“Whose Kombucha Am I Drinking?”: 24 Hours in Austin

Glasstire intern and University of Houston MFA candidate Lauren Moya Ford heads back to Austin…

Domy Books Austin is currently displaying Matt Lock’s “Hammer of Power”. Though the small drawings are meant to evoke a complex cosmology of menacing warriors, these haphazard 80s-style cartoon rascals and goofy booties are too dull to threaten us with a cruel dystopian world. Lock’s familiar characters and formulaic hand are exactly what we’ve come to expect from any youngster in a darkened dorm room with a notebook.


City Limits, 2012, Matt Lock

More importantly:


“The artist will be present at the opening.” Call me crazy, but anyone who styles himself as an androgynous goth clown is more exciting than tedious doodles scribbled out between bong rips.

“Hybrid Forms” at Arthouse AMOA-Arthouse is a small group show of recent cross-disciplinary works taking Nam June Paik’s altered analog 1963 TV as a conceptual starting point.


Zen for TV,  2000, Nam June Paik

In Kurt Mueller’s American Dream (2008), the viewer/participant stands before a mic and reads MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech karaoke-style, complete with applause. The piece is so poignant you wish you would have thought of it first. As in the Menil’s “Silence” exhibition, Mueller’s work stands out. In Diana Thater’s fours suns videowall (2000), the space bodies transfix and threaten with their soft ethereal glow. It’s a jazzy-looking show; check it out.


fours suns videowall, Diana Thater, 2000

The Blanton has two compelling works on display by contemporary Latin American artists, both from 2008: Espiritú Guardián by Matias Duville (Argentinean), and Fortuna 7 by Pablo Vargas Lugo (Mexican). In Fortuna 7, Lugo arranges coins from various countries and time periods into the constellations of Orion, Taurus, Auriga, and Gemini. The scattered metal floating on simple felt creates a seductive sublimity.


Fortuna 7, Pablo Vargas Lugo, 2008; Detail

The Blanton’s “Go West! Representations of the American Frontier,” doesn’t reveal anything new about our perceptions of the West. Mustachioed young buckaroos ride eternally into dusky landscapes and Native Americans chill separately in peaceful goldenrod and lilac scenery. The colossal upheaval between these two civilizations is not represented; the two groups aren’t even hung in the same room. This show reinforces the same notions of the West that I learned in 7th grade Texas History: heroicize the trigger-happy, slave-owning white dudes and gloss over the existence of any nearby brown bodies.

Luis Alfonso Jiménez’s Progress II reinforces and subverts the bombastic horn-tooting of the exhibition. With its dynamic action and glowing red animal eyes, Jiménez’s enormous fiberglass sculpture could very well be a ride at Fiesta Texas. Its reference to the history of vaqueros and its material tie to fabrication and industry displays Jimenez’s conceptual acuity. This interesting example of Chicano art, a recent gift to the Blanton from an anonymous donor, seems to have snuck its way into the white cube.


Progress II, Luis Alfonso Jiménez, 1976/1999; Detail

The two shows at Mexic-Arte, “Serie Print Project XIX” and “YLA 17: Grafficanos”, made me cringe. Despite being a group show, the imagery of “Serie” is uniformly pervaded by the tired tropes of sugar skulls, La Guadalupana and bleeding hearts. By recycling a handful of predictable images, the artists participate in and actively contribute to the essentialization of the Mexican American community. For work that is meant to deal with the experience of Mexican American life today, these works make no political or artistic gains; the artists hone their technical skills while leaving the content on autopilot. Far from representing new moves in ‘Young Latino Art’, “Grafficanos” neuters any youthful energy by repeating this voluntary oversimplification of Mexican American identity. In Niz’s large stencil piece India (2012), a woman with anglicized features wearing makeup and generic ‘indigenous’ dress hikes up a leg. Niz’s superfluous graphic design elements and vapidly pretty women effectively disarm any regard for the still- complex world of indigenous peoples’ and women’s rights.

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The least obvious of these works in terms of imagery are Eddie Castro’s large cartoony popsicle sculptures, The Paletas del Futuro Series (2012). In the end they are still paletas, everyone’s favorite stereotypically Mexican sweet treat. James Huizar, curator of “Grafficanos,” has a print in the “Serie” show that blatantly conflates the Aztec ‘calendar’ with the Mayan doomsday myth. Unsophisticated and culturally incorrect representations like this disrespect the complexity of Mexican American and larger Latino history, identity, and experience. Why does Mexic-Arte insist on reinforcing such a narrow vision of identity? Does it gain something if the art of the walls resembles the tchotchkes it sells in the gift shop?

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Lauren Moya Ford is a Houston artist. She received her BFA and BA from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a current MFA candidate at the University of Houston.

also by Lauren Moya Ford

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5 responses to ““Whose Kombucha Am I Drinking?”: 24 Hours in Austin”

  1. Finally the best article ever written on glassstire ever.

  2. Please write more articles. Love your honesty.

  3. I liked the cartoony popsicle sculptures at Mexic-Arte.

  4. Very honest and direct review! Houston and Austin both need more in the critical department like you.

  5. What Franko said. Thank you Lauren! Can’t wait to see more from you.

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