Graham Franciose: Fables 2
I'm going to tell you later, anyway, but right now let's just consider Franciose's work on its own, because his newest show, "Fables 2," is currently featured at that Garage and it'd be worth seeing anywhere. Like, if you won the lottery and suddenly had tons of money, it'd be worth jetting to Sri Lanka to see the show if that's where it happened to be. Luckily, it's right there off South Lamar.
The lottery, did I say? That's because, after seeing this show, I'm thinking that if I won the lottery, one of the things I'd want to do with my new wealth is: Hire Franciose to illustrate Mervyn Peake's Gormenghast Trilogy. Because that's the sort of feel of the artist's works in general and of this show in particular: The feel of the complex fairy tale, of the Brothers Grimm's fabulated oeuvre gone baroque. But remember, I've just won the lottery, I could pretty much hire anyone. And yet, in a world that has the likes of James Jean and Rebecca Dart and Rene French in it, I'd still choose this local feller - this is a testament to his talent, yes, but also an indication of the resonances that –
But maybe you don't know Gormenghast?
OK: Franciose's works, most of them fully painted, feature people and creatures rendered with detailed cartoony lines enhanced with a vast palette of muted colors, limbs all thin and bendy as required by circumstances, faces the fine caricatures of archetypes. His style: Halfway along some honorable spectrum of draughtsmanship between Arthur Rackham and Michael Seiben. Portraits of sailors and scalawags, musicians and mountebanks, damsels and dream weavers, woodland creatures that you just know possess secret knowledge. Yeah. On display here are many small originals and several larger prints-on-canvas (which have to be as good as they are, if only to be more impressive than the tech that reproduces the colors so truly). I don't care who you are: I'll bet there's at least one you'll want to take home.
Now let's pull back and consider that context mentioned earlier: The Austin Art Garage itself. Because you live in this town and, probably, you want to celebrate it - its sites and sights, its representable sense of self - but you don't want to do it with the cheap trinkets of some tourist trap. Well, see, the rest of the two-room gallery in which "Fables 2" has coalesced? That space is chockablock with images of favorite stomping grounds, rendered with such compelling graphic power that you might have to repress the urge to shout "Fuck yeah, ATX!" while standing among them. And even those works that aren't of Austin - the abstracts, the fantastic, otherworldly depictions - are locally sourced: The gallery represents only artists from right here in the river city. Verdict: You want good original artwork and/or a diversely sized array of vivid, mounted, Austintatious prints – and especially if you want to catch the small wonders of Mr. Franciose – then this joint is recommended.
NB: Fables 2 runs through Sept. 10.