Local Palette

"Deus Ex Machina"

E. Vedrine

503 Coffee Bar
through mid-January

Study of a Human Face, by E. Vedrine
You might be surprised to know that paintings by a four-year student of Paris' Beaux Arts Academy are currently on display at a South Austin coffee shop. It's an odd venue for an artist with such credentials, kind of like a Bard graduate reading poetry at the Electric Lounge.

Not that this artist couldn't exhibit elsewhere. E. Vedrine has the talent and style to warrant a show at any number of galleries. And not that the coffee shop is unpleasant. As java joints go, 503 is a great discovery -- pink walls, green couches, a fat cappuccino, and Tom Waits on the stereo always gets my vote. It's just that finding an Austin-based Parisian artist is a wonder; to find her work hanging over a sugar caddy doubles the surprise. Such is the state of this city's visual art scene; not enough galleries to accommodate all of its talent.

"I'd rather live where I'm happy and ship my works to other cities than live where I'm miserable and exhibit more often," Vedrine says. "I love Austin, and I don't want to leave. But there aren't enough galleries here. So I live here and usually exhibit in Houston or Dallas."

Vedrine has exhibited not only around Texas, but in New York and Paris as well. Her surreal paintings delve into psychosis and abuse, but in a sublime manner. Each painting depicts one human figure made from a dark mesh of colors in a sponge-like texture and outlined in rough, ambiguous edges. The figures' features are ominously vague, though one can perceive a disturbing sense of gloom and agony.

In sharp contrast, these figures are painted on a background of geometric patterns, with smooth, clean lines and vast spaces of pastels. Vedrine calls these spaces "rooms" and says that they are intended to "evoke in us a feeling of peace, soothing the psychological pain." Too bad that we can't enlarge some of those "rooms" and turn them into art exhibition spaces, so as to soothe the psychological pain of all those Austin artists wanting to exhibit their work.


Nick Mackee


Another outlet for artists who are seeking exhibition space is the store/gallery, which pairs original artwork with retail goods. For some artists, it might not hold the appeal of a solo exhibition at a top-notch gallery, but it gets the work out -- frequently to people who are ready to spend money. And, as in the case of Aqua, a furniture and collectibles store on South Congress, the retail items can complement the resident artwork.

Of course, saying Aqua's stock -- eclectic deco- and Fifties-style furniture and memorabilia -- complements the artwork should give a little hint as to what the artwork in this particular case is like. Nick Mackee`s acrylics are a cross between abstract expressionist images and neon-colored cultures viewed through a microscope. The untitled works possess brilliant, bright colors in random patterns of dots and squiggles and lines. They look like what swirls around Wile E. Coyote's head when a boulder lands on him: colorful polka dots and waves splashing.

The family of works is best viewed as such: all together, lined up in a row. With complementary colors and designs, the small paintings read like a frenzied, psychedelic short story. But a single work loses much of that impact, like a hallucination that's too short. -- Cari Marshall

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