The Austin Chronicle

Arts Review

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, March 11, 2011, Arts

'New Art in Austin: 15 To Watch'

Austin Museum of Art, 823 Congress, 495-9224

Through May 22

Of course, when it comes to artists in this creative city, there are many more than 15 to watch at any given time. But, you know, even if the Austin Museum of Art had twice the amount of space at its Downtown galleries that it will (all too soon!) leave to reinvent itself at the Laguna Gloria location ... even then it couldn't properly accommodate a more comprehensive "200 and 15 To Watch" exhibition.

Luckily, this 15-artist showcase has been curated by University of Texas at El Paso's Kate Bonansinga, the Menil Collection's Toby Kamps, and AMOA's own Andrea Mellard, a trio that knows what's up, a trio with tastes sufficiently varied and discerning to provide a good look at the emerging savants in these here parts. Maybe you recognize some of the artists because you've been following their careers or because you know them personally? Let's provide you a list: Miguel A. Aragón, Jesus Benavente and Jennifer Remenchik, Ben Brandt, Debra Broz, Elizabeth Chiles, Santiago Forero, Nathan Green, Ian Ingram, Anna Krachey, Robert Melton, Leslie Mutchler, Ben Ruggiero, Adam Schreiber, Barry Stone, and J. Parker Valentine.

Sounds good, right? What with Broz's cleverly disfigured ceramic fauna, Forero's photographic self-portraits of himself as an Olympic star, Aragón's subtle experiments in printmaking, Melton's eerie and (at times) hilarious videos, and so on, this is goodness indeed. But for all the varied worthwhile creations here, we're struggling. We're doing our best right now to resist grabbing you by your jacket's lapels (or your T-shirt's collar) and shouting: "Never mind any of that! Ian Ingram, dude! Ian fucking Ingram!"

Because Ingram does giant-sized self-portraits commemorating pivotal events in his life with Chuck Close-level photo-realism. Because he renders those portraits – three of them in this show, each about the size of a wide door – in little but black-and-white charcoal, for crying out loud, charcoal so precisely wielded that you'd think a square inch of any drawing must take months to finish. Because it's not enough that such gobsmacking mastery is evidenced in these expressively captured moments, but that the artist enhances those drawings with complex, multicolored embroidery. And the threaded additions – all by themselves, even – would be enough to make your eyes want to thank your feet for steering you to "15 To Watch."

So. Our best attempt at resisting the lapel-grabbing urge is, obviously, not as good as the best of what you'll witness in this AMOA exhibition. But we're not saying that you need to see the show. No, we're saying that you'll be doing yourself a big, big favor if you do.

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