"Tamara Becerra Valdez and Jesse Kees"

Two artists study and celebrate Bastrop

Arts Reviews

"Tamara Becerra Valdez and Jesse Kees"

Lower Left Gallery, 1706 S. Third
Through March 30

For Lower Left's second exhibition, featuring collaborative works from Tamara Becerra Valdez and Jesse Kees, nature proves the focal point. Valdez told me that the duo's collaboration was originally set to take place in West Texas, drawing off the desert landscape, but they reconsidered the trek in favor of a more local setting: Bastrop State Park. The exhibition contains soundscape recordings and studies on paper that use the Lost Pines landscape as both inspiration and medium.

Both artists depended on the Bastrop environment to inform the exhibition but also for the creation of the pieces. All of the studies on paper use natural components, such as loblolly pine charcoal or dirt from the state park, to create abstract sketches. Likewise, the sounds of Bastrop come to life in multilayered recordings produced by Kees. In works from Valdez, more movement is depicted: swirls of red and brown with quick, fast lines. Kees, however, is more contained; his work possesses more ridged line work with geometric squares.

While many of the pieces here are collaborations, the relationship between Kees and Valdez is best shown in the exhibition's largest work, which includes a scroll of paper whose illustrative work is carried directly off the page and onto Lower Left's walls. Valdez claims that this particular work came in the midst of installation (an especially hectic time, as both artists and curators know), which explains some of the roughness in its presentation. It's a piece that deserved more attention in order to complement the rest of the show's neatly framed and expertly presented work.

While the work is patently conceptual, the show is rooted in the colors and environmental touchpoints that help make Bastrop so distinct. Overall, Valdez and Kees have created a distinct narrative of reverence for the Bastrop area in its current state. The fire that raged over Bastrop in 2011 is a very present theme within Lower Left's current exhibition, but so too is the hope that Bastrop and its landscape still maintain a unique beauty as they seek to rebuild.

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Lower Left Gallery, Tamara Becerra Valdez, Jesse Kees, Bastrop State Park

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