Austin public art that pleases the public

There’s no telling which art will be readily embraced by the public.

But one can guess by the number of images that pop up online quickly.

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‘atx’ has attracted a lot of snaps in the western sector of downtown. Contributed.
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This tree-like sculpture floats like a cloud over Rock Rose in Domain Northside. Folks love it. Contributed by Community Impact.
'Spiral of the Galaxy' was an instant hit, especially with kids, in the plaza of the Dell Medical School. Contributed by CultureMap Austin.
‘Spiral of the Galaxy’ was an instant hit, especially with kids, in the plaza of the Dell Medical School. Contributed by CultureMap Austin.

Ballet Austin among Austin’s best

Don’t take the arts in Austin for granted. Because it wasn’t always this way.

During the past few weeks, I’ve rediscovered Austin’s arts. Not that I ignored them during the past 10 years. But with everything else going on in this city, it’s not easy to focus on one thing at a time.

I’m now reminded that Austin is home to first-rate symphony, opera, ballet and choral ensembles, along with equally potent theater, dance and performance troupes, art museums, community arts groups and public art projects.

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Edward Carr (Beast) and Michelle Thompson (Belle) in “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast.” Contributed by Tony Spielberg

Thirty years ago, Austin artists showed enormous creativity. The scene crackled with energy. But it lacked top leadership, revenues and facilities. Those have arrived — or are on the way.

EXAMPLE: A new museum in Austin: It’s called the Blanton.

A search of GuideStar.org reveals that, since the last time I checked 10 years ago, Austin arts groups have doubled, tripled or in some cases quadrupled their revenues.

No longer the skinny teen that needed reassurance and safeguarding. Rather the arts have reached a sort of gorgeous maturity that will always need steady reporting, storytelling and celebrating from all sorts of writers.

I was reminded of this at a matinee performance of Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux: A Tale of Beauty and the Beast,” packed as it was with every stripe of Austinite.

RELATED: Ballet Austin explores love, death and sex.

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Demetria and Reid Wilson at Ballet Austin’s “Belle Redux.” A dancer, she convinced him to attend. He was grateful she did.

I do not hesitate to call Stephen Mills‘ and Graham Reynolds‘ ballet a masterpiece. Every moment was riveting, ravishing. It dealt with the emotional residue of sex in a way that made me shiver and, in the end, weep.

After the show, an Austin artist approached me at the H-E-B.

“Thank you so much for writing about the ballet the other day,” she said. “I haven’t paid enough attention to them and your article made me want to go. I adored the show. I won’t ignore them from now on.”

My own reporting interests still encompass a wide swath of Austin — social, historical, literary, etc. — but I won’t blink when it comes to exalting the arts whenever appropriate.

The Met releases 350K digital images for free

NBCNEWS handled the recent and vast digitizing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collection with a handy and explanatory gallery. Smart move.

Here’s a sample of the free images:

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NBC: “Wheat Field with Cypresses, oil on canvas by Vincent van Gogh, 1889. Cypresses gained ground in Van Gogh’s work by late June 1889 when he resolved to devote one of his first series in Saint-Rémy to the towering trees.” Contributed by the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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NBC: “Christ Healing the Blind, oil on canvas by El Greco, circa 1570. El Greco painted this masterpiece of dramatic storytelling either in Venice or in Rome, where he worked after leaving Crete in 1567 and before moving to Spain in 1576. It illustrates the Gospel account of Christ healing a blind man by anointing his eyes. The two figures in the foreground may be the blind man’s parents.” Contributed by Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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NBC: “The Harvesters, oil on wood by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1565. This panel belongs to a series and the cycle originally included six paintings showing the times of the year. Bruegel’s series is a watershed in the history of western art, the religious pretext for landscape painting has been suppressed in favor of a new humanism.” Contributed by Metropolitan Museum of Art.

 

 

The art stars came out for the Blanton Gala

Not many galas come with two big stars. Make that three.

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Michael and Jeanne Klein, honorees at the 2017 Blanton Gala. Michael Barnes/American-Statesman

One obvious star attraction at the opulent Blanton Gala was the rehung permanent collection. In a mixture of formal and gallery attire, guests promenaded up the grand staircase early in the evening to view the American, European, Latin American, video and special exhibit rooms. They looked fantastic, more clearly articulated and presented, along with almost twice as much art on display as in the past at the 10-year-old University of Texas art museum.

RELATED: A new Museum in Austin: It’s called the Blanton.

The other two stars shined as well. Folks from New York, Santa Fe, Dallas, San Antonio and especially Houston joined Austinites in celebrating the Blanton’s very special patrons — Michael and Jeanne Klein. These art collectors have been with the Blanton and director Simone Wicha every step of the way. They donated “Stacked Waters,” which transformed the museum’s rather chilly atrium, and they led the way in acquiring and building “Austin,” Ellsworth Kelly‘s campus retreat now under construction — it is expected to open in a year.

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Nina Katchadourian ‘Accent Elimination’ (2005) Six-channel video with sound, six televisions, three pedestals, 13:26 minutes. Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin. Promised gift of Jeanne and Michael Klein in honor of Director Simone Jamille Wicha’s ten-year anniversary at the museum, 2016

Not coincidentally, the Kleins, who enjoyed two rapturous standing ovations during the gala and gave a very funny speech in tandem, have promised to give a collection 28 videos to the Blanton. It includes works by Tania Bruguera, Isaac Julien, Pipilotti Rist and others. The museum will share ownership of pieces by Eve Sussman and Ana Mendieta with the Whitney Museum of American Art.

As part of the reinstallation, the Blanton has created a gallery — where the contemporary installations once stood next to the soon-to-be-delivered Meredith Lounge — dedicated to the ongoing display of video works. Its inaugural installation is artist Javier Téllez’s Letter on the Blind For the Use of Those Who See” (2007), one of the Kleins’ promised gifts to the Blanton.

Exhibit shows ‘Another Side’ of Austin graffiti artist

 

His graffiti has breathed life into Austin streets for more than 20 years. It’s been featured throughout Europe, in documentaries and group exhibits.

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Gallery assistant Corrie Ferguson works on hanging the identifying pins near the artwork of Nathan “Sloke One” Nordstrom at the Sam Z. Coronado Gallery at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. The show, titled “Another Side,” will open Saturday and run through March 25. DEBORAH CANNON/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

But after helping shape the local graffiti scene, native Austinite Nathan “Sloke One” Nordstrom has found another way to push the boundaries of the art form.

With his first large-scale solo show opening Feb. 4 at the Sam Z. Coronado Gallery at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, Nordstrom paves the way for local graffiti artists to move from the streets to the galleries.

“I think (the exhibit) can show emerging graffiti writers that if you continue to practice and develop your skills that it isn’t just limited to the streets, trains or rooftops,” he says. “Graffiti-inspired art can and does have a place in galleries.”

The exhibit “Another Side: Selected Works by Nathan Nordstrom AKA Sloke One” will feature photographs of his graffiti from the U.S. and abroad, graffiti pieces on canvas and graffiti-inspired abstract art, which will all be available for sale. …

We’re bringing the Austin Arts blog up to date by teasing to recent and still relevant arts stories on other American-Statesman and Austin360 pages.

This was a peek at Nancy Flores’ story on graffiti artist Nathan “Sloke One” Nordstrom.

Mexic-Arte murals aim to boost Latino presence, patrons

 

She’s Wonder Woman like you’ve never seen her before, with the words “peace,” “justice” and “respect” tattooed in Spanish on her forearm, chest and arm.

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The latest Fifth Street wall mural at Mexic-Arte features a Latina Wonder Woman with an environmental edge who gives passers-by tips on how to use less oil. Street artist Eleanor Herasimchuk, also known as Niz, is among the local artists who are part of the Mexic-Arte Museum’s El Mero Muro mural project. (Contributed by Sixto Juan Zavala)

The reimagined superhero, brought to life by stencil artist Eleanor Herasimchuk (better known as Niz), fiercely watches over downtown Austin from the Fifth Street and Congress Avenue wall on which she’s been painted.

Herasimchuk’s take on Wonder Woman is part of a new round of innovative, bilingual murals featured on Mexic-Arte Museum’s Fifth Street wall project called El Mero Muro. Museum officials expect to unveil at least seven new murals throughout the year aimed at boosting the Latino presence downtown and attracting new patrons after a 2015 report by market research firm Contemporanea found that many Latinos felt that museums across the country felt unfriendly, uninviting and expensive.

“While museums are broadly acknowledged as educational institutions, the personal relevance and importance of these institutions has not been established for many Latinos surveyed,” according to the report.

With a prominent Fifth Street wall that, according to Mexic-Arte, catches the eye of more than 35,000 drivers each day, the cultural arts museum knew it had a unique opportunity to address some of the report’s findings in a highly visible way.

“People say that downtowns are the living room of a community,” said Sylvia Orozco, the museum’s executive director. “We all need to feel welcome when we’re in the living room. People need to know that this is a place for them, and if they come in they’ll see and connect even more.” …

We’re starting to bring the Austin Arts blog up to date with recent and still relevant arts stories.

This is part of Nancy Flores’ article on graffiti at Mexic-Arte Museum.

A new museum in Austin: It’s called the Blanton

Here’s a taste of Sunday’s story about the seismic shifts at the Blanton Museum of Art.

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This large piece by Nigerian artist El Anatsui is two-sided. Viewers will now be treated to the previously unshown side. Contributed by Blanton Museum of Art

Stop. Look.

Now look closer.

That is what the Blanton Museum of Art urges you do after five years spent reimagining, planning and executing a complete rehang of the permanent collection at the 10-year-old University of Texas spot, beloved by locals, tourists and students alike.

Walking around the museum’s second floor in preparation for the official unveiling on Feb. 11 (gala) and Feb. 12 (general public), one notices that there is more art (almost twice as many pieces), a new emphasis on the collection’s strengths (works on paper, etc.), better routing (fewer pass-through corridors), a few rarely exhibited pieces (discovered in the vaults), more coherent groupings and explanations (in English and Spanish), completely new galleries (including ones dedicated to video, plus Pre-Columbian and Colonial Latin American), strikingly colorful wall tinting (to set off the Old Master paintings), more art in public spaces (jazzing them up) and a new focus on engaging each work of art.

“We have a new museum in Austin,” proclaims Director Simone Wicha. “I wanted the Blanton’s experience to represent the personality we embody at the museum — energetic, smart, fun, friendly, curious, sophisticated and collaborative. My challenge to the team was for us to reconsider the museum in a way that was more visually arresting, more thought-provoking and nationally innovative.”

Need a West Austin Studio Tour map? We got ’em

Catalogs to the East Austin and West Austin tours often seem as obtainable as unicorns.

Sure, you can try an Austin Public Library location which organizers use as free distribution locations. But catalogs there are disappearing as we near the first weekend of the tour.

And unfortunately a visit to tour organizer Big Medium’s web site doesn’t offer a downloadable map — at least not yet.

But we do! We got maps!

Here’s the official downloadable map for the 2016 West Austin Studio Tour

And be sure to check out first round of top picks to see on the tour.

And read our story about the intriguing, tiny Museum of Collectibles and Curiosities which is on this year’s tour.

 

Vintage tin toys on display at the Museum of Collectibles and Curiosities, a tiny backyard building devoted to the collectibles of the late Austin artist Patricia Brown.
Vintage tin toys on display at the Museum of Collectibles and Curiosities, a tiny backyard building devoted to the collectibles of the late Austin artist Patricia Brown.

 

 

In a new exhibit in Austin, the history of photography clicks forward

Among the more than 5 million items in its renowned photo collection, the University of Texas’ Ransom Center claims the world’s first photograph (made in 1826 or 1827) and keeps it on permanent display.

The center is particularly rich with photographs from 19th-century including the work Victorian pioneers such as Lewis Carroll and Julia Margaret Cameron.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Alice Liddell and her two sisters. Albumen print, c. 1859. Harry Ransom Center.
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Alice Liddell and her two sisters. Albumen print, c. 1859. Harry Ransom Center.

Thankfully the Ransom Center isn’t resting on its laurels.

In a new exhibit opening today, the research archive unveils some of its especially important recent acquisitions of contemporary innovators whose experiments with photographic process push the medium forward.

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Penelope Umbrico (American, b. 1957), Moving Mountains #108, from the series Range, 2015. Color inkjet print, 8 x 8 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Endowment in Photography © Penelope Umbrico

Starting today and continuing through May 29, nearly 200 photographs go on display for the first time in Look Inside: New Photography Acquisitions.

Photography curator Jessica S. McDonald has done a very admiral job of adding photographs to the collection that continue the story of what could be considered a very democratic art form.

McDonald unveils work made during particularly vibrant periods in the medium’s artistic evolution, such as the American “photo boom” of the 1960s and 1970s during which artist like Betty Hahn who shook up the formalities of the medium.

Betty Hahn (American, b. 1940), Starry Night Variation #2, from the series Who Was that Masked Man? I Wanted to Thank Him, 1977. Screenprint, 22 x 18 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Endowment in Photography © Betty Hahn Courtesy of Harry Ransom Center.
Betty Hahn (American, b. 1940), Starry Night Variation #2, from the series Who Was that Masked Man? I Wanted to Thank Him, 1977. Screenprint, 22 x 18 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the Charles and Elizabeth Prothro Endowment in Photography © Betty Hahn

Also now a part of the Ransom Center’s story of the history of photography are images by current artists like Alejandro Cartagena who offer a vision that is decidedly contemporary.

Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), Carpoolers 49, 2011–2012. Color inkjet print, 22 x 14 1/4 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the David Douglas Duncan Endowment for Photojournalism © Alejandro Cartagena
Alejandro Cartagena (Mexican, b. Dominican Republic, 1977), Carpoolers 49, 2011–2012. Color inkjet print, 22 x 14 1/4 in. Harry Ransom Center Collection, purchased with funds provided by the David Douglas Duncan Endowment for Photojournalism © Alejandro Cartagena

Admission to the Ransom Center is free and it’s open every day of the week.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays (Thursdays until 7 p.m.), noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Harry Ransom Center, 300 W. 21st St. hrc.utexas.edu

Free admission to Umlauf Sculpture Garden all summer

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Damian Priour’s “Pointed Sphere”

Leveraging the monies contributed through the annual Amplify Austin fund drive, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum is offering free admission all summer long.

And new to verdant grounds is “Pointed Sphere” (2005), a 30” diameter limestone and glass orb by the late Texas artist Damian Priour (1949-2011).

“Pointed Sphere” is  now permanently installed at the sculpture garden.

And to celebrate the arrival of “Pointed Sphere,” there’s a public reception from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 21.

The Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Road, is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

http://www.umlaufsculpture.org/