State of the State

GT set out to uncover what is going on around the state.

Houston's best BBQ


How do you feel the Texas art scene has changed in the last year? Describe it in terms of internal changes within your community and what you think the national perception is of what is going on down here.

HOUSTON:

“Having actively worked within the Houston arts community since 1994, I am astounded and proud of the growth that has taken place within our community. Existing arts organizations have fortified themselves, new arts organizations have invented themselves, art publications and art websites have sprung up overnight, and our community has become closer and more engaged as a result. I feel that the national perception is one of both intrigue and excitement for the growing Houston art community (and collector base), as well as for art throughout the entire state. The number of Texas artists being included in museum exhibitions both nationally and internationally, as well as the growing Texas gallery presence at art fairs, is a true testament to the recognition of the success of the arts within our city and state.”– Julie Kinzelman

“Things are getting bigger, if not better. More attrition. Really good artists are leaving faster than they”re being replaced. Houston continues to be more and more connected to New York and LA. Lots of galleries getting expensive new buildings. Lots of studio spaces being sold and redeveloped. Art openings increasingly populated by surgically enhanced loft-living yuppies. The unprecedented inclusion of longtime Houstonians in the Whitney biennials has made Houston even more a recognized farm-team city. There’s been a bizarre spate of big-money art prizes, — long may it continue! It’s as if we’re hoping to host the art Olympics: lots of spit and polish, but just holding our own in terms of real excitement. I’ve got my fingers crossed that all this new swank will trickle down and attract and/or hold onto interesting artists.” – Bill Davenport

“In Houston, I am impressed with the increased level of collaboration between arts organizations. Texas is still flyover country for much of the press, but I think the national POV regarding Texas cultural events, once a national press member actually sets foot on Texas soil, is increasingly attentive to, and impressed by, what is happening here. From the number of Texas artists with recent, current or upcoming shows in New York, I would say the art world is paying attention.”– Christopher French

“It was great going to New York this past March. The presence of Houston-based curators and artists, and those I’ve encountered while in Houston, was amazing — at the fairs, the Whitney Biennial, in the galleries. I was literally running into people on the street. It’s a small world, but I”d like to think my experience was reflective of Texas”s always increasing visibility in the larger cultural landscape.”– Michelle White

TX hill country


AUSTIN:

“I’ve been living in Austin for the past three years, and one of the main changes that seems to have taken place is the new attitude that it’s worthwhile staying here (rather than moving to a larger city), and investing time and energy into establishing a more varied, serious art scene. There has been a lot of action in the past two to three years — a host of new galleries, both self-starter, artist-run spaces and curator-run and commercial galleries. Also, UT graduate students seem to be more visible and serious about coordinating themselves. This in part is due to dedicated teachers that I know push the students and alums, including Mel Ziegler, Mike Smith, Margo Sawyer, Teresa Hubbard, Troy Brauntuch and others. These individuals have positively influenced a lot of the young artists here and it shows.’– Regine Basha

“There has been an art criticism explosion in Austinthis past year. …might be good ramped things up withfull-on articles, Cantanker has been launched, and there are quite a few new writers getting their observations out there in the Austin Chronicle. Is all of this writing great? Well, not as a rule. But perhaps we can begin to foster art writers’ careers in the same way that we lend a hand to artists (residencies, grants, awards, etc.). If you’re planning a workshop, sign me up.

We’ve also seen a number of new galleries open around Austin. I look forward to watching these spaces continue to develop strong exhibitions and to seeing new galleries become better integrated with more established spaces around town. I hope the Blanton’s programming, especially Workspace, will help to raise awareness about contemporary art in Austin.” – Amanda Douberley

SAN ANTONIO:

“Oftentimes Texas gets dismissed as some tumbleweed wasteland of watercolors and pathetic ceramic sculptures. Let’s thank Jeebus for hardworking artists like Janaki Lennie, Justin Boyd, Chris Sauter, Peat Duggins and Ali Fitzgerald. From glowing paintings and curious sound sculptures to rural oeuvres and disturbing fever dream works, Texas offers a wealth of contemporary art in every new media and genre. In the last 12 months, I think I’ve seen a lot of cohesive, large-scale installations versus conventional paintings stuck on a wall. In addition, San Antonio seems to be thriving with new art galleries like Flight and Unit B. These new spaces offer nascent nesting grounds for both local and international artists. Misperceptions of the art world in South Texas persist, but I think events like CAM and the Texas Biennial give outsiders a lucid insight into why Texas matters in the art world.” – Michelle Gonzalez Valdez

“On a local level, there have been some major location shifts, particularly the relocation of several artist studios and independent galleries (Flight, Triangle Project Space) to the Lone Star area of town. I also think there has been a lot more interaction between the Austin and San Antonio art communities, and it’s about time! Nationally, I think after every WAX conference at Blue Star, we get some ‘special reports’ filed from San Antonio in national magazines. Finesilver Gallery’s presence at so many of the international art fairs can’t hurt, either.” –Catherine Walworth

Dallas skyline


DALLAS:

“In Dallas, Angstrom Gallery closed and David Quadrini left for QED in LA, but Road Agent, Marty Walker, And/Or and Art Prostitute have all moved in. Dallas art seems to be on an upswing. We’ll see what happens.” – Noah Simblist

“There definitely seems to be a younger energy in the Dallas area — new art spaces and galleries. It’s younger blood, but I’m still not sure what effect it has on the critical dialogue that goes on here. In some ways, the new galleries might be motivated by the increase in real estate value and the boom in the art market overall, i.e., more empty walls + more desire to buy art = more galleries. Texas definitely has a national and international art presence now. It really is seen as a destination, and I have visitors from all over the US and Europe who come to spend three to five days in Texas, going to Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and Marfa. There’s an interesting new image of Texas in the art world, maybe as an underrated place with some really concentrated moments of activity. People from outside Dallas (or Texas) seem eager (and surprised) to embrace it.” – Thomas Feulmer

“Well, I was drawn here from Los Ang, and I know a number of other recent transplants from the coasts. Galleries are opening all the time. The cobwebs are being beaten off older galleries, which are being forced to bring their game up. I hope a collector base is building to support it — this is something I’m a bit out of touch with. I can only speak for Dallas, but it seems quite vital. I wonder about a glass ceiling here; only time will tell.” – Titus O’Brien

EL PASO:

“I think the Texas art scene is reflecting a national trend toward accessibility and grassroots involvement. Here in El Paso, local artists are increasingly utilizing alternative spaces to exhibit outside traditional gallery settings, a practice that has gained visibility throughout Texas for the last few years. In addition, the startup of the SHINE Gallery, an alternative gallery headed by a local artist, reflects the growing prominence of (often artist-run) commercial galleries catering to emerging artists, such as Austin’s Camp Fig and Art Palace, and Dallas’s Plush. More and more, I think artistic centers throughout Texas are looking less to New York and are focusing more on organically creating their own dialogues, scenes and critical writing.” –Ben Fyffe

ABILENE:

“One word for the art scene in this area is ‘expansion.’ The number of galleries is increasing, the variety of art exhibited in this area is expanding, and the subject matter of art in this area is changing. Since this time last year, painters, sculptors and even a glass artist have set up shop in the Abilene area, an obvious response to the growing appreciation and demand for the visual arts here. The art exhibited includes subject matters ranging from feminist humor to the Mexican immigrant experience to America’s current obsession with physical beauty and celebrity. As for the national perception of the West Texas art scene, I would be surprised to find that the rest of the nation even knows that serious art exists in this part of the state. But with well-respected institutions like the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, The Old Jail Art Center and The Grace Museum in the Abilene area, West Texas is hoping to change that current misperception.” –Angie Cook

West TX landscape


What are the top five (if you can only think of one or two, that is fine) ‘things’ / art pieces / events / films / performances / changes you have seen in the last six months in your community?

“Dario Robleto at Arthouse, David Ellis at Rice Gallery, Robyn O’Neil at CAMH, Joe Havel at MFAH and the Huntington Awards.” –Julie Kinzelman

“Ali Fitzgerald’s show at Art Palace seemed to break new ground. Hana Hillerova’s show at Women and Their Work synchronized this artist’s work really well. Hitting Switches at the new Okay Mountain was really refreshing and thorough. The Latin American Symposium ‘Sin Titulo’ (and yes, I’m biased) was one of the most exciting symposiums I’ve been to at the Blanton Museum. Lora Reynolds had a great Robert Therrien show. And The Harry Ransom Center’s The Technologies of Writing was amazing.” –Regine Basha

“Local: Michael Bise at Moody Gallery, Joe Wooten at Lawndale and Jason Villegas at Deborah Colton. National/international: Urs Fischer at Blaffer and Robert Gober at the Menil.” –Bill Davenport

“Community colleges: Lily Hansen at Mountain View College and Margaret Meehan at Eastfield College (full disclosure: Margaret is my wife). Grassroots / good-vibe art events: Titus O’Brian’s show Teenage Fan Club at Southside, the Oh 6 Trunk Show, and the 832 Exposition show of films and slide shows in the street, Greg Metz and Dean Terry included. As far as non-profits go: John Pomara at the Contemporary and the Italian artists at Rachofsky House. Blue chip galleries: Robert Ryman at DMA and Chuck Close at Fort Worth Modern. Solo show in commercial galleries: Derrick Saunders at Mulcahey Modern.” –Noah Simblist

“Trends: What I notice from artists statewide is an increasing tendency toward personal narrative. Exhibitions: The show that meant the most to me on a personal and aesthetic level in the last six months was Robert Gober: The Meat Wagon at The Menil Collection. This project was also Matthew Drutt’s last for the Menil — a departure I was very saddened by. Film: Seeing the movies The Last Picture Show and Matthew Barney’s Drawing Restraint 9 on the big screen at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.” –Christopher French

“Miguel Angel Rios’s video in the DMA Concentrations series. The Concentrations shows at the DMA are consistently interesting. Charissa Terranova’s talk at Rachofsky House. Charissa is one of the most engaging forces to enter into the Dallas/Texas dialogue in recent years. I’m waiting for her to build an army and take over the stodgy, self-congratulating press in the area.” – Thomas Feulmer

“Two new galleries opening in San Antonio: Unit B and Flight. The contemporary trifecta of blazing new art galleries in Austin: Okay Mountain, The Donkey Show (or as many now refer to it, ‘The Donk’) and Art Palace. Salon Mijangos’s bringing in Alan Licht, Matador Records/noisician, and Tatuzi Akiyama, perhaps one of the best noise/avant-garde sound performances I’ve seen in a decade. Salon Mijangos has quickly established itself as an important venue for all things avant-garde in San Antonio.’–Michelle Gonzalez Valdez

Gospel of Lead at Arthouse, Paul Chan at the Blanton, Peat Duggins at Art Palace and Public Art Synergy this spring! Art Outside, Austin Green Art’s Green Gates/Block 21, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s talk at the Paramount Theater and the Public Art Panel at AMOA.” –Amanda Douberley

“Rineke Dijkstra’s film The Buzz Club in ‘Girls Night Out’ at the Blaffer Gallery. Leslie Hewitt and William Cordova’s I wish it were true at Project Row Houses. Amelia Jones’s lecture on post-identity politics at the MFAH, in conjunction with the exhibition Joseph Havel: A Decade of Sculpture . Andrea Bowers’s video Letters to an Army of Three at the Glassell School of Art. The Aurora screening at Buffalo Bayou, with John Rubin’s funny but gorgeous floating cinema barge.” –Michelle White

“And/Or gallery, especially Tom Moody and Paper Rad. Road Agent’s space is the best in town, very impressive, a bit of London or old Soho in our midst. Jim Lambie at DMA. Teenage Fan Club at South Side — not to toot my own horn; I just liked it. Charline Von Heyl at DMA. Patrick Kelly at WCCA. Sean Scully at the Modern. Paul Slocum’s piece in I-35 .” –Titus O’Brien

“Kathryn Kanjo leaving Artpace. Mr. Danny Geisler and Franco Mondini-Ruiz having the sleeper hit of the summer at UTSA’s downtown campus gallery with This I Believe, This I Create, curated by Arturo Almeida. Unit B opened in San Antonio (from Chicago) last winter and has created a family atmosphere with yard barbecues, friends and great shows. CAM has us all worn out and happy.” –Catherine Walworth

“National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature’s Brian Collier exhibit. The monthly Art Walk in downtown Abilene, where museums, galleries and businesses are open, free to the public, on the second Thursday evening of each month. June’s Art Walk theme was antique cars, and hundreds of antique car fanatics lined the streets with their vehicles, listened to live music performed on street corners and cooled off inside downtown Abilene art spots. The exponential rise in the number of galleries in downtown Abilene and Buffalo Gap, including a cluster of eclectic artists’ spaces, a new glassblower’s studio and sculptors’ galleries. The Grace Museum’s exhibition Painted Memory: The Art of Fidencio Duran. And finally The Old Jail Art Center’s magnificent permanent collection, particularly the Modigliani painting Young Girl with Braids (1918). Though the permanent collection pieces can be seen on a regular basis, the sheer number of remarkable holdings from the canon of art history in this West Texas museum makes viewing this impressive collection worthy of a place on this list.” –Angie Cook

“Urban Gallery 06, a public art project giving seven local artists each a billboard in high traffic areas. The resulting works, ranging from photography and painting to digital design, were a refreshingly poetic and insightful use of a consumer-driven space (El Paso has the highest per capita number of billboards in the US). It also revealed the level of commitment by a thoroughly cohesive group of organizers, local artists and funders to contemporary art in the city. The plan for downtown El Paso revitalization that will focus on the strength of the arts, both visual and performing, in creating a thriving urban center. Under director Kate Bonansinga, the consistently strong exhibition programming at the Stanlee & Gerald Rubin Center for the Visual Arts is a standout. This ranges from thoughtfully positioned shows, distinct from more historical approaches to modernism, such as Matta: The Eye of a Surrealist to amazing contemporary shows like the current Multiplicity: Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture . In its two-year history, the Rubin Center has become an essential part of local art dialogue.” –Ben Fyffe

TX tumbleweed


Hopes, desires and changes you see in the future for the state and/or your community?

“I hope that the growing arts communities throughout our state can become more actively involved with one another and increase inter-city relations. Somehow I believe these efforts will continue to intensify and strengthen the Texas arts scene, which ultimately will increase our visibility on the national radar.” –Julie Kinzelman

“Yes — I’d like to see Texas open its borders! I think we focus waaay too much on Texas-this and Texas-that. It gets a little tiresome (sorry y’all). As my dear husband Gabriel once said: If Texas won’t be interested in anywhere else, why should anywhere else be interested in Texas?” –Regine Basha

“I hope that more galleries in Dallas will take more chances (in terms of politics, form and medium). I hope that a collector base can step up and follow their gut, maybe even leading dealers into uncharted territory. I hope that Texas leads the way in the November elections to take down the Republican majority. I hope that a Jewish Cowboy is governor of this state. I hope that artists embrace politics and that politics embraces artists.” –Noah Simblist

“After six years in Houston, my biggest shock is that a city this size still does not have a contemporary museum dedicated to building a world-class international collection of the art of our time, and that no Houston university department offers an MA or PhD in art history.” –Christopher French

“I wish the Texas art world would lose its own self-celebrating/self-accepting identity as the state with a sense of ironic redneck pride and/or a fake down-home simpleness.” –Thomas Feulmer

“I hope the new curator from New Orleans, David Rubin, will breathe fresh life into the stuffy San Antonio Museum of Art. Perhaps he will bring experimental film to the dusty cinema in that beautiful building? Just a somnambulistic wish. I also hope that Southern Space Project gets resurrected, but everyone thinks ghost children haunt it. I’m also expecting great things from the new Ann Arbor transplant, the local experimental video/sound collective known as Potter Bellmar Labs.” –Michelle Gonzalez Valdez

“I’d like to see a greater sense of connection and dialogue between the institutions and practicing artists in Houston; exhibitions and curatorial efforts that more vigorously put Texas-based artists in conversation with an international/national context; more enthusiasm to create casual critical forums to discuss contemporary art; a greater commitment to supporting venues and projects that are removed from the typical systems of patronage in Houston (like CSAW and Lawndale); and increased coverage of area shows in national publications.” –Michelle White

“I hope that the bar will continue to be raised, and that another not-for-profit space might appear that isn’t so rinky-dink as existing ones (speaking for Dallas). I hope that the new galleries will thrive and continue to draw attention from elsewhere. I hope that we’ll see less glitter/appliqué art and more hard-hitting conceptualism, rigorous brave painting and kick-ass video, any of which could hold up anywhere.” –Titus O’Brien

“As important elections come up, I hope that the open-minded ‘family values’ particular to the San Antonio art community can somehow permeate the San Antonio scene as a whole. I hope artists will soon be banding together to take on important issues at crucial times. I also hope that more artists will begin to buy homes, gallery spaces and studio space on the East Side. It’s already begun, but an artist presence would be a welcome addition to the beautification of the area and the sense of community that already exists there.” –Catherine Walworth

“My hopes for this area of West Texas are that we will continue to expand our vision for the visual arts and visual artists by continued support and encouragement of various artistic endeavors. We will garner the well-deserved national attention for our outstanding artistic institutions. We will foster the development of future generations of artists and community members who value the arts through continuing educational programs through the public schools, as well as through artistic institutions (through art classes, teacher education classes, etc.).” –Angie Cook

“I’d like to see greater communication between El Paso artists and other cities, and definitely more self-promotion. Because of our geographical location at the edge of Texas, many of the exciting emerging artists here fly under the radar of established galleries, writers and curators in Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Antonio and Austin. Because of the Internet, that has changed slowly, but definitely not fast enough.” –Ben Fyffe

Images courtesy GT.

All interviews were conducted and compiled via email by Rachel Cook.

also by GT contributors

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