Top 10 Arts-Related Program Activities of 2015
The most memorable art of 2015 carved strange and brilliant new spaces out of familiar ones
By Wayne Alan Brenner, Fri., Jan. 1, 2016
1) Shawn Camp's "Aphotic Zone" (Northern-Southern)
The "Swimming" group exhibition at Phillip Niemeyer's Koenig Lane arts space was sufficient unto itself, but also contained this separate room of abstract paintings-on-Plexiglas that, via cycling illumination, transmogrified Camp's usual precise brilliance to completely different, back-lit vistas like pieces of frozen aurora borealis.
2) Year of the Rooster (Capital T Theatre)
The entire cast of this staging of Eric Dufault's comedy of machismo gone troppo was spot-on as directed by Mark Pickell (on a stunning set he designed himself), but it was Jason Liebrecht's pec-twitching turn as the titular cock that made this production stand head and feathers above most of the year's theatre.
3) Everything Is Established (Physical Plant Theater)
When the script is written and directed by Hannah Kenah and performed by Lee Eddy, Michael Joplin, and Jeffery Mills for Physical Plant at the Off Center, an audience can – when not laughing their asses off at the absurd, character-driven hijinks and Looney Tunes-level physical comedy onstage – be almost smug about the quality of original work fully created in the ATX.
4) Mr. Burns, A Post-Electric Play (Mary Moody Northen Theatre)
Just as one might Cassandra an apocalypse, we saw this thing coming from miles away. And now understand how fortunate we are that Anne Washburn's dark musical ode to theatre, culture, memory, and (especially) The Simpsons was produced at St. Edward's under the direction of David Long.
5) "Hollis Hammonds: Blanket Of Fog" (Women & Their Work)
W&TW's entire gallery was turned over to this talented Hammonds, who used it to reconstruct – with wall-sized drawings, with video projections, with complex sculpture in the center of the space – what happened to the structure of her childhood home (and the subsequent structure of her memories) when that building burned down a week after her 15th birthday.
6) NONOTAK (POP Austin: Illumination)
The follow-up to POP Austin's inaugural high-end art exhibition had already proved canny by its focus on light-generated and light-generating creations before Noemi Schipfer and Takami Nakamoto, the light-and-sound-manipulating DJs of NONOTAK, activated their virtual performance cage and warped beats and beams to eye-jarring, body-rocking intensity like something out of a Paul Pope clubkid future.
7) The History of King Lear (Hidden Room Theatre)
Beth Burns and her Hidden Room performers (as dedicated as they are talented, and they're way fucking talented) took an obscure, Restoration version of Shakespeare's tragedy and rendered the romantically enhanced narrative and its complex gestural language into an unforgettable spectacle of power games and passion.
8) "Natalie Frank: The Brothers Grimm" (Blanton Museum of Art)
The Blanton brought Austin native Frank home briefly from NYC with this exhibition of gouache-and-pastel works that depict grisly and gruesome scenes from the Grimms' compilation of ancient fairy tales, turning several rooms of the venue's upstairs gallery into a sort of symbol-rich, staggered mescaline trip through the human psyche.
9) "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" (Harry Ransom Center)
The HRC contains a mother lode in so many areas of the arts, especially world literature, and when its bosses choose to feature a subject as popular as Lewis Carroll's classic and its cultural impact, boy howdy, do they provide a Scrooge McDuck wealth of diversity and goodness for the public to feed its head with.
10) Terry Maker's "Holy Fool" (grayDUCK Gallery)
This Colorado-based artist "uses a variety of commonplace, discarded, domestic objects combined with traditional art-making materials to compose sculptural forms ... to reveal the 'guts' or the polished veneer of the matter." Sound ordinary enough? Wrong: Maker's sculptural forms are often as extraordinary as your most bizarre dreams – and painstakingly crafted, as in this show.