The Austin Chronicle

The Site Is the Studio

Andy Coolquitt builds a show from scratch in the Fresh Up Club

By Rachel Koper, August 6, 2004, Arts

Andy Coolquitt has been on the road for much of the past year. He's been thinking about displacement, about being away from home, having to make do with what is at hand, and how this discomfort affects the creative process. Now, he's taken up residence in the Fresh Up Club, where he's building his latest show, "Can We Take Dumps in Your Hotel," in situ. Aren't artists supposed to come to the gallery with a body of work already prepared? Those familiar with Coolquitt know him as an expert rabble-rouser and a social aggravator of Yalie proportions. Asked if acting like a rock star helps his success as a visual artist, he replies, "Sometimes you gotta bitch-slap [your] curator." This belligerence is tempered by a clear affection for FUC owner Dave Bryant, who came up with the show's title.

"We were camping out in West Texas for a few days, and we saw one of our friends who had a hotel." In need of relief, Bryant pleaded with his friend, "Can we take dumps in your hotel?" Coolquitt continues: "It seemed to illustrate the idea of our psychic constipation in unfamiliar surroundings. I also thought it was funny that he asked for all of us." The level of trust here is special. It must be for a curator to give an artist such free rein.

I asked Coolquitt about creating art "live" in the same place it's going to be shown:

Austin Chronicle: Regarding open studios, I've heard artists say, "I feel like a monkey in a zoo or a midget in a freak show." Are you exhibiting your fortitude?

Andy Coolquitt: No, I'm crying for help.

Chronicle: Do you feel like art audiences want to watch artists operate to feel intimate with them? Is this feeling more important than the art objects themselves?

Coolquitt: Hopefully the two are inseparable. I'm developing an exhibition model with an attitude of very low production where the residue of activity is material, where the placement of objects is functional, where the theatricality is as low-falutin as possible. I want design to facilitate, not manipulate. I think it's more interesting to see how all this fits together as part of our lived experience.

Coolquitt will rise to the occasion. He will gather materials in the middle of the night with his platinum Home Depot card and make something surly and good. Coolquitt's art sources are a product of the odd crevices of his mind and his humor rather than the particular medium he's working in. His installation style is vigorous and colorful. I enjoy that he doesn't tiptoe through the gallery: His work is often large, quirky, and compulsive. He can poke fun at himself and be quite serious – and it's often hard to tell which is which. end story

"Can We Take Dumps in Your Hotel" with live action and art by Andy Coolquitt runs through Aug. 25 at the Fresh Up Club, 916 Springdale.

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