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'Randall Reid: Resurrecting the Past'

Old industrial signage bolted into steel frames make gorgeous testament to time's passage

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Nov. 30, 2012

<i>Forty Over Sixty</i>, by Randall Reid
Forty Over Sixty, by Randall Reid

'Randall Reid: Resurrecting the Past'

Davis Gallery, 837 W. 12th, 477-4929; www.davisgalleryaustin.com
Through Dec. 1

Here's the scenario: It's about 100 years after some sort of apocalypse has destroyed most human life on the planet, and in the once-urban wastelands of the former United States, the descendants of the descendants of the survivors are combing through ruins and rubble. They're in search of anything useful, yes, but also anything ... auspicious. They uncover bits of old road signs, tile fragments from the walls of public swimming pools, battered remnants of metal advertising panels, shards of what was once modern and signifying long since chewed to decontextualized smithereens by the inexorable teeth of time.

They take these industrial leftovers and they fit each piece into steel frames, bolting them in with tools scavenged from among the crumbling frames of hardware stores; they bolt the pieces in tightly, each glyph-bearing or plain relic shored up and complemented by strips of old metal, patches of decaying wood, the arrangements' precision conjuring the work of machines that perished ages ago, of artisans trained to bring a gospel of order to the shattered community of chaos.

The good news: The apocalypse has yet to occur.

The bonus: The glorified relics described above, fabricated from eroded bits of what survived the early throes of the century just passed, do exist; they've been created by Central Texas artist Randall Reid, and the walls of the lobby and main room of Davis Gallery are currently filled with them. The exhibition, titled "Resurrecting the Past," is a gorgeous, quietly evocative show of much industry. And even this bonus contains a bonus: Reid has created museum-quality representations of the process of making his works that are displayed among the works themselves. From these we learn, for instance, that more than 8,000 screws were used in constructing the steel frames, that approximately 500 tines from leaf rakes were sheared off to use in stabilizing and complementing the featured relics, that the bright shavings from 28 days of grinding and drill-pressing will fill 24 tiny boxes in a perfect row along one gallery wall.

A comparison, before we head once more into the future? Anybody's I've-always-wanted-to-paint grandma might inexpertly (albeit lovingly) adorn a sweatshirt or cigar box with a smattering of Hobby Lobby rhinestones; but then Damien Hirst goes and completely covers a human skull with diamonds – and it's as dazzling as it is sublime. In much the same way, you can find old advertising signs and placards and garden tools cluttering the interior of the nearest Cracker Barrel; but then Randall Reid ... well, you can see where we're going with this. Which is why you – student of beauty, as mortal and timebound as your neighbors – will likely be going to Davis Gallery before Reid's show closes this Saturday: This art will make you feel ageless.

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