'Biscuit: A Retrospective'

Crosses, hot rods, buff boys, doll houses, and fun fun fun

<i>Untitled (Caveman)</i>
Untitled (Caveman) (Photo By Roxanne Jo Mitchell)

Elvis' sideburned sneer sits atop a luscious lady butt. Just look at those buns, each adorned with a delicious hamburger, fishnets straddling a Pokeeno card. It's Elvis, Queen of the Vegas Strip, by Randall J. "Biscuit" Turner, just one of the more than 150 collages showing at Gallery Lombardi in the posthumous solo exhibition of work by Austin's punk rock renaissance darling.

Biscuit, the revered lead singer of the legendary Big Boys, always wanted to do a solo show at Lombardi. "C'mon, Rachel, I can fill this place," the jolly bear of a man would tell gallery owner/manager (and Chronicle arts writer) Rachel Koper. And fill it he could. Since his earliest days in Austin, amidst the hazy early Seventies scene of cosmic cowboys, plentiful mood-alterers, and free love, Biscuit practiced his particular brand of pop-cultural collage. Decades of affectionate accumulation left his house in South Austin a shrine to found items, a veritable Mardi Gras of baubles, bangles, trinkets, flamingos, and doll parts.

<i>Elvis, Queen of the Vegas Strip</i> (right), <i>Little Charlie Whitman Was a Good Boy Scout and Did Real Well on the Rifle Range</i> (left)
Elvis, Queen of the Vegas Strip (right), Little Charlie Whitman Was a Good Boy Scout and Did Real Well on the Rifle Range (left) (Photo By Roxanne Jo Mitchell)

For the better part of his illustrious life, Biscuit never wanted to sell his work or part with his "babies." It was only in the last few years that he decided to show and sell his art. His untimely death last August left his home, which has been described as "carnivalesque," a veritable museum of work, covered floor to ceiling with finished works, works in progress, and things that might one day become works.

"We took 170 items out of his house for this show," says Koper of the group effort between family, close friends, trusted neighbors, and the gallery. "Believe it or not, the house looks cozy … still. The man collected … The man had a toy collection, a tchotchke collection, an album collection, a CD collection, a poster collection. The list of collections is a long list."

Biscuit's collections are at least as varied as the genres he operated in. His poetry and song lyrics about "Suburban Boat People," "Chairman Meow," and "Young Boy's Feet" are as biting as any of Henry Rollins', but with the finesse and whimsy of Edward Lear. His Eighties and Nineties gig flyers, riddled with Magic Markered fonts and Xeroxed pop images defined as much as reflected the era. And any show with Biscuit in it became a larger venue of performance art, with costumes as divoon as Divine and as huggable as John Waters' Edith the Egg Lady.

Koper, along with those closest to Biscuit, chose to focus here on Biscuit's "multimedia" works, mostly collages. "This is just one chunk that we felt like we could deal with as a concerted body of work without trying to grasp all of the dimensions of Biscuit's long career," says Koper.

The show is a friendly walk through the brain of Biscuit. Themes emerged as Koper began to hang the work: crosses, hot rods, exotica, buff boys, doll houses, celebrities, animals – with the only chronological consideration given to one wall of early work. "Taken together, it begins to make more sense," Koper laughs, commenting on the collage of many collages. Biscuit's art seems to reflect and dissect the delicious excesses of America, 1950 to the present, and pulls together a reality that better suited him while presenting one that is a hell of a lot more fun fun fun for the rest of us.

"Biscuit: A Retrospective" runs through March 25 at Gallery Lombardi, 910 W. Third. For more information, call 481-1088 or visit www.gallerylombardi.com.

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