Home > Article > Top Five August 13, 2015

This week, Christina and Rainey get sidetracked on a conversation about how artists need to get out of school and stay out of school.


henning early awnings

1. Henning Bohl with Sergei Tcherepnin: Early Awnings
Blaffer Art Museum (Houston)
May 29 – September 5

An exhibition featuring an immersive installation of sculptures, drawings, and sounds by German artist Henning Bohl and American artist Sergei Tcherepnin.


homo arigato trecartin

2. Homo Arigato: SIBLING TOPICS (Ryan Trecartin)
Alamo Drafthouse @ the Ritz (Austin)
August 19, 2015 | 6:45–8 pm

A film by video artist Ryan Trecartin. In Sibling Topics (2009), four sisters (played by Trecartin) go through various stories that include romance, personal history, and spontaneous encounters. These events ultimately lead to the destruction of their family unit.


christie blizard mcnay

3. Artists Looking at Art: Christie Blizard
McNay Art Museum (San Antonio)
August 13 – September 30
Artist Talk: August 13, 6:30–7:30PM

An exhibition/lecture by Christie Blizard, a San Antonio-based artist. Blizard’s recent work has focused on popular culture, specifically, pop-up guerrilla performances where she and others hold up paintings in the crowd of the Today show and Good Morning America. These gestures aim to disrupt the typical flow of televised entertainment.


only knowledge worth possessing grayduck

4. The Only Knowledge Worth Possessing
grayDUCK Gallery (Austin)
August 14 – September 13
Opens August 14, 7–10PM

An exhibition with works by nine artists who participated in The Contemporary Austin’s Crit Group 2015 program. This show includes work in all media and explores the notions of authorship, the surveillance of bodies, and the politics of digital processes.


torres clear lake

5. Bernadette Esperanza Torres: Blooming Dreams and Fading Memories
University of Houston, Clear Lake Art Gallery
August 14 – October 22
Reception August 13, 5–7PM

An exhibition of ceramic sculptures that serve as autobiographical narratives of the artist.

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28 Responses

    1. Rainey Knudson

      Wait… who are you?


      Respectfully, I must disagree with you: a critique group outside of school organized by an exhibiting institution (one of the only two institutions locally for contemporary art) is problematic.

      Why is this problematic? Well, why are continuing ed classes for artists about how to make money or how to market themselves or how to write grants or how to survive problematic? They are, because by the time you’ve gotten your training and hopefully read and digested and spat out Derrida and hopefully are aware of work from the early 1970s so you don’t verbatim repeat 40-year-old conceptual art ideas–well, hopefully by this point you don’t need a museum to set up a crit group for you. Because a) hopefully you have learned to self-edit; and b) hopefully you have a trusted group of smartass artists around you who won’t let you get away with flaccid ideas.

      And I realize I may sound like an old bag, but what bothers me about a lot of work these days is that there feels like there’s barely any institutional critique that is real, and that is dangerous. It’s all safe and headed for a biennial, or at least an art fair hopefully, somewhere. Some of this has to do with the cost of higher education in America. Some of this has to do with the dismal state of intellectual discourse in our country. Some of it has to do with a left/progressive arena that has become alarmingly reactionary and cripplingly conformist.

      Me, I blame Nancy Reagan, Pell grants, and the Internet.



      p.s. Hi there. Glad to see you here.

      1. Sam Sanford

        Hi Rainey,

        I’m confused: are you saying that educational institutions should be training artists to practice institutional critique?


        1. Rainey Knudson

          Hi Sam,

          a) Good point — I let my ranting get the better of me and switched topics mid-stream.

          b) I expect educational institutions–and by that I mean studio art programs–to train artists to know their history (including local history), to know their theory, to know how to draw (that’s right, I said it), and to provide training in a wide variety of materials (or access to other departments on campus with those materials, for example if an artist is interested in biotech or broadcasting or large animal veterinary medicine). I don’t expect educational institutions to teach students how to survive, to “foster interdisciplinary collaboration,” or to “practice” anything, institutional critique or otherwise.

          But then again, I never attended art school myself, so I’d be curious as to what people who did think on the subject.

        1. Rainey Knudson

          Oftentimes with the Top Five, we need to discuss shows we haven’t seen because they haven’t opened yet. Such was the case with this show. So while we were keen on a few of these artists, it made for a more interesting video to just include our lengthy crit-of-the-crit-group and see whether people disagreed.

          (Full disclosure: I still haven’t seen the show, but I think our assistant editor Brandon Zech has.)

  1. Clement Greenberg

    I see why you wanted a venue change now! Very smart indeed! Nice throwing out what one might learn in a studio program you never attended while telling folks what they should get out of their institutions that you aren’t a part of or associated with. Very brilliant these two. The hecklers that’d don’t wish to be heckled but on their own turf. Hot air and nothing more.

  2. Clement Greenberg

    You tell me oh wise one? I think they are failing and I think alternatives are fine. And I usually try to know what the hell I’m talking about before I start babbling in public. Stick to what you know man. There are plenty of Houston and Dallas folk that are waiting for your commentary with bated breath. If you want to talk about a show then go see it. If you want to trash a program why don’t you do your homework? If you claim to have I journalistic integrity then put in the leg work. No one in Austin feels the need to take up space in your flimsy top 5 because you a) wanted to use the spot as a backhanded compliment or b) needed a place holder because “top 4” doesn’t sound as cool.

    Sorry, I don’t know why this says “Clement Greenberg” I just can’t seem to figure out this pesky comment section!

    Kisses and hugs,
    Chris Whiteburch

  3. Rebecca Marino

    Hi Rainey,

    Brandon did see the show, and it was great to meet and talk with him. He’s fantastic and I’m hoping that you’ll utilize his position for your publication and send him to Austin (and beyond) often.

    While I think it is entirely valid to criticize the mechanics of a program, this critique was wildly out of touch (hence the outrage) and just proved (as it does time and time again) how very little you know about what is happening in the art community of Austin, TX. That is the real issue and grievance that people are trying to express. You’ve been doing this for a long time– do your due diligence as a journalist and research or just ignore us as usual.


    1. Rainey Knudson

      Hi Rebecca,

      What “due diligence” do you think I haven’t done to express an opinion about a crit program at a museum? What do you think I don’t know or understand about this program? Whether it’s been meaningful to the participating artists (and I’m sure it has for some) is irrelevant to my opinion that artists should try to be self-reliant and not depend on institutional support. And I would say the same thing in the context of a crit group show at any museum, in any city.

      Somewhat off-topic, I sense sometimes that people want the Top Five to have rules, the main one being uniformity and predictability: that we are all excited about all the shows on the list. But the Top Five has no rules. We pick what we think is most compelling any given week, mostly for good reasons, but occasionally for negative reasons. Among ourselves, we never pick all the same shows. There is disagreement. There’s give and take. We pick shows that we think are going to be good, or at least that have piqued our curiosity. We pick shows that inspire trepidation. Shows that inspire something. Most of the time we haven’t seen these shows, because most of the time they haven’t opened yet — this project is very much about “what’s on our radar for this weekend.”

      Anyway, our comments about Crit Group as a phenomenon (not a show) stirred up this pot, and I’m glad they did — we’ve gotten valuable feedback (we hear you loud and clear on the real issue and grievance) and I sincerely appreciate everyone who’s commented.

      – R

      p.s. We are always looking for good writers — and we pay! Our guidelines are at the bottom of our about us page: http://glasstire.com/about-us/

      1. Rebecca Marino

        Thanks for the response, Rainey. I am also appreciative of the conversation that has stemmed from this, because I truly believe in the importance of this dialogue.

        Just to answer your questions regarding what you haven’t done to be able to express your opinion about a crit program running through a museum aka the due diligence of researching before discussing…You make a lot of assumptions and generalizations in this video that compare the program to that of an MFA program or an extension of such (since it is through an institution such as The Contemporary). The problem I see here is that The Contemporary has developed a framework specifically to prevent that, such as bringing in voices outside the institution to lead the program (Sarah Bancroft and Andy Campbell) who encourage a collaborative environment amongst the artists themselves. The program is almost completely responsive to what the specific artists want/need from the program (as opposed to providing a syllabus or academic framework).

        The Contemporary as an institution is simply providing a. a venue and b. an exhibition opportunity (which is technically actually provided by Grayduck gallery). Do you see what I mean? Would you express the same kind of opinion regarding an residency program? I just think that an artist’s desire to improve their personal practice should be encouraged, regardless of how they seek to do so. And the fact that The Contemporary provides an opportunity to specifically to break that institutional barrier as a way to improve transparency, well I just find that to be beneficial all around and really in complete opposition to what I assume you find the issues with.

        All that being said, thank you again for taking the time to engage in this conversation and for acknowledging again, what the real issue is here.

      2. Rainey Knudson

        Rebecca, it’s interesting that you bring up residencies, because part of our (very lengthy) conversation that ended up on the cutting room floor was on that topic. And yes: I would certainly say the same thing about residencies, or at least about residency-hopping, which has become a way for some artists to avoid having to survive so they can network their way towards what is commonly referred to as an “art career.”

        That said, residency programs as an occasional experience for artists can be wonderful, and they can also very effectively seed the local art world with new energy and ideas. Witness Artpace or the Core program, many of whose artists stayed on in Texas (including our former editor Bill Davenport).

        And now to the nit-picking: you say I made incorrect assumptions about this program because a crit group at a museum is different from a crit group at a university. You say it’s different first because the instructors (sorry, the “voices”) who lead it are “outside” the institution. I do assume that Bancroft and Campbell are paid by the Contemporary for this job–they’re not doing it for free–in which case they are paid contractors who receive a 1099 tax form. How is that different from many non-tenured instructors at universities? Seems like you’re really splitting hairs…

        You also say I’m incorrect not to acknowledge that the Contmporary’s crit group doesn’t have a syllabus, meaning artists can do whatever they want, right? How is that meaningfully different from what upper-level MFAs experience?

        Lastly, our editorial mandate at Glasstire is not to be encouraging. Our editorial mandate is to bring some rigor and some humor to the Texas art scene. I’ve been working as an art publisher in Texas for 17+ years, and I love it here, but I’m certainly not going to say that everything, or even more than 10% of the work being made here, is truly great. It’s just not. Greatness is rare. It’s rare in Texas, it’s rare in Los Angeles, it’s rare in London–it’s rare everywhere. But it’s why we do this, because the discovery and defense of something great is thrilling. And because grappling with the ideas embodied in great art is one of the things that makes life worth living.

        1. Rebecca Marino

          Sure, sure. Just to be clear, I never said you were incorrect about anything (see above). I said you made a lot of assumptions and generalization. I’m not much of a hair-splitter, I was just trying to answer your questions to the best of my ability. But, I can be concise and straight-forward and simply say: it was very clear (and obviously I’m not alone here) that you both knew very little about this program before ranting on about it in a very decisive and derogatory way. And to me (and again, obviously others), that’s problematic/not informative/not rigorous/not humorous.

    2. Simon Shamrock


      Legit grievance. But, it’s not like when Houston lost the Post, Glasstire is not the only news source for what you are looking for. Bloggers like God Pan or the sleeping giant (IMO) Arts and Culture are there to discuss things that aren’t the simple flavor of Glasstire staff. Don’t waste your time disliking them, you obviously still check in from time to time, like an ex-boyfriend slowly driving by the old regular spot, “maybe she will be there”. Well guess what, even if “she is there”, or they do write about you, it doesn’t matter.

      1. islandofmind


        Based on my observations over the last few months, the “Sleeping Giant” reads like a collection of press releases. Without regard to the “rightness” or “wrongness” of anything written on Glasstire, they’re not afraid of being critical. Light ’em up Glasstire! You’re right about The Great God Pan. Love it!

  4. Katie Geha

    It seems to me (and it always has) that this show has a lot less to do with the Ivory Tower and a lot more to do with the Contemporary wanting to engage the local community without realllllly having to exhibit local (or even regional) artists on their premises (though to be fair, it seems a few Austin-based artists will be showing soon). This isn’t to suggest that they necessarily should show local talent, only that this always seemed to me a clever way to get around that issue.

    I never got an academic vibe from it. just another educational program to keep local folks engaged. Seems totally harmless to me.

    And as far as writing for Glasstire….you guys, trust me, the pay is good!

  5. I’m not familiar with this crit group and I haven’t seen the show, but as someone who is 1-2 years out of grad school, I definitely have ambivalent feelings about what you’re saying. Sure, in theory having these kinds of crit groups can feel like safe, sheltered extensions of school that in turn generates safe, risk-free work in manufactured environments. On the other hand, given the harrowing statistics of grad students who stop making work within a year of graduation, are these types of programs–training wheels and all–necessarily such a bad thing? To no longer have that sense of trust, discussion, and comfort while in school can feel like a big, isolating loss. But I do agree, it can also provide a false sense of security and prevent the kind of growth, and more importantly, failure, that is so integral to maturing as an artist.

    BTW- pretend my name is spelled Hewitt. That’s what it sounds like. Although Hoo-WEET sounds way cooler. Ha!

      1. Oh don’t worry about it! You and pretty much everyone ever in life who has tried to pronounce my name has gotten it wrong…part of the fun is hearing the weird iterations people come up with! Glad yall put Early Awnings in the top five though, it deserves it.

      2. Rainey Knudson

        Thanks for being a good sport. (and yes, as someone who’s often referred to as “Mr. Randy Nudson” I feel your pain)

  6. Lily Cox-Richard

    “Our editorial mandate is to bring some rigor and some humor to the Texas art scene.”

    I’ll admit, that statement is down-right hilarious.

  7. The Art Girl

    This is that time you will be able to count my log on in your activity log for your inane and immature editorials

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