'New and Greatest Hits: Texas Biennial 2005-2011'

It's having so many artists working at such a high level that makes this show of past Biennial participants a success

<i>Shadow</i> by Celia Eberle, first shown in Texas Biennial 2009
Shadow by Celia Eberle, first shown in Texas Biennial 2009 (Courtesy of the artist / Texas Biennial)

'New and Greatest Hits: Texas Biennial 2005-2011'

Big Medium, 916 Springdale, Bldg. 2, #101
Through Sept. 28

The 2013 Texas Biennial is firmly underway, with its main exhibition being housed at San Antonio's Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, a commissioned art project out in Marfa, performances in Dallas, and a revisiting of past selected artists, titled "New and Greatest Hits: Texas Biennial 2005-2011" at Big Medium's Canopy space. The show, which includes pieces from past Biennial shows as well as new pieces from Biennial alumni, was curated by past Biennial curators Michael Duncan and Virginia Rutledge (who has gone on to become Biennial curator-at-large).

It was wonderful to see this relatively new location for exhibitions accommodate such a wide variety of mediums. From sculpture to installation work and everything in between, the Canopy space acts as a nurturing ecosystem for an exemplary group of artists. Audiences are greeted with Daedalus Nine: Peninsula Dead, an extension of the work Jules Buck Jones created during his Hotbox residency at MASS Gallery, sitting ominously across from the bright sculpture Mirror Mirror, a work by the late Artpace founder Linda Pace that was shown in 2007. It's a dynamic entrance to greet audiences and helps set the tone for the rest of "New and Greatest Hits."

Though Jones' and Pace's sculptures are abrupt, some of the show's highlights are considerably subtler. Situated in a far corner of the gallery space, TJ Hunt's Breaking Ground II offers a beautifully melded conceptual and aesthetic piece. Hunt's grid of soil and sediment with mirrors is a solitary moment of reflection with a nod to artists such as Robert Smithson. Accompanying photographs document each of the sites from which the soil was taken, but while it is nice to have the juxtaposition, Hunt's floor installation is strong enough to stand alone. Celia Eberle's carved bone-and-coal carvings are another tonally quiet voice that leaves an introspective impact. Eberle's an artist who has embraced her craft and assumes the inherent nuances of working with animal materials.

The Texas Biennial as a whole showcases the best work by rising stars in contemporary art, but it's equally captivating to witness formerly vetted artists getting a second chance to shine. All of the names in "New and Greatest Hits" are familiar; their work is refined, concise, and expertly executed. But the medley of artists functioning on such a high level is what makes this exhibition a success. It's an intermingling of active creativity that is remarkable to witness.

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'New and Greatest Hits: Texas Biennial 2005-2011', Austin visual art, Virginia Rutledge, Michael Duncan, Jules Buck Jones, TJ Hunt, Celia Eberle

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