"A Rock About the Size of a Small Avocado"

You can find connections to this city's art scene just about anywhere

A rock about the size of a small avocado (Photo by Wayne Alan Brenner)

There was a rock about the size of a small avocado out near the volleyball court beyond the parking spaces in back of the Austin Chronicle building this morning. I mean, the rock might have been there the morning before, too, or it might have been there for weeks – if only a few inches away, in a different position – or it might have been there much longer.

I don't know: I noticed it only this morning.

The rock's size wasn't what made me notice it. There are always a few bigger rocks, and many smaller ones, out there among the shallow craters and chalky crusts of what passes for a parking lot in back of the Chron, out there between the offices and where a few of the journos and production crew relax by flailing around with a well-scuffed volleyball after a day's labor. And this rock wasn't especially colorful or unusually shaped: It was a pale gray thing, in the form of, oh, maybe a yam with a few angles carved randomly into it.

I noticed the rock because I chose to notice it. Or, rather, because I chose to follow up my peripheral noticing of it. Like a person might be constantly aware that there are art galleries all over this town … but will only occasionally choose to visit one and see what's on the walls or otherwise displayed therein.

(Except, let me assure you, any of those venues will be much more generous in rewarding your eyes than a goddamn small-avocado-sized rock in back of the Chronicle building).

But: I stopped and looked at the rock. I scrutinized its mineral presence and the background to its angle of repose. The wash of pebbles around it reminded me of the gravelish smears of texture helping define the real among the virtual of Christopher Lee Gilmer's Allegory of the Cave painting recently shown at Wally Workman Gallery. The way the surrounding blades of grass curved as if to frame the rock recalled Matt Rebholz's patterns of gouache heralding Terra Goolsby's tiny sculptures in ICOSA's recent "The New Flesh" show. A few shriveled berries fallen from the towering tree nearby sparked a bright memory of the wonders painter Stella Alesi rendered during her photorealist botanical phase.

The rock itself, so ordinary and dull, suggested, as if aspirationally, the aesthetic pinnacle of rocks: the sort of brilliance of crystals and earth-shards and polished stumps of petrified wood that punctuate the array of world-class rock & roll photography at Modern Rocks Gallery in Canopy. The rock itself reminded me of the first time I saw Kevin McNamee-Tweed's collection of similar rocks, albeit rocks cleverly embellished with hand-painted labels and mottos, at Big Medium's old space in Bolm Studios. The rock itself reminded me of how some rocks don't just seem carved but are carved, with prodigious effort and skill, the way Elisabet Ney chiseled solid chunks of marble and more into perfect replicas of celebrated humans – and that those sculptures are still powerfully displayed in Hyde Park's own Ney Museum.

I stopped and looked at a rock about the size of a small avocado in the Chronicle's backyard. It reminded me of the wealth of opportunities that we have here in Austin, of the chance to see so many interesting things, purposely created or naturally occurring and arranged for viewing, in venues all over this city. I take this opportunity to remind you of that, too, dear reader.

“A Rock About the Size of a Small Avocado”

The Austin Chronicle, 4000 N. I-35

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The Austin Chronicle, Christopher Lee Gilmer, Wally Workman Gallery, Matt Rebholz, Terra Goolsby, ICOSA Gallery, Stella Alesi, Modern Rocks Gallery, Kevin McNamee-Tweed, Elisabey Ney

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