The 2007 Arthouse Texas Prize Exhibition
This year's five prize finalists all question what civilized society is, in Texas and elsewhere
Reviewed by Nikki Moore, Fri., Sept. 28, 2007
'The 2007 Arthouse Texas Prize Exhibition'
Arthouse at the Jones Center, through Nov. 11
The Texas Prize. It simply may be the state name, but somehow the word "Texas," when associated with art made in this state, must be followed by musings about identity. This year's Arthouse Texas Prize amps up these musings, layering in not only state-related art-identity crises but also national art-identity issues. In the 2007 Arthouse Texas Prize catalog essay, "Global Regionalism: The Texas Art Scene in 2007," Rainey Knudson and Rachel Cook write, "At the risk of making sweeping generalizations, American-ness is not as sexy as Otherness these days, even though artists all over the country are producing some amazing work." Whether or not this desire for the art of the Other stems from reactions to American politics, to the xenophobia of the post-9/11 era, or to globalization, Knudson and Cook explain, is beside the point. The point is what remains unsaid, namely that identity politics are on the block again. Art as identification, art as identity, has shifted onto a global scale, and Texas wonders why America doesn't have more to say. Or, more to the point, Texas wonders why galleries, museums, and public spaces aren't exhibiting, encouraging, and supporting more of what is surely being said.
Enter stage left: The 2007 Arthouse Texas Prize. In its generosity and ample size, this $30,000 biennial award, given to one instate artist for work he or she has created within the last two years, is as big as Texas. As Arthouse Executive Director Sue Graze eloquently states: "Even the most talented and determined emerging artists seemingly always lack three things above all others: money, time, and exposure. The Arthouse Texas Prize is focused on providing dedicated artists financial means and momentum to do what they do best: Create the visual culture of our time, which makes a civilized society possible." In the Prize's second iteration, the works created for this exhibition by prize finalists Dawolu Jabari Anderson, Justin Boyd, Margarita Cabrera, Bill Davenport, and Katrina Moorhead are decidedly strong and share a common questioning as to what civilized society is, in Texas, America, and elsewhere. While Davenport's Stealth Fighter Piñata identifies with entities as large and looming as the American Military-Industrial Complex and as intimate as treasured birthday "bashes," it looks at American and Texas traditions in a new way. Reframing identities, Anderson's powerful work thinks through historio-racial stereotypes in a way that goes below and to the skin of this conversation, questioning the perky intentions of hero-making. Cabrera's work is a hands-in and -on examination of immigration that crosses borders in aesthetics, cultures, and thoughtful provocations to look more closely at America's influence on the fading of particular Mexican traditions and crafts. And while Boyd does Americana with four of your five senses, Moorhead's work with objects and emotional landscapes is both a process of and a working through identification in art, in relationships, in all subject-object relations. Nothing could be more American; little could be more Texan. As identity makes a come (from the) back, "The 2007 Arthouse Texas Prize Exhibition" gives it a very convincing face.