‘The Long Drive South’

Art or anthropology? Volitant Gallery's 'The Long Drive South,' featuring work by New York artists who motored down to Austin, may be a revealing discussion on both

Arts Review

'The Long Drive South'

Volitant Gallery, through Sept. 25

Art or anthropology? Volitant Gallery's exhibition "The Long Drive South" may be a revealing discussion on both. Let's imagine that the idea for the show came about as follows: A group of New York artists are asked to contribute work to an emerging gallery in Austin, Texas. They submit their own works, varying in themes from the air-filled, iconic, and mythical pieces of Lance de los Reyes to the rich chaos of Brian Belott's The Equalizer and See Above – See Below. And then these same artists drive south. Filming their road trip, they hit beach and prison alike. Soaking up sun and roadkill, the artists make their way to Austin, picking up pieces of their trip that will be made into a work in itself when they arrive at Volitant. The resulting finds include a parking ticket; a few nudie-girl, NoDoz-style pills; two looming and poignant lists of inmates from an abandoned prison; a beer bottle; some paper paraphernalia; a couple of books that might have been read along the way … in short, a box and wall full of backwoods rural hee-haws, a few trip markers, and a more balanced filming of this participant-observer experience.

Yet what if the show had been called "The Long Drive North"? The stereotypes would be different, and if the same selective processes held for the drive north as they did for the drive south, these artists might have picked up abandoned snow shovels, human rights pamphlets, and Democratically leaning political posters along their merry way. Yet we are beyond the time when the objective nature of anthropology is a given. "This is how I see you" is no more viable artistically than it is culturally. So is the point of "The Long Drive South" to help us see ourselves, as Southern or Northern dwellers? Or is the point to help us see ourselves as selective seers, as minds trained to look for difference and confirmations of that difference? The anthropological spin on the "The Long Drive South" comes, not in the drive, not in its findings, but in its re-revelation of the human capacity to group, to categorize, and to try to make sense of things in the simplest way possible and of art's complicity in this simplifying process.

Looking back at Lance de los Reyes' work: masons, snakes, fathers, skeletons, babies, and cartoonlike texts stand in for meaning and revel in the process of reducing ideas and events to painted objects, like hieroglyphics, like text. In Ginna Triplett's paintings, reductions and simplifications of feminity (à la Disney and cartoon playboys) are suspended for close viewing in clouds of pink fluff. The photography by Joshua Blank plays out the anthropological suit of "The Long Drive South" in miniature, as does the rich collage work of Brian Belott.

Among the many things that this show's icon-laden style suggests is that the 18th-century philosopher Immanuel Kant wasn't so off when he hypothesized that although the world might be otherwise and ultimately unknowable, our minds work by categorizing … for better or worse. And if this show is a reflection of the New York art climate, as Volitant suggests, it seems that while anthropology is still losing its foundations in New York, Kant is making a comeback.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Arts Reviews
'The 2012 Drawing Annual'
Don't let Tiny Park Gallery go without experiencing this exhibit of depth and meaning

Wayne Alan Brenner, May 18, 2012

Arts Review
'Memento Mori'
The three artists showing here exhibit so much sentience, mystery, and grace

Wayne Alan Brenner, April 13, 2012

More by Nikki Moore
In Dreams
In Dreams
Camera in hand, D'Ette Cole makes images that bridge the gap between night and day

July 18, 2008

Arts Review
Lance Letscher: 'Industry and Design'
Throughout his latest group of collages, Letscher is always exploring how we work through ideas and emotions

June 13, 2008


The Long Drive South, Volitant Gallery, Lance de los Reyes, Ginna Triplett, Joshua Blank, Brian Belott

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle