To mount an exhibition (even a three-parter) that represents all of what is going on in Texas art is probably impossible. Consider the mythology, the landscape, and the people of Texas: past and present, histories — often parallel and clashing. Thankfully, curators haven’t stopped trying. The critiques often leveled at a state biennials or “best of” shows isn’t just which art is included (or excluded). It’s the scope of a show, where and how long it’s on view, and how it’s presented.
44 Artists from Texas at the Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts (LHUCA) in Lubbock has quietly risen to the occasion. It is backed by an institution with some money and a track record, and the space allows for multiple works from many of the participating artists — works for which LHUCA paid the all the shipping costs, by the way, which is considerable in any exhibition of this size. Big work isn’t always better, but it certainly isn’t problematic on LHUCA’s ample wall space. Beyond the museum offering the artists autonomy, space (and money!) for their work, the range of material, style, and artists’ concerns have made for a solid exhibition. All three parts.
LHUCA curators Linda Cullum and Maisie Marie Alford championed artists with ties to Lubbock, and why wouldn’t they? William Cannings’ giant purple iridescent inflatable steel gun—complete with blow-up nozzles— is more than a selfie hotspot (though it was that, too, during First Friday crowds.) I see the appeal. Bang Bang is pure finish-fetish in form, surface, and symbology. Even the way it is made, with flat steel and automotive paint, is seductive and apt. I guess the idea behind this work is both muddied and exemplified by the innocent act of taking a selfie with a giant gun for a backdrop, in Texas, in the Panhandle. Is “innocent” the right word? Either way, this is a juicy piece of art.
These three shows, and especially the paintings, are worth gushing about: Nancy Lamb’s embellished elite partygoers with chiseled, folding skin lit by a camera flash; Howard Sherman’s huge stringy paintings with strips of what seems to be pleather and clunky representations of genitalia are humorous and little crude. Celan Bouillet’s tricky cut-outs are a surprise, thanks to the long walk from the main gallery into the studio gallery where, up close, the vision gives way to the stretched and painted canvas lattice, full of saccharine-sweet florals. Johan Barrios’ lifelike, life-size antiportraits of women obscured by pillows and comforters (pictured at top) are strange and uncomfortably familiar. James Zamora’s masterful and efficient repetitive scenes of grocery-store refrigeration aisles ask questions (about community, about consumption, about supply and demand) beyond their matter-of-fact presentation. Floyd Newsum’s chalky hieroglyphs punctuate slick atmospheres, nearly drowning the viewer with their weight.
To find distinctly Texan work could mean a lot of different things. We are a borderland and a coast, with a fever-pitch politic surrounding guns, vaccines, and a host of other things that pisses everyone off, one way or another. These 44 artists can’t, as a group or individually, address all of this, but somehow, in this three-part show, they come together and really do. For that, I thank them for answering the question of Texanness in unexpected ways.
Through Sept. 29, 2018 at Louise Hopkins Underwood Center for the Arts (LHUCA) in Lubbock