The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, January 14, 2011, Arts

'Angie Renfro: Industry!'

Wally Workman Gallery,
1202 W. Sixth, 472-7428

Through Jan. 29

Alan Weisman's 2007 book, The World Without Us, shows how, just days after humans disappear, "floods in New York's subways would start eroding the city's foundations, and how, as the world's cities crumble, asphalt jungles give way to real ones." But you needn't go full-on apocalyptic, or even as far afield as the Big Apple, to peek a glimpse of what the start of such a thing might resemble. You could spend a pleasant time in the Wally Workman Gallery right now, perusing "Industry!," painter Angie Renfro's realist oil-on-panel scenes of empty silos, rusting refineries, and other abandoned or temporarily fallow icons of heavy industry.

"Whether the subject is a bird on a telephone wire or an abandoned storage unit," says the artist, "there is a quality in my paintings that is at once lonely and captivating." She's not just whistling "Dixie" there – or, if she is, it's "Dixie" as whistled faintly in empty, wind-breached factories by ghosts of the Confederate dead. Renfro's works are the epitome of lonely and captivating, rendered in such a way that the various layers of her process are allowed to interbleed and influence the final image with stains and drips and industrial roughness, as if the paintings themselves were already in a state of unattended decay. Images of long-halted trains, bridges devoid of anyone crossing, and, especially, telephone poles and (bird-burdened or not) wires; all these methods of communication and interchange, once thriving, now unused, serve to relay the artist's vision to viewers in this (so far) still-peopled world.

From Renfro's exhibition-accompanying statement: "My inspiration is derived primarily from long road trips across Texas. ... My intention is that by drawing attention to such objects, the viewer too, will appreciate their quiet unassuming beauty." If you're reading this in Austin, which is likely, you don't have to undertake a long road trip to see what she's talking about here. Just travel a few of the city's streets – the city's vibrant streets, happily and busily crowded with living, breathing humans of all kinds! – until you get to the Workman Gallery and this superlative collection of "lorn and loan and oansome" splendor.

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