"2017 Texas Biennial"
The breadth of Texas viewpoints and artistic variety is evident in this year’s statewide survey of contemporary art
Reviewed by Melany Jean, Fri., Oct. 27, 2017
Texas has no shortage of variety in viewpoints. Looking out a random window across the state, you may see ocean waves lapping a shoreline, a small-town square, a field ironed smooth and flat, an army of wind turbines, a desert spliced by a border fence, a bevy of towering cranes and buildings piercing the sky, or a range of mountains towering in what is, somehow, still Texas sky. And any Texan looking out of these windows would do so from a distinct point of view, cobbled together by all they have experienced and known in their life thus far. Considering all that, an undertaking like the Texas Biennial, which aims to survey contemporary art across Texas today, is perhaps insane in the largeness of the task. But that's a verdict that, if anything, strengthens the project's innate Texan-ness.
Walking through the exhibition, the result of many artist submissions and a curatorial road trip by Leslie Moody Castro, the breadth of Texas talent is made clear. Erin Stafford's beautiful but unsettling sculptures Sentimental Offerings of Trade and Commerce and Les Mauvais Oefs feature a wooden boat overflowing with towering pink fake flowers and a collection of transparent eggs stuffed with dead flowers, bugs, and various other detritus, respectively, both alluding to a teeming, vibrant rottenness. Rabea Ballin's four prints of different textured hairstyles on a slick metal plate spark considerations of texture and pattern in the personal, everyday. Similarly, Ana Fernandez's captivating oil paintings show roadside scenes: a primary-hued party store overflowing with piñatas on a gray day, Las Princesas, and the arranged clutter of a convenience shop checkout, Handy Stop.
Everyday landscapes like these show up again and again in the show, presented in ways that prompt a reconsideration of sites and routines taken for granted. There are Catherine Allen's geometric renderings of buildings washed in color by the sun, Cruz Ortiz's oil paintings of Big Bend and its flora, and, of course, Noëlle Mulder's sculptural use of native plants and trees, hung from the ceiling and forebodingly removed from their natural context. Beyond physical scenery, the show also provides an annotated guide to cultural landscapes, with Jarred Elrod's work reimagining football teams as various societal ills, Haydee Alonso's systematic cataloging of the topography of her own body, and multiple ruminations on the surveillance and stereotyping of Latino communities, including Angel Cabrales' part-slide-part-watchtower sculpture, Juegos Fronteras, Watch Tower Slide, and Fabiola Valenzuela's embroidery and installation work addressing the naturalization process.
The last piece before exiting is an interactive installation, a sort of tent constructed with little origami lanterns, which visitors are invited to write a wish on. Some wishes are goofy, others quotidian or political, and some deeply confessional. Reading them is an interesting insight into people's headspace as they finish their tour of the Biennial, revelatory of an audience composed of people with individual concerns born of their personal daily landscape, not unlike the artists on display. That such variation exists all at once within a place called "Texas" is often hard to understand, but the Texas Biennial doesn't shy away from trying.
“2017 Texas Biennial”KC Grey Home, 211 E. Alpine #700
Through Nov. 11