As a friend would say, “Austin is tight! Yeesh!”
I’m talking ’bout galleries here. Exhibition spaces.
You may recall that I vowed not to review a show at a coffeeshop. My plan was to cover everything going on in Austin. I had to draw the line somewhere. Even today I can’t make it out to see everything. Partly because I’m trying to reconfigure how I review shows, partly because there was a discussion on Winkleman ’bout gallery representation and partly because gallery spaces and how to view art has popped up in conversations, I’m gonna try to start some chatting.
I’ll start with the coffeeshops and similarly populated venues.
Reading #3 on Tony Fitzpatrick‘s list makes me think not of the owners, but the crowds blocking the works with their big heads. The opportunity to connect with the work is lost if I have to peer around somebody sipping coffee or typing on their laptop.
But if you want exposure, I’m not saying “Don’t do it.” I actually managed to check out Brandon Ziskind‘s work at Progress. I was digging it and started to rethink my coffeeshop rule. That was before I heard someone disregard Else Madsen as a gallery.
The next group is a venue within another location.
Else Madsen is a gallery occupying the lobby of a small engineering/architectural? firm. Their physical location really doesn’t bother me since they’ve been putting on shows. But the other person made a convincing argument. It is similar to coffeeshops in that the context does not allow for clearly connecting to the work. Quattro Gallery is apparently inside a car dealership. I haven’t been yet. Studio 107 used to be in someone’s apartment/condo/home. Even though I enjoyed the shows there, I was always slightly uncomfortable because I knew it was someone’s home. Trying not to look at the cordoned off sleeping quarters and seeing the furniture made looking at the art a different experience. It was kinda the same deal at the now defunct Donkey Show. testsite is also inside someone’s house/home, but is the most “white cube” of these venues. Furniture and other details make sure you notice you’re in a house, but the vacated state gives it the gallery feel. I like a little bit of context though. I’ve read from many sources that apartment galleries are commonplace in Chicago and New York.
Venues found in a studio.
It makes sense to have a spot in the studio where you can place your work and get a feel for how it may present itself in a gallery. Big Medium, Pump Project and MASS all retain that raw “hot off the assembly line” character to their spaces. This is probably my most favorite type of venue. I don’t have much to say other than I know that MASS doesn’t actually have studio space, but it does have the same gritty character.
Trying to be a gallery, but a cool one.
Somehow, Okay Mountain looks like MASS, but has a more polished feel. So does the CRL. Maybe its the layout. There’s greater flexibility in the more square plan. Art Palace has gone through some renovations and is dangerously close to losing its house-cum-gallery status. Pretty soon it will just be known as a gallery. Gallery Lombardi used to have a “raw” location. The nearby train tracks really added to the atmosphere. Now they are in a more “white wall” space. I think it might actually match Art Palace in terms of its limbo status of formerly a house.
The “Real” Gallery
The full fledged galleries can be found downtown. It’s not easy doing that. How many downtown galleries have we seen perish? Volitant, Fielding Lecht, Oswald… Top contenders right now? Lora Reynolds and dBerman. They both do well, but in different terms. dBerman is stable with decent regional programming, but can get boring. Lora Reynolds is more globally linked and is sometimes too heady, which can get boring. I don’t think any of these spaces is doing anything too wild. Who would pay for it?
I know I left out a bunch of venues, commercial and non-profit alike. I’d like some interaction, if its not to much to ask. Tell me who I forgot. You could let me know where your favorite space is, what category it falls under, maybe what type of space you would like to see more of in town? I promise I don’t bite. Just nibbles and lots of drooling.
I’ll tell you ’bout what I sees.