Alright, so I was a bit of an ass in my last post for these guys. Its just that they were sooo punked by Christo.
Anyways, when I first entered the gallery/ foyer at the DAC, I was greeted by an arch composed of trophy heads. Like a triumphal arch, the black metal frame is adorned with actual trophy pieces. Behind it you find artist Hunter Cross’s scale model, sketches and architectural plans of his proposal for the Open Doors Expansion show at the Dallas Contemporary next year. This show, In Between, is an attempt to reveal the artists’ processes and preparatory studies for soliciting contemporary sculptural artwork. Another words, Open Doors is fundraising a la Christo and Jeanne-Claude. Cesar Alexander Villareal’s meandering, golden path and Terra Goolsby’s dangling, acrylic spheres both lead you to opposite ends of the gallery towards Jacob Villanueva’s design plans for false cellar doors and Cole Thompson’s large latex bubble. Each artist provides samples of their sketches and studies in order to present their intended creations.
The five artists work in diverse methodologies and it shows. Mr. Thompson provides a bowl of sample pieces of latex next to the large protruding blue bubble on the wall. According to his collection of notes, the bubbles are to automatically inflate and deflate so as to appear as colorful, breathing pustules. Ms. Goolsby presents samples of her material explorations with nail polish injected into acrylic products. She encases a couple of spheres in a large glass box reminiscent of a jewelry display case and installs an accurate model of what her drawing proposes. Mr. Villareal has placed a slithering, golden colored brick path that leads you to his corner of the gallery. There you find digitally manipulated photographs that suggest applying the same material to a variety of pathways. To the side you see a bird’s eye view of his path to be placed in the Contemporary. Mr. Villanueva displays five architectural drawings like a professional design agency would propose marketing collateral. This stylistic approach gives the viewer an accurate description without specific material details.
It is blatantly obvious that this group is embracing the developmental process made public by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. They are paying homage by screening two of their films and humbly promoting their current exhibition at the Austin Museum of Art. By piggybacking on Christo, In Between takes advantage of the similarities of the artists’ practices and uses it to educate the public of what hurdles await artists. You can’t just find a wealthy patron and build work on their property. You have to expose the artwork to the people and vice-versa. And that requires a patience and level of professionalism that is continually tested, put in place in order to safeguard the gatekeepers and their organizations. So what is an artist to do? These guys have taken the art to masses. As a way to prepare for the big show in the Big D, Open Doors is opening a discussion about their work in general and are soliciting support for their work specifically. It’s not a bad way of doing business, as long as you do right.
For the most part, these cats are the forefront of the Austin art buzz. They were second only to Construction Site to take advantage of the Second Street District construction going on downtown. They have achieved an exhibition opportunity with a reputable institution with only two previous shows under their belt. They know how to make art. They know how to organize and execute their gameplan. This show is good, but the sale of multiples seems to have been overlooked. In a city not known for its visual arts patronage, it probably would have been beneficial to include some series of affordably priced objects.
It was painful to find out that these off-the-wall artists can not draw. Sure they’re sculptors and their work is to be experienced in the round rather than gazed upon, but drawing is an essential skill. As a show about revealing process and image creation, there was a let-down. I had envisioned a pile of sketches, multiple deviants of the proposed installation, I wanted to sneek a peek into their brains. The possibility of seeing what might be in store from this group, beyond what they are working on for the Contemporary, that is what I wanted to see. I believe that the art should be able to sell themselves. Even as a fundraising tool, the artists should not have had to stand next to their presentation and sell the audience on what it is they are doing. I think there was an attempt to clean up their sketches, like the framing on Mr. Thompson’s sheets of notes and measurements. But the work in progress is exactly what they were supposed to show. This was a studio visit. I wanted to see more.
Even though they embraced their relationship to the Christo show, it feels like they underestimated the difference between the them. I should give them a great for their trailblazing effort, but I think NOT BAD would be more honest.
There’s still plenty of time to garner support. I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.