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Working in a Social Void: Warren Oates in the Economic Crisis of 2008 at Okay Mountain


Warren Oates in the Economic Crisis of 2008 at Okay Mountain, curated by Dave Bryant, is not a terrible show. Individually, a number of pieces included were quite nice, especially a little subset of work that focused on circles in an almost mystical way. But despite the individual strengths of a small number of pieces in the show, this exhibition is infuriating.
Rachel Koper, in a very insightful review published by the Austin Chronicle said:
"With typical acumen, Bryant’s show title is snippy, topical, and dated. To these artists and many other working artists, capitalism and celebrity rarely align their goals with painterly ones. These artists are used to working in a social void, making art that applies to their own sensibilities regardless of larger cultural support."

I completely agree with her point about Bryant’s title, and I would go even further, extending that critique to how the different pieces on display relate to each other. Perhaps a lot of it is due to Bryant’s heavy-handed curatorial antics that veer way too far into curator-as-artist territory. There is nothing surprising or unexpected about this show. It’s typical Bryant fare. The title and loose thread that is supposedly running through the show feels like organizing a show in which artists are picked because they like pancakes. The press release for the show explains that "[p]articipating artists were not given Warren Oates as an assignment, but rather have been identified as being from the same cut as the actor," which makes it sound more like a highdea than a developed and thought-out premise.

Is this is what we are expected to call countercultural? The art and curatorial hand come off assolipsistic navel-gazing, it feels like giving up. It’s all dated, hegemonical (especially in this venue), affected, and even worse, terribly reactionary. The insistence of the art in this show to replicate the look of high school notebook doodles from the 70s, filtered through  Fecal Face circa ’03,  is a worrisome escapist fantasy that I am unwilling to accept or condone. Bryant, the curator-as-artist, seems uninterested in communicating ideas, engaging anyone outside of his social circle, or offering any alternatives, preferring instead to withdraw into a bubble where, by hook or by crook, things always stay the same.

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1 Response

  1. Bill Davenport

    “Denver City was little more than a stopover for miners to get supplied, and laid, on their way into the hills.” Doesn’t that make it, technically, a “layover”?

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