"Andy Coolquitt: Pinto Beans" at Bale Creek Allen Gallery

The artist's solo show is a public display of well-organized chaos, a sculptural nirvana of randomness and resourcefulness

Photo by Ben Aqua

Andy Coolquitt has invited some new friends to be in his solo show at Bale Creek Allen Gallery, and from the looks of it, they all jogged to get there. The Austin-based artist is back with his bric-a-brac in "Pinto Beans," bringing together some old familiar knickknacks – fuzzy toilet seat covers, amputated shirtsleeves, bare bulbs to brighten up the place – and transforming this latest space into something less like a messy living room and more of a cluttered showroom. Just ask the three naked sneaker-clad mannequins admiring what's on the walls.

Unlike other projects, where Coolquitt has seemingly basked in a hoarder's delight of home sweet home, "Pinto Beans" (which is sort of a working title, he explains) offers a different kind of stuff-centric experience into the artist's unconscious. Take again those mannequins, who serve better as attendees at the opening than actual objects in the show, their full-frontal figures facing each gallery wall, transfixed, inches from the artwork. They, too, have come for the free booze.

It isn't just the naked mannequins' myopic search for meaning (#tooclosetothepaintings is among the show's many helpful hashtags) that makes me wonder exactly what kind of world I've stepped into. It's also the onslaught of flashbacks from having worked at a Jo-Ann store: erect bolts of fabric, sensuously layered scraps of cloth – even the skeleton of a white button-down shirt, starved of everything but its seams, closes in on me at BCA Gallery. The proximity to strangeness doesn't stop there: a neon noose-like thread swings in the doorway below the EXIT sign.

So is Coolquitt trying to deliver a claustrophobic retail experience with "Pinto Beans," or am I being triggered by my Jo-Ann Fabrics PTSD? Perhaps both. The densely adorned space certainly feels less like a fictional domicile and more like a public display of well-organized chaos. Large windows, for instance, create a veritable storefront, and unlike most art galleries, which shield their shows from the light of day, BCA encourages you to have a look at the inventory even if you're just strolling by outside.

But do as the naked mannequins: Go in there and get up close to the goods. "Details work best with a show like this," says Cool­quitt, while I admire a shoehorn, balanced just so, above the unassuming photo responsible for the project's name. "Pinto Beans" achieves the same sculptural nirvana of randomness and resourcefulness as the artist's past spatial experiments, yet as the inscription reads on a small bird sketch, situated between a pocket lighter and a pair of striped underwear:

I do not sing my song

To entertain you

I sing it for my own purpose

That you will never know

So now when you hear

My song it will remind

You that you do not

Know my purpose.

“Andy Coolquitt: Pinto Beans”

Bale Creek Allen Gallery, 916 Springdale, Bldg. 2 #103
Through Oct. 14

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