The Austin Chronicle

Azul Gets Solid

By Rachel Koper, May 27, 2005, Arts

Easy to spot on East Cesar Chavez is the historical architecture of Cafe Azul. Built in 1928, the former site of the Brown Barbershop has been beautifully restored, with a nice large lawn, and three years ago proprietor Margaret Tindall hosted an outdoor sculpture show there. Now, the Blue Genie Art Industries guys have taken it upon themselves to bring back the large-scale outdoor display with a show that is "Solid" in aesthetic and material forms as well as in name.

Opening Thursday, May 26, "Solid" was primarily curated by Dana Younger and Kevin Collins of Blue Genie Art, which committed to the exhibit and then rounded up 14 talented area artists to show in it. Having scored a bunch of 1-inch steel tubes, they decided to build an obelisk, like the kind that the Egyptians and Peruvians used to build in holy places. The new monolith they've created is a 20-foot-tall octagon, and in between the steel frames are ancient rocks engraved with personal icons – faux, of course. The masters of Styrofoam, each team member contributed several petroglyphs to be fabricated. In the final model, the panels circumscribe the form, arranged in no particularly hierarchy. My favorite was of a hobo stick. Collins was interested in the taco, Younger the baby pacifier and the devil; fellow Blue Genie artist Ian Shults chose the dice and the umbrella. The obelisk is an exuberant and affirming piece, and as you gaze up at it, please take note of its all-weather daily lesson plan and try to assemble your own. If this monument is too heavy for you, you or your kids may prefer the very cute triceratops or the group's meerkat in a turban.

The show also features work by Sun McColgin, who threatens to show "truthfully mean" concrete gravestones set in the grass. Will Larson has produced layered leaf shapes with nice surface textures. It's a cool, downtown-ish freestanding column. Jennifer Chenoweth and Todd Campbell have designed an interesting steel abstracted landscape. It's called Coral, and it consists of lightly painted chopped pipes pointed upward to form a rusty future-scape. Hank Waddell has contributed one of his found-object and wooden surprises. I'm told Jennifer Wilson's found objects were buried early so as to integrate fully with the fauna.

It's awesome to put art outdoors, no need to water or mow it. It looks tight all year round. "Solid" is an outdoor sculpture event; just go look at it, and modern art will include you.

"Solid" will be on view May 26-June 19 at Azul, 1808 E. Cesar Chavez. For more information, call 457-9074.

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