Visual Arts Top 10

Best Art, 1996

Best UT Archer M. Huntington Gallery Exhibition: Dennis Oppenheim. This internationally recognized art figure, known for his cerebral earthworks and site-specific constructions, brought maquettes, several large, noisy, movable sculptures, and huge drawings rendered in soft pastel colors to Austin. He even left one of the drawings with the University for its collection. The artist was present for several days to expound on his vision, past and present.

Best Faculty Exhibition at the University of Texas: the 58th Annual Faculty Show. It's easy to take a UT faculty show for granted, as it is an office filled with familiar co-workers or one more party with friends. This year's show proved an exception. The (relatively) spare installation and overall high quality of the work allowed the visitor a new appreciation for the talent available in UT's Art Department.

Best Show at the Austin Museum of Art: "I Dream a World: Portraits of Black Women Who Changed America." I actually heard people talking excitedly about "I Dream a World," the exhibition of photographs of black women at AMOA's new 823 Congress Avenue location. Even without visiting relatives to entertain or a particular fondness for downtown Austin, they made a point of visiting the museum to see the photographs and to gauge the potential of the new galleries. Here's hoping that AMOA quickly finds the manpower (a new director/curator) and the money to take full advantage of the goodwill provided by this exhibition.

Best of the Best at Women & Their Work: Betye Saar
Best One-Person Exhibition, Commercial Gallery: (tie) Keith Carter/Mariana Yampolsky. Stephen L. Clark managed to tie himself in this category. In the spring, his Keith Carter show brought to Austin a fine collection of the artist's recent photographs and drew literally hundreds of patrons to his small gallery, Stephen L. Clark, Photographs. In the fall, Clark replicated that success with an exceptional show of works by Mexican photographer Mariana Yampolsky.

Best Group Exhibition, Commercial Gallery: "Is It Something in the Water?" Bill Davis of Tarrytown Gallery assembled this show in which local artists, each with a singular and somewhat bizarre point of view, joined in a quirky visual dialogue. It was a thoroughly entertaining and well-chosen show.

Best Exhibit at the Nancy Wilson Scanlan Art Gallery, St. Stephen's School: (tie) "DirtSpirits"/"Painted & Made." St. Stephen's Episcopal School has a great little gallery space in its home on the hill at the edge of Austin and a curator worthy of watching. Mark Smith assembled a number of shows in 1996, two particularly well worth the trip west to see them. "DirtSpirits," a showing of clay works by Tré Arenz, Richard Bonner, and Janet Kastner, and "Painted & Made," an outsider art exhibition comprised of works from Webb Gallery in Waxahachie, were both well-chosen and exquisitely presented. Both were virtually ignored, as far as I could tell, by students, faculty, and the art community at large.

Best of the Best at Women & Their Work: Betye Saar. W&TW's ongoing exhibitions of local and regional artists are almost always worthwhile, but the exhibition of work by nationally acclaimed artist Betye Saar presented a particularly exciting new body of work, while also giving the community an opportunity to visit with the artist.

Best at Mexic-Arte Museum: "Latin American Book Arts." I didn't catch every 1996 show at Congress Avenue's first non-profit visual arts space, but it is hard to imagine any that would have appealed more than "Latin American Book Arts," which combined a traveling exhibition assembled by the Center for Book Arts in New York City with a Mexic-Arte-curated show of work by Texas artists.

Top Ten Most Exciting Things in Austin's Visual Arts Scene in 1996

by Cari Marshall

Father Gregory Wilkins, Kelham, Nottinghamshire, England, 1963, by Eve Arnold
1. Eve Arnold, and her resplendent photography, came to town. Arnold's visit was brief, but her work graced Austin's presence for more than four months.

2. Alternate Current installed a new air conditioning unit, making visits to the South Austin mainstay much more pleasant.

3. Bob "Daddy-O" Wade and his studio moved to Austin. 'Bout time you got yer butt back to Texas, Daddy-O.

4. Art Tours, led by Bob Russell, was born. The tour takes us into artists' homes and studios, teaches us about the workings of art, and reminds artists they are appreciated and loved.

5. A bountiful number of new galleries opened, including Devas, Galerie Bleux, Laughing at the Sun, Buzz Design, Austin Galleries, and Eeka Beeka.

6. Austin Museum of Art Downtown opened; one big step for AMOA, one big step for Austin's art scene. Can you say win/win?

7. Melissa Miller showed at Lyons Matrix. It's always great when one of Austin's best resident artists actually exhibits here.

8. One-night-only exhibits featured some excellent work by young artists. The Holy 8 Ball and Ayers Mansion folks would make my job easier if they were more regular and predictable, but I suppose spontaneity is the key.

9. Philip Trussell gave me a private viewing of his work at his jam-packed home/studio, which is as crammed with beautiful
iconography as his paintings. I really wish this man would exhibit more often.

10. Galleria Sin Fronteras turned 10, an enduring number of years for a gallery, particularly in such a burgeoning arts community.

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