The Austin Chronicle

A First for Austin Art

New City Hall filled with locals' visual artistry

By Rachel Koper, March 4, 2005, Arts

Simply titled, "The 2005 Art Exhibition" made its debut in Austin's new City Hall on Thursday, Feb. 24. Anne Elizabeth Wynn, the city's first lady, worked hard to put together this showcase of paintings, sculptures, and photographs by 71 local artists, and with her personal knowledge of Austin artists and galleries, she's built a strong group show. It will remain on display in the building for a year, and visual art community leaders such as the Gerald Peters Gallery, David Berman, Mark Smith, Bill Davis, Sam Coronado, Judith Taylor, Art Amici, Mexic-Arte Museum, Wally Workman, Plan B Gallery, and others have taken responsibility for keeping City Hall looking good for the entire period. This level of cooperation bodes well for Austin's growing visual art presence.

Some pieces hang in the lobby, others in conference rooms, and some cubicles get blessed with colorful paintings. Some of the most successful works are the larger ones, which relate nicely to the bold architecture. The large soft sculpture Pleasure, by Kim Gaul of Austin Green Art, has tubular white appendages raining down three stories from balcony to balcony, the large glass windows nicely lighting the pink-tipped long arms. It's a whimsical piece, kind of fleshy but abstract, a big, approachable stuffed animal.

Bouncing across the tall limestone pillars in the lobby are three large, bright flower shapes by Virginia Fleck of D Berman Gallery. Thank You, Hub, and Evil Eye are made out of recycled plastic bags, cut and reassembled in a quiltlike pattern. Also recycling material is Faith Gay of D Berman Gallery; her Seven Rocks for City Hall uses polka-dot stickers, plastic, and tape to form groovy rocks. Tucked into a bland wood shelf, these bold bits of color are refreshing in the conference rooms.

Many of the paintings are tasteful and fine but have less impact in the cavernous building due to their intimate size. I was pleased to see the inclusion of the mural Think/Thank, by Nathan Nordstrom. His old-school graffiti "sloke" style transfers nicely to the gallery walls. He paints strictly on commission these days, and it's comforting to think that Anne Elizabeth Wynn knows this.

The artists I spoke with all applaud this new initiative. I hope that this is a trend: developing exhibition spaces and the necessary insurance to provide the public with glimpses of the art talent available in Austin. This city hall belongs to all of us, and now I can really recognize that. Drop by.

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