Warren Oates in the Economic Crisis of 2008

The weathered character actor serves as outsider hero to this group show's artists

Arts Review

'Warren Oates in the Economic Crisis of 2008'

Okay Mountain

Through Feb. 21

Okay Mountain is piled full of paintings and drawings in the exhibit "Warren Oates in the Economic Crisis of 2008." This group show curated by Dave Bryant features an assortment of artists he met and befriended while traveling over the last couple of years. These artists are akin aesthetically to semipsychedelic local artists such as Eric Gibbons, Ryan Lauderdale, and Nathan Green but come from across the country. With typical acumen, Bryant's show title is snippy, topical, and dated. To these artists and many other working artists, capitalism and celebrity rarely align their goals with painterly ones. These artists are used to working in a social void, making art that applies to their own sensibilities regardless of larger cultural support. At the crowded opening for this show, Bryant said, "Warren Oates was an artist's artist," a character actor whose name just kept coming up. Working artists from Portland, Ore., to Brooklyn sat and told Bryant about their appreciation of this weathered man. His visage and memory are the real topics of this art show.

Artists like to pick their own heroes, and, as in ethics, intention is everything in visual art. There is a weirdly charming triptych by Jim Tozzi, a member of the PFFR collective in Brooklyn. He painted a simple color wheel at the top of each black composition. Underneath each wheel, a delicately furry little green monster who worships it like it's a moon raises talismans and its hands toward it. It's a very positive, reverential piece that summons the spirit of R. Crumb and Maurice Sendak as influential and heroic.

In addition to pencil and ink drawings of the man himself, there are tributes to the era that defined Oates: the Seventies. Jennifer Sullivan has painted some glam portraits of the iconic Jane Fonda, a series of wildly colorful interview stills that manages to communicate a sense of her nervous hands and her signature big eyes with raccoonlike mascara. These forcefully awkward paintings grew on me by the second as I adjusted my eyes to her vivid palette. Frosty mugs of beer, apple pies, and rainbows are scattered happily throughout the show. There are a couple of graphite drawings of tie-dye patterns by Mike Pare that appear unironic perhaps because they are hung near a cute, vintage skateboard Mandela drawing with similar circles. Johnny Ryan's graphic interpretation (with lots of flies) of Sam Peckinpah's Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia is a literal tribute to the classic 1974 film.

Seventies pop culture was real. Sometimes I tend to dismiss those years as naive and reckless or undervalue them, but the artists in this fun show refuse to. Instead, they relish and lift up that time through their vintage, outsider hero. This tribute to Warren Oates sent me off pondering the social significance of Harry Dean Stanton. Maybe that could be a show for next year.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 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
Austin Playhouse's <i>Copenhagen</i>
Austin Playhouse's Copenhagen
In the conversations of this Michael Frayn drama, we learn that history is broken, just like us

Laura Jones, April 19, 2019

Zach Theatre's <i>Matilda the Musical</i>
Zach Theatre's Matilda the Musical
With its memorable characters and energetic performances, this production connects adults with their inner child

Trey Gutierrez, April 19, 2019

More by Rachel Koper
Top 9 (Plus Three) Memories & Best Happenings in 2009
Top 9 (Plus Three) Memories & Best Happenings in 2009
2009 was a good year for artists, young and old, getting their props

Jan. 1, 2010

Arts Review
'Jana Swec and Jared Theis'
This two-person exhibition at D Berman Gallery is a brilliant yet subtle pairing

Aug. 21, 2009


Warren Oates in the Economic Crisis of 2008, Okay Mountain, Dave Bryant, Jim Tozzi, Jennifer Sullivan, Mike Pare, Johnny Ryan

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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