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Where I End, You Begin

Two Austin artists create one hell of a fine show

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., July 8, 2011

<i>Westen</i> by Leon Alesi
Westen by Leon Alesi

Hawkeye Glenn & Leon Alesi: 'Where I End, You Begin'

Butridge Gallery, 1110 Barton Springs Rd., 974-4000

Through July 29

The frames don't have to provide distinction to Leon Alesi's newest series of photographed images, don't have to offer an official membrane separating Art from Not-Art or one artist's work from another's. No, the light and color of the large portraits on the walls of the Butridge Gallery take care of that. The light and color of where each person's visuals were captured may not have been manipulated before or after the camera's shutter closed, but what Alesi presents us with – in rendering subjects like Karibou, like Westen, like Eleanor and Esme and Gary and the others – is light and color unlike anything from the room we're viewing this exhibition in. Even the unframed smaller portraits at either end of the long gallery, even those are deep with shape and shade, their subjects' occupancy of space revealed in nearly three-dimensional immediacy. Man's got a skill to him, sure enough.

And of course no frames are necessary to tell Alesi's work from that of his fellow artist, Hawkeye Glenn. That's because Glenn's works are three-dimensional, built from wooden beams and steel plates and ceramic bowls and doll parts, occupying much of the floor that Alesi's paintings surround.

There are a few big pieces in Glenn's part of this show, especially the assemblages of cinder blocks bedecked with ceramics and wooden beams bedecked with ceramics. Your reviewer, perhaps something of a philistine, looks at those assemblages and goes, "Hmmm, well, that's certainly a neat way to display one's ceramic creations, and it's obvious that much work went into the building of these things," but remains otherwise unencumbered by fascination. And there are a few planters or vaselike objects created by welding steel plates, and those are, well, yes, one could see them being touted at gardens or Big Red Sun. And the words "merely" and "solid" and "utilitarian" bubble up in one's mind, not dismissively but definitively.

But then there's Quetzacoatl's Closet.

There, in the middle of the gallery's western half: four heavy steel posts, perfectly joined, going from the floor to very near the ceiling. Four heavy steel posts, in the middle of which a hinged steel door is cut open to reveal a once-secret interior where a sort of cape of brass feathers hangs from a wooden branch. Quetzacoatl's Closet. Your reviewer, perhaps something of an acquisitive man, looks at this and goes, "Whoa, I need to win the lottery tomorrow, because I wish to enjoy the magnificence of this object in my own home for the rest of my earthly days," and remains just about stunned by the work's stark beauty.

And then, exiting the gallery, catches sight of what he'd missed while shielding eyes from the sun's glare upon entry: Glenn's Arrow, another huge work with a shaft built from a single wooden beam and fletchings made from carefully worked metal rods, looking as if some Brobdingnagian Robin Hood had shot it halfway into the cement walkway. Goddamn.

"Where I End, You Begin." Sure, but there needs to be some overlap. We need to see Alesi including a photo-portrait of Glenn in some show real soon, Glenn maybe welding a piece that suggests a photographer at work, two fine artists presenting as more of a unified whole, right? Next show, please? Guys?

Regardless, we'll be there, waiting to see what new excellence you've wrought.

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