Scope out UT’s fabulous ‘Collections’ as it goes free and digital

One of the most beautiful and compelling books to come out of Austin in many a year is “The Collections,” an encyclopedic account of the 170 million artifacts preserved by the University of Texas.

It’s a big one. The doorstop, released in January 2016, comes in at 720 oversized pages. I’ve browsed through it incessantly and have cooked up some tasty stories from its contents, derived from more than 80 collections of art and artifacts over a wide range of subjects.

Wonder of wonders: It’s now available for free digitally.


If you prefer the hard copy, the list price is $125.

RELATED: ‘Collections’ highlights unusual and historic objets held at UT.

“This is the first time a publication of this kind has been produced by a public university,” said Andrée Bober, the book’s editor and director of the university’s public art program, Landmarks. “By making it available for free and online, we are putting the collection before a greater public. It’s our hope that this digital edition will increase awareness of these materials and inspire other universities to make their collections known.”

Bober conceived this survey and organized more than 350 individuals to lend their expertise. She’s an enormous asset to the university, to say the least.

Famed Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, sending works to Austin

The news broke early this morning that Ai Weiwei, among the world’s most influential artists, would send two monumental works to Austin.


Ai Weiwei - Forever Bicycles.jpg

We offer a snippet to Austin Arts:

“The extraordinary, long-term loans — no end dates have been announced — were arranged by the Contemporary Austin and the Waller Creek Conservancy with help from a $1.1 million grant from the Edward and Betty Marcus Foundation. Family-friendly activities are scheduled for the Waller Creek site from 10 a.m. to noon June 3.

“This project taps into one of my greatest passions — bringing art directly to the public in ways and in places that they may not expect it,” said Louis Grachos, director and CEO of the Contemporary Austin. “When I started at the Contemporary, I spoke of creating a ‘Museum Without Walls,’ and these projects with Ai Weiwei are exactly what I dreamed of bringing to Austin: works that inspire wonder while addressing important social and political issues that affect us all.”

Step right up to the Fusebox Festival

The Fusebox Festival tackles big ideas like the border and health care through the arts. And it starts April 12.

RELATED: Lighting a creative fire through the Fusebox Festival.

House of Kenzo
San Antonio art collective House of Kenzo will perform at Al Volta’s Midnight Bar on April 12 as part of the Fusebox Festival. Contributed

To get you started, here’s a teaser from our preview of the fest.

“There really isn’t anything else quite like the Fusebox Festival.

First, admission is free. You could stop right there. How do they do that?

(Answer: A combination of gifts, grants and elbow grease.)

Further, the hybrid Austin gathering, which returns April 12-16 to multiple locations, doesn’t just present vanguard artists from here and around the world. It urges them to engage with their audiences around the big ideas of the day.

For instance, this year multiple acts will dig into border concerns, and others will explore the state of community health. That’s the kind of thoughtful strategy you would expect from something like the Texas Tribune Festival, but it might surprise some to see it at an offbeat arts fest.

PHOTOS: Hybrid Austin event Fusebox Festival tackles big ideas through art

“We’re very aware that other organizations are much better equipped in this moment to tackle different parts of the border issue,” says Fusebox founder and captain Ron Berry. “This is true of any issue. We do think the arts are uniquely positioned to foster cultural exchange and collaboration; to engage our imaginations and create out-of-the-box thinking and possibilities; and to hold multiple viewpoints simultaneously.”

It should be noted that Fusebox is not just about big-brain ideas.

“For me, one of the things I’ve always loved about festivals is that they are — or can be — places for discovery,” Berry says. “Sometimes that’s simply hearing a new band that you didn’t know anything about. … I get such a jolt when I learn about a new artist that excites me.”

The art stars came out for the Blanton Gala

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

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.

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.

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.

Nine days left for free admission to Umlauf Sculpture Garden

Thanks to its fundraising efforts during the citywide Amplify Austin campaign, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum is offering free admission — but just through Aug. 31.

Next to Zilker Park, the museum’s six-acre grounds and exhibit pavilion have dozens of sculptures made by Charles Umlauf, the late modernist artist and University of Texas art professor

For a special exhibit, Umlauf museum curators have re-created the artist’s studio in the museum gallery:, “Studio in the Museum: An Interactive Recreation of Charles Umlauf’s Studio”

Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Road

And check out the Austin360 interactive map of arts and culture museums.


Lotus, 1960, bronze Among the most popular sculptures in the Garden, Lotus (the Egyptian goddess of fertility) was modeled after a hippopotamus in the San Antonio Zoo.
“Lotus,” 1960, bronze
Among the most popular sculptures in the Umlauf Garden, Lotus (the Egyptian goddess of fertility) was modeled after a hippopotamus in the San Antonio Zoo.

Choose your own interactive tour of Austin’s arts scene

We know. There’s lots to do in Austin. And whether you’re new to town or have been here for years, Austin’s ever-exploding arts scene can sometimes overwhelm.

Not to worry. We’ve got it all laid out for you to peruse with several interactive, easy-to-use map guides that will get you out and seeing things.


Print Austin fest at the Canopy arts complex
Print Austin fest at the Canopy arts complex in East Austin




Umlauf Museum recreates sculptor’s studio

For 50 years, sculptor and seminal University of Texas art professor Charles Umlauf lived on a bluff above Barton Springs Road where he maintained a studio in which he created his figurative modernist sculptures that brought him significant national attention.

USE THIS PHOTO ON TOP OF THREE SAME SIZE LEDE 03.22.13 -- A path leads to the Umlauf studio with its high, north-facing windows. Alberto Martínez AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A path leads to the Umlauf studio with its high, north-facing windows. Alberto Martínez AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Before his death in 1994, Umlauf donated his property to the city. And on the parcel below the bluff, the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum opened in 1991.

Yet his bluffside studio and home stayed private. And Umlauf’s studio remained untouched, materials and tools in place as if the artist had simply stepped out.

We were allowed into Umlauf’s studio for a story in 2013, a year after the sculptor’s widow died and the museum took formal possession of the Umlauf home and studio.

 A work table in the Umlauf in the Umlauf studio. Alberto Martínez AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A work table in Umlauf’s studio. Alberto Martínez AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Now, in a creative undertaking, Umlauf museum curators have re-created the artist’s studio in the museum gallery.

A pair of built-in vignettes of original tools, workbench, drafting table, sculpture stands and artwork pulled directly from Umlauf’s actual studio anchor the display. Interactive areas offer visitors the chance to try out their sculpting skills and create a portrait of Charles Umlauf in clay.

“Studio in the Museum: An Interactive Recreation of Charles Umlauf’s Studio”
Museum hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Exhibit continues through Oct 16
Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Road 



And check out our guide and map of Austin’s museums.



“Whatever Lola” to close “Gently Fried” exhibit

On Thursday, artist Katelena Hernandez Cowles will reprise the performance aspect of “Whatever Lola” at the closing reception for “Gently Fried,” the fresh group exhibit curated by the collective Los Outsiders and presented at the Mexican-American Cultural Center.

Just as “Gently Fried” skewers issues surrounding gentrification, so does “Whatever Lola” poke at cultural stereotypes in spirited and very entertaining manner.

Katelena Hernandez Cowles in "Whatever Lola"
Katelena Hernandez Cowles in “Whatever Lola”

Cowles’ 12-foot  moving sculpture — the Lola Cage — serves as both set and costume as the artist and three other performers take turns singing the sultry torch songs made famous by mid-century Latina stars such as Rita Hayworth, Carmen Miranda, Lupe Velez and Dolores del Rio.

Cowles and the performers — all of whom vary in age, body type and gender — wear identical replicas of Rita Hayworth’s costume in the film Gilda, which attaches directly to fabric elements of the Lola Cage.

The name of Cowles’ piece is a reference to the song “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets”  from 1958 musical Damn Yankees, in which a non-Latina character mimicks a Latina stereotype for comic effect.

Cowles’ steel “Lola Cage” has a 22-foot wingspan, with six moving petals that run on two winches and a system of pulleys. Lit by a crystal chandelier, it weighs approximately 3500 pounds.

“Gently Fried” recently netted the 2014-2015 Austin Critics Table Award for Outstanding Group Exhibition.

“Gently Fried” closing reception and “Whatever Lola” performance
When: Reception 7 to 8:30 p.m. with performances beginning at 8:30 p.m., June 11
Where: Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.

Lola 2015-04-19 back magic