In 2011, the Austin Museum of Art and Arthouse merged, becoming AMOA-Arthouse. Under the direction of Louis Grachos, the museum has made significant strides in re-vamping itself. It has been renamed The Contemporary Austin and now strives to join the century-old institution at Jones Center with the sculpture garden and the Contemporary Art School Austin at Laguna Gloria. I went to Austin to celebrate this exciting, new chapter.
Laguna Gloria is being used to support young artists, often hiring them for commissions to help create an important contemporary sculpture garden. The first two projects in the space were Liam Gillick and Marianne Vitale. Gillick’s sculptures tend to be made of steel, aluminum, and Plexiglass, and often reference Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, as well as Donald Judd and Carl Andre. This particular sculpture features a playful, rainbow-colored structure that viewers can stand and sit under, play with, and enjoy in contrast with the site’s surrounding nature. The piece also includes a video that is projected at the Jones Center location.
The Marianne Vitale installation also came in two parts: one at Jones Center and one at Laguna Gloria. Vitale works with abandoned material—such as old railroad tracks, factory trash, and found metal—as the base of her sculptures; she then manipulates these materials with poetic gestures, often creating what are considered performance-based sculptures. At Laguna Gloria, Vitale installed nine old railroad crossings, known as “frogs,” which are responsible for changing the tracks to guide trains. She stands these upright, as opposed to their usual horizontal position, allowing viewers to see them for their engineering function, as well as for their aesthetic beauty. At the Jones Center, she installed a large bridge that was burned at her studio and then transplanted to The Contemporary Austin. The scent of the burnt wood fills the space, a dark gesture in conversation with the charred wood of the bridge.
From there, I visited Co-lab, a nonprofit artists space dedicated to contemporary installation and performance. They began as a grassroots, young nonprofit that has since grown to a much larger, cooler scale. They recently rented an abandoned, vacant building, and were part of the Texan Biennial, attaching themselves to a larger community, which has given them much-deserved attention. Their space usually features two-week exhibitions of local, young, up and coming artists. They also have a space called N Space at Nelsen Partners on Congress Avenue, where they are showing more traditional, Austin-based painters, but also bring in artists from elsewhere who show in conversation with these artists. Their current exhibition, “Lame Lewd and Depressed” features the work of Lane Hagood, Mark Flood, and Jeremy Deprez.
I also visited another young, cool space, Pump Project Art Complex, at their Satellite space, called Pump Project Flex Space. They had an interesting group show, titled “Field Collision: David Culpepper, Rebecca Marino, and Andrew McCloskey;” Rebecca Marino also serves as the director. Marino uses photography to speak to fantastical notions of 1960’s space exploration, while Culpepper filled the gallery with moon rocks and bright, organic shapes. One particularly interesting piece by Culpepper was a large rock seat-belted to the wall, speaking to ideas of space and fantasy.
It was fantastic to be able to visit Austin again and see all of the changes that are happening in their very vibrant contemporary art scene. From The Contemporary Austin’s invigoration of the Laguna Gloria sculpture garden to Co-Lab’s successful expansion at both the Texan Biennial and N Space to discovering a new, young space, Pump Project Art Complex, Austin art is thriving, and I was thrilled to be a part of it!