Wet Hot Austin Summer at Martha’s, July 22–August 19, 2023
Every time I return to Austin, I am reminded of what I am missing in Dallas. Wet Hot Austin Summer, a group show at Martha’s in Austin’s Hyde Park neighborhood, opened with a lively reception to match the fresh work on view. Summer group shows are one way that galleries manage the trial of Texas’ heat; a grouping of new work by invited artists invigorates viewers during an otherwise sweltering time of year. Indeed, the press release for Wet Hot Austin Summer states simply: “It’s too hot to think….too hot to write…”
Alyssa Kazew, a multi-hyphenate artist working in several distinct fields (photography, painting, and resin casting), has the crispest craftsmanship I have seen in a long time. While the trajectory of painting and ceramics has leaned toward crumbly, squishy subjectivity, Kazew does not sacrifice resolution for pastiche. While Kazews’ affect feels quite intentionally millennial, and sometimes aloof, it does not sacrifice resolution. Take her photographs on view here, Blondes, which shows two women being styled as they engage in intimate touch, and Scary Movie, which features the slasher film’s screaming mask covered in butterflies. Kazew’s vision with photography is magnificent.
Eamon Ore-Giron: Competing with Lightning / Rivalizando con el relámpago, at The Contemporary Austin Jones Center, March 3, 2023–August 20, 2023
In Ore-Giron’s painting Cookin’ 1, the artist depicts his aunt and cousin in the act of making humitas, which is ground maize formed into a dough that is steamed in plant leaves, much like tamales. The two figures have skin and hair that is similar to the color of corn: a dark gold. They stand over a mixing bowl in a kitchen, with wisps of clouds encircling them as if to suggest they are as big as mountains. The ordinary, domestic task feels holy, unbeknownst to them. The cuisine is Peruvian, as are some of the aesthetic fixtures of this show. Between Ore-Giron’s figures, painted flatly, and his grand geometric compositions in similar desert color schemes, the artist blends the narrative of what is modern and what is ancient about beauty.
Audrey Rodriguez: Tastes of Home, at Mclennon Pen Co. Gallery, June 16–July 28, 2023
Audrey Rodriguez is from Port Isabel, the southernmost point along the Texas Coast, and her ancestral background is Honduran and Mexican. Most of the paintings in this exhibition depict Rodriguez’s current home, New York City, although there are a couple examples closer to the homeland: a restaurant in Mexico and civilians in Brownsville. Rodriguez’s subject matter is the qualities of Latin foods — the carts that distribute them, the trays they sit on, and the environment that surrounds them, whether it is their locale of origin or a more foreign place. Most of these paintings examine the food from the outside, but one work, Feed the Hustle, depicts a New York City intersection viewed from inside a food cart.
In one painting, Made Sterile, ripened bananas sit next to a miniature maquette of a female pelvis. Pesticides used in the cultivation of bananas are very potent, and have caused reproductive health issues for the female workers who harvest them. In another work, Still Life with Churros on a Subway Platform, plastic covers the sweet confections which are being sold in the dim and grimy setting of the New York City subway. In Rodriguez’s work, food is tradition and process. Food is also the mark of nature made subject to the shifts and changes within society.
Titles, at Northern-Southern, July 14–August 20, 2023
Northern-Southern’s organizer, Phillip Niemeyer, seems to have a penchant for arranging thoughtful group shows of modest size, so that the connections between all the artists and their contributions can speak clearly. This was the case at the second weekend of programming for Titles, a group show in which seven artists were asked to contribute works made in contemplation of a piece of literature of their choosing. Classics, comics, zines, and poetry are represented among this grouping, and some of the artists discussed their work at a public event in the gallery on July 23.
For her contribution to the exhibition, Sarah Fagan drew inspiration from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, one of the most famous romance novels of all time. Fagan took it upon herself to make a visual index of every mention of a color within the book, and to represent them as small, painted wooden blocks, which sport the same height and width ratio as the edition of the book she read. “It almost felt like it was made to become a movie one day,” Fagan said at the reception, commenting on Brontë’s descriptive prose.
During Fagan’s resolve to visually describe all mentions of color within the novel, subsequent questions arose: “Is ‘blushing’ a color word?” Blushing is an act that, by definition, contains color. However, Fagan decided to rely on words that are purely meant to describe color, rather than objects (like “orange,” as in the fruit, or “marigold,” as in the flower) or actions. This process led her through a research project of understanding colors of the Victorian era, and she built a color chart to aid what her final installation would look like. As a result, the work is a matrix of wooden panels, split in two sections to mimic the form factor of a book spread open, with all of the different color blocks arranged in their chronological order of appearance within Jane Eyre. It is a methodological examination of how we read descriptions, and the implicit limitations within literature.
William Sarradet is the Assistant Editor for Glasstire.