The Austin Chronicle


grayDUCK Gallery memorably closed its Bouldin Creek space with a show of its regular artists making prints

Reviewed by Wayne Alan Brenner, December 27, 2013, Arts

grayDUCK Gallery, 608-C W. Monroe,

Duck, duck, duck, duck, duck, gray duck!

That's the way the children's game Duck, Duck, Goose was played where grayDUCK Gallery owner Jill Schroeder grew up in Minnesota. She's long since moved to Austin, where – as is probably true for any other sane place in the universe – the game is played the normal way, thank you very much. But, all honking aside, who's to say what's normal, especially in the world of art – where the game changes all the time, whether people move elsewhere or not?

GrayDUCK Gallery itself is moving from its well-lighted venue on Monroe off South First: That's why the show that just closed, the final one at this location, was called "Send Off." After three and a half years in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, the gallery's going to be reinventing itself – bigger, better, just as cannily curated – on East Cesar Chavez next spring, meanwhile leaving us with the memory of this exhibition in which grayDUCK regulars teamed up with master printmaker Satch Grimley to produce a group print show of diverse imagery.

We've raved about Katy Horan's work in these pages before – because we adore the intersection of the beautiful and the creepy, especially when it's composed of dark, figurative works that look like somebody's lace-obsessed and schizophrenic Hungarian grandmother might've meticulously painted them during nightmare therapy. Here, Horan's String Game, depicting four women creating an arcane entanglement of threads amid the burnt remnants of a forest, could be an illustration from some story the Brothers Grimm neglected to publish; it's an ultrachrome print on (of course!) Hahnemuhle German etching paper. Mark S. Nelson's odd images, also ultrachromes, are riveting in their arrangements of objects in hues of black, white, gray, and red; Floating With Plant and From Death Till Birth hit the optic nerves like embiggened Boy Scout badges from some macabre alternate universe. A moment in the life of a South First food trailer – the place sits just down the road from the gallery that was – is captured with excellent drafting skills in Pat Snow's charming Chicken, rendered as a multicolored silkscreen on archival paper. Another colorful silkscreen, Terrence Payne's You Might Think You Are Dancing But Really You Are Dying Slowly, with its pair of fantastically striped bears falling away from a white and overlapping imposition of the title, looks like it could be the album cover for the coolest band in the world that you haven't discovered yet.

And, yeah, the show is already over, more's the pity. But because those artists – as well as the others represented in "Send Off" – are gallery regulars, we'll likely be seeing them among the expanding creative pantheon represented in future grayDUCK shows at the new location, which, Schroeder says, has been bought, "so we're going to be owners, not renters. It's a space that we're going to be able to create on our own." The new gallery will have a slanted ceiling, with one wall a full two feet taller than the Monroe space and three large windows high up, plus a porch out front and a private courtyard in the back.

So running a visual-arts gallery in Austin can be a winnable game? Although certainly not as easy as Duck, Duck, Goose?

"It's the best job I've ever had," says Schroeder, "so I'm going to figure out a way to make it work. I'm not going to buy a yacht – that's not what comes with this career choice."

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