin', barbeque-grillin’ and music-lovin' fun! And they even have contemporary art. Who knew?
As a musician, my brother left New York years ago and, as far as I can tell, has never looked back. So somewhere in between Redd Volkaert’s set at the Continental and his own gig with The Grassy Knoll Boys at Flipnotics, my dear bro graciously agreed to shuttle me around town to check out the art scene. We started at the corner of 4th & Congress at the new Volitant Gallery, where, of course, I ran into a New York artist who was showing there. Next we strolled up the street to Arthouse for the New American Talent exhibition, curated by Aimee Chang of the Orange County Museum of Art. This included what you might expect of such a survey show: very young artists, working in a range of styles; and what you you might not expect to see in New York: artists from a wide range of locations across the country.
Our next stop, across the street, was the more mature exhibition, Over + Over: A Passion for Process at the Austin Museum of Art. Curated by James Housefield, a professor of art at UT-San Marcos, this was a show to make a New Yorker feel right at home, featuring number of familiar names like Chakaia Booker, Liza Lou and less familiar (at least to me), but no less intriguing works by Dane Picard and Barna Kantor.
The next day we went to the Blanton Museum of Art, a new, hugely endowed institution built on the UT Campus. I was told that the 24-hour opening event drew a huge crowd, and it was inspiring to see the number of visitors on a sunny, Saturday afternoon.
A large contemporary survey show graces the lower level (with the most awesome bathroom I have ever seen in any museum), again with many familiar New York names, along with a large number of South American and Latin American artists. Ascending the monumental staircase in the glaringly bright light of the soaring gallery walls brings you to a collection of Western art that, for me, was just too cheesy, but is clearly very popular. To the right of that is a small rotunda with reproductions of Roman statuary and to the left, numerous galleries with B & C list Renaissance through Modern European paintings. There is a modest but fine collection of prints & drawings that surpasses the paintings, but we missed several collections including the Latin and Ab-Ex paintings, which didn't appear to be open to the public that day.
Likewise, I also missed the more alternative spaces, such as Art Palace and the well-known non-profit, Women & Their Work, but now I know what I've got to look forward to on my next trip. And of course more music and gastronomic adventures.