EAST: Do Big Spaces Rule?

Artists and viewers can make the most of EAST by hitting austin's large studio complexes

<i>End of Time</i>, by Drew Liverman and Michael Ricioppo
End of Time, by Drew Liverman and Michael Ricioppo

A not-so-secret secret about EAST: You have to wade through an abundance of bad to get to the good. Which is why EAST-ers tend to hedge their bets and begin (or only stop) at the big studio complexes: Pump Project, Canopy, Big Medium, Up Collective, et al. These super-studios are madhouses during the tour – filled to the brim with arties and part-time arties popping in and out of studios like whack-a-moles. Drinks flow forth from common areas and individual spaces. Conviviality is currency. For many artists, EAST is the yearly financial windfall they depend on to pay their bills. And who doesn't want artists to make rent and then some?

But viewers beware: Just because artists in these venues can pay rent, it doesn't follow that their work is up-to-snuff. The curatorial principle in such spaces is simply real estate supply and demand. Note the common areas, which are either ho-hum samplings of the artists within (Pump Project, Big Medium) or considered curatorial ventures, like the whip-fast collaborations of Michael Ricioppo and Drew Liverman (MASS Gallery) and Ricardo Paniagua's exuberant, obsessive "Hard Edge in da Paint" (Big Medium Gallery at Canopy).

Artists have their own strategies to distinguish themselves in the mazelike complexes. Some, like Jaelah Kuehmichel (Canopy), sell prints, drawings, and small paintings at prices under three figures; instead of selling one big painting, she sells 20 little ones. Others pull out all the stops, mounting mini-retrospectives, like Terri Thomas (Canopy) with her something-for-everyone salmagundi of Swarovski-studded kitty cats (she calls them "pussies"), naked clown bondage paintings, and fetishistic door/objects. Painter Jeana Baumgardner (Pump Project) simply makes quirky, funny, well-executed art: Awkward pastel commas and striated blobby forms float against rectilinear grids, their spatial dimensions unresolved.

So there are diamonds in the roughs of the super-studios. And so you know, the roughs are rough. Why are so many Austin artists working in the ubiquitous abstract-art-as-noninvasive-decoration idiom or the street-art-with-muddy-politics spiel? We really wish we could tell you.

The East Austin Studio Tour continues Saturday & Sunday, Nov. 23-24, 11am-6pm, throughout East Austin. For more information, visit www.eastaustinstudiotour.com.

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 East Austin Studio Tour
Fabulous Realism at Atelier Dojo's Art Gym
Fabulous Realism at Atelier Dojo's Art Gym
Artists are ready to school you in their new studio at Canopy

Wayne Alan Brenner, Nov. 16, 2018

Dimension Gallery Shows Support for Art and Artists at EAST
Dimension Gallery Shows Support for Art and Artists at EAST
The 2018 East Austin Studio Tour bears fruit with help from local artspace

Robert Faires, Nov. 9, 2018

EAST: 'Eclosion'
EAST: 'Eclosion'
'Eclosion' portrays the natural glories of insectdom with ingenuity and wonder

Wayne Alan Brenner, Nov. 22, 2013

More by Andy Campbell
Gay Place Top 10s: IIIII-dentity!
Gay Place Top 10s: IIIII-dentity!
It was the year that was.

Jan. 1, 2016

Houston Prop 1 FAIL
Houston Prop 1 FAIL
In the wake of HERO's overturn, Houston's vulnerable left vulnerable

Nov. 4, 2015


EAST, East Austin Studio Tour, Austin visual art

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