Austin Art All Over
By Rebecca S. Cohen
DECEMBER 29, 1997:
Holidays are always about travel. After an East Coast visit with my parents on
Thanksgiving, I took some time to visit galleries in New York, where the city's sidewalks
(busy sidewalks dressed in holiday style) were not to be believed. Extravagant Christmas
displays, including Rockefeller Center's enormous tree, drew thousands to Fifth Avenue
at all hours of the day and night, resulting in worse-than-usual traffic jams and
pedestrian gridlock. Couples dressed up for the Christmas office party (yes, Virginia,
you can still wear your mink in New York) edged past the omnipresent panhandlers,
including a gray specter attired in green plastic garbage bags, holding out his begging
I was in the city, at least in part, to catch a glimpse of Austinite Will Klemm's
show at Multiple Impressions gallery. How, I wondered, would New Yorkers respond
to his pastel pastoral landscapes? What chance did Klemm have in the middle of trendy
SoHo, where beauty is encouraged in clothing and food boutiques but shunned in galleries,
which favor angst-ridden images or no image at all?
At Multiple Impressions, on Spring Street, I counted 10 modest-sized pastels on
paper. Landscapes, cloudscapes, and a pear. I felt I'd been "had" by the
New York Times advertisement I'd seen touting his show. This is a one-person exhibition?
The gallery director, who was Austin-friendly and attentive, set me straight. The
10 beautifully crafted drawings were all that remained of more than 60 samples of
Klemm's work. The gallery had released works as they were purchased. "Klemm...
can transport us into his misty forests and sunlit meadows, or elevate our spirits
toward the celestial glory of the sky above," said the invitation, which included
two lovely full-color images of the artist's work. It seems that in the midst of
the grimy city that I hate to love and love to hate, there is audience aplenty for
the subtle beauty of Klemm's universe with its hay bales and cloud formations and
the occasional lonely white house kissed by the sun. Good for you, Will!
This season, several other Austin artists are the focus of one-person exhibitions
a little closer to home. Whether you go north or south of Austin to visit family
(or to get away from family), if you're on the road this holiday season, be sure
to check out the following shows.
The Art Center
1300 College Drive, Waco
Bob Daddy-O Wade has returned to Waco where he was on the
faculty at McLennan Community College several lifetimes ago. His "stuff"
is the focus of an exhibition at The Art Center of Waco (located on the McLennan
campus, although not part of that institution). The exhibition was assembled by guest
curator Shannon Province, with the support of Joe Kagle, director of the Center.
Wade uses this "stuff" both as inspiration and raw material for the Tex-Mex
installations and hand-colored photographs, which he has exhibited from New York
to California with lots of stops in between. His collection of stuff includes lizards
in graduated sizes, the yo-yo championship sweater he won as a kid, and signed photographs
of his second cousin, Roy Rogers. The Roy Rogers. "Be a good boy," says
Roy on the photo. So much for advice from relatives.
Wade's famed Iguanamobile and a car shot full of holes are situated outside the
Center, and the exhibition includes a hand-colored photograph of the guys with guns
who shot the car full of holes. There are also hundreds of torn pieces of paper with
newspaper photos stuck up on the wall in a manner similar to the way they're usually
stuck on the wall of Wade's studio and office. Did I mention his "history of
the coconut" display? How about the antlers, hoofs, and assorted other body
parts of a dozen or more dead things?
In another artist's hands, the Waco exhibition might seem like a disrespectful gathering
of objects meant to poke fun at Texas. But I promise you, this is not the case. In
the funky, rambling exhibition catalogue (which includes a small essay by this writer),
Dr. Francine Carraro, Associate Professor of Art History at Southwest Texas State
University, says, "Wade's art is not lightweight. His heroic and anti-heroic
images challenge us to decide if reality creates our myths or if our myths influence
our reality." He also forces us take a close look at the everyday objects that
float through our lives. One man's tortilla may be another man's art.
Parchman Stremmel Galleries
203 N. Presa @ Charles Court,
It is easy to imagine walking barefoot along the cool streams that flow through
Malou Flato's watercolor landscapes, and skipping rocks across the water's crystalline
surface. The front gallery at Parchman Stremmel is filled with fine examples of Flato's
watercolors and oils. The watercolors Low Water Crossing and Stone Wall in particular
demonstrate the artist's confident brush strokes and her eye for composition as well
as detail. It was fascinating to drive to the Broadway Central Market to see how
these same images and two other San Antonio vistas have been painted on ceramic tiles
(the watercolors are studies for the tiles) and wrapped around four thick columns
in front of the HEB store. Austin's Central Market features Flato murals inside the
store near the check-out registers.
For her first Parchman Stremmel show, Flato painted primarily San Antonio locations.
Some of her oil paintings, however, describe Montana, the artist's summer home. She
approaches these smaller works on canvas much differently than the larger, looser
watercolors. The surface is much richer and more satisfying than I remember on Flato's
early flirtations with the medium when I represented her work a long time ago. Gallery
owners Otis and Carolyn Parchman say the little oil paintings in particular have
been very well received. I am not surprised.
In the back gallery, a lovely space that opens onto Charles Court, the ubiquitous
Will Klemm is represented by a couple of pastel landscapes. Melissa Miller's tiny,
jewel-like oil painting of deer and a larger one of fish captured in a net are lovely
examples of that artist's fluid, painterly style.
2404 Cedar Springs, Ste 700, Dallas
Let us now move from the informal to the intensely formal,
from Waco to Dallas, from Bob Wade's funky installations to Michael Mogavero's gorgeously
crafted paintings in an exhibition titled "Flights of Fancy." Craighead-Green
Gallery's show offers a stunning display of the artist's current paintings and works
on paper, including his Four-Letter Word series. The words in question are not the
ones you're thinking of, by the way; Mogavero is not dealing with the sentiments
often scrawled on park benches and bridges. He paints HOPE and TRUE and FAIR amidst
a romantic exploration of spatial relationships and Baroque patterning. His palette
is lush with royal reds and purples and golds.
The ideas behind Mogavero's paintings are as multi-layered
as the paint applied, sanded, and applied again to his canvas. Renaissance jewelry
and Grecian urns appear to be submerged in murky waters, or they float randomly across
a painting's surface. These works are undeniably theatrical. Mysterious! On the other
hand, they are as accessible as a sunset that floods the entire winter sky with color.
William Campbell Contemporary Art
4935 Byers Ave, Fort Worth
"HERE" is where you want to be, if you visit Fort
Worth. I'm talking about the exhibition of work by Tré Arenz at William Campbell
Contemporary Art. Approximately 25 individual combination photograph/object-on-the-wall
works fill the gallery. Here, the piece which shares its title with the exhibition,
is a framed 8'x10' black-and-white photograph of an Italian villa with a small wooden
house attached to the frame's glass. Vessels is a photograph of a boat with a tiny,
striated ceramic airplane resting on top of the frame.
"All the photographs have some esoteric association to the title of the work
if not the accompanying ceramic (or wooden) object," says gallery owner William
Campbell. They include images from Italy and California -- Arenz and dancer Deborah
Hay received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship to go to Bellagio last fall, and
another fellowship to work at Djerassi Foundation in Woodside, California this year.
The show also includes photographs of the artist's dogs, and ceramic dogs and other
toy-size objects posed in an ambiguous relationship to photographs. It is hard not
to hunger for a long-term relationship to one or more pieces of Tre Arenz's work.
But go see for yourself.
Call the galleries first for holiday hours. Drive carefully. And enjoy this holiday