Top Nine in Visual Art of 2020, Plus One Exceptional Other

Wayne Alan Brenner chooses outstanding visual artistry that made this year a feast, save for one performative and culinary experience that was the cherry on top


Rubber Repertory's Rubber Repstaurant (Courtesy of Rubber Repertory)

Here, except for one item, is a tenner of outstanding visual artistry from among what impressed me this year. I'm saving that one (culinary and performative) item for last. And, because there's no actual hierarchy to this list and That Darn Virus™ isn't the only thing that gets to fuck with your sense of what's right, I'm starting with number two.

2) PHILLIP NIEMEYER Niemeyer turned his Northern-Southern gallery into "Baton," an installation that transforms itself across months as one artist after another takes over, wreaking an improvisational tag-team match of creativity. But he also simultaneously ran the "Left in Leaves" and "No Outlet" outdoors shows, and chronicled the weekly debuts of new works by Laura Lit and Drew Liverman online, and, yeah – you go, boy.

3) BIG MEDIUM For enhancing their web presence with even more artist profiles and convocations and how-to career-enablings; for continuing to fill their physical site with local visual talent; for running the multi-galleried Canopy space; for doing all they can to serve the community and wrangling up a virtual Austin Studio Tour to bring their annual EAST and WEST online.

4) HEIDI PITRE For being commissioned (in Mississippi) to create a public mural of her Voter Registration painting that celebrates women's suffrage, and, back in Austin, turning that powerful image into enamel pins to help spread the gospel of democracy.

5) JON WINDHAM For creating, as lockdown palliative, the text-and-watercolor Mab – an illustrated take on Mercutio's fairy paean from Romeo & Juliet – that shifted his usual work into a more personal, feminist evocation of fantastic art, carnal desire, and literary scholarship.

6) DAVE MCCLINTON He's a former Chronicle designer, but that's not why he had a show at Ground Floor Theatre as COVID-19 invaded, now has a show at Ivester Contemporary, and is this year's Artist Beer Collaborator with Thirsty Planet. A combo of fierce graphics, subject matter that's as provocative as it is necessary, and relentless industry, is why.

7) CHAD REA Here's another designer extending bold sensibility to personal works, rendering arch commentary on current events via creative gambits that strike like, oh, let's say Banksy x Warhol, leaving modern follies in smoldering ruins.

8) DIMENSION SCULPTURE GARDEN Colin and Moya McIntyre's newly upgraded open-air-among-the-woods sculpture garden on Springdale has been a welcoming, art-filled respite to Austinites of all ages, from all areas, in these constrained times.

9) "LIKES CHARGE" As the digital realm and what we call IRL increasingly overlap – as our technology steadily advances toward conflation with magic – the wwwitch Melanie Clemmons' show at Women & Their Work served as a living record of what that looks like in a mythmaking perspective.

10) LANDMARKS Self-guided, smartphone-abetted tours of public art from UT's program that provides much of the aesthetic majesty along our city's streets and among our buildings? Good in any year, but perfect for 2020.

1) RUBBER REPSTAURANT In January, Rubber Repertory presented five iterations of an accidentally prescient dinner-for-one, all socially distanced and with much postal communication, that served a meal of anything a person wanted to eat. The event's eerie resonance with Our Pandemic Situation only deepens its indelible memory.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Top 10s, Top 10s 2020, Phillip Niemayer, Northern-Southern, Laura Lit, Drew Liverman, Big Medium, Austin Studio Tour, EAST, WEST, Heidi Pitre, Jon Windham, Dave McClinton, Ground Floor Theatre, Ivester Contemporary, Thirsty Planet, Chad Rea, Dimension Sculpture Garden, Colin McIntyre, Moya McIntyre

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