The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Salvador Castillo, November 17, 2006, Arts

"Buster Graybill: The Oklahoma Snorkel"

The Donkey Show, through Dec. 10

You've heard the fishing story 'bout the big one that got away, right? Well, have you heard 'bout the one that everyone catches? From Lake Austin to Bachman Lake, up to Kankakee River, down in Boggy Creek, and even in Lake Pacific Ocean, a monster of a catfish has been hooked, lined, and sinkered. Can you tell I've never gone fishing?

Artist Buster Graybill presents the finer points of a good day out at the lake in his solo show "The Oklahoma Snorkel" at the Donkey Show. You got your boat ready? Check. Inner tube? Check. Cooler? Check. Grill? Check. Walking into the gallery, you'll find a boat motor sitting on a sawhorse with its propeller dipping into a tank full of murky water. From around the corner, you can hear the revving of the motor coming from the accompanying video. (For opening night, a lifelike sculpture of a giant catfish sat on a truck bed in front of the gallery.) On the wall are Polaroids of individuals with their "big catches." Intertwined inner tubes bulge out from the windows while an assemblage of blue coolers projects another video into a side room. From a folding lawn chair, you can watch Mr. Graybill fillet a large catfish on top of a dangerous makeshift table. In the center of the gallery, you'll find a skillet holding a small group of catfish atop a stove.

At first glance, the gallery may seem sparsely filled with water park supplies. It is true that most pieces are ready-made materials, but they deftly present formal skill and knowledge. Although Mr. Graybill's work feels considerably laid back, the inner tubes suggest something of a nod toward Chakaia Booker (recently seen at AMOA this summer). Both artists twist the material and allow its surface and scent to be familiar yet exotic. This play permeates the show. What we know about three-day weekends spent down by the waterfront filters through the industrial, minimalist essence of Donald Judd. In the video Get'N Groceries, the artist has placed the large fish on a pad-mounted transformer with the high voltage warning clearly visible. We watch as the fish is cut, flipped, sliced … take a sip of beer … cut, flipped, sliced, until all that's left is a big bowl of meat ready for grillin'. The frame setup is compositionally dynamic, and whenever the artist steps out of view, the image shouts out classic still-life setup.

After watching the video, you may be inclined to wonder what kind of redneck would so carelessly set up shop on such a volatile location. On the other hand, you may be inclined to wonder what kind of a hoity-toity snob would worry so deeply about preparing dinner. Buster Graybill is no Rachael Ray, but he is wiggling his fingers in some artistic "noodling."

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