Arts & Culture
In and out of place at Artpace IAIR 12.2
Published: July 18, 2012
All three shows in Artpace's second 2012 International Artists-in-Residence Exhibition use, or make comment on, photography. But that wasn't an intent in choosing the artists, says IAIR 12.2 curator Sarah Lewis. Though the overlap in the projects by Leslie Hewitt (New York), Mike Osborne (Austin), and Jacco Olivier (Amsterdam) may be happenstance, it gives this edition of exhibitions from the acclaimed residency program a seeming continuity. But the real punch lies in the (many) contrasts.
Jacco Olivier's three-screen projection Cycle — made by photographing progressive stages of his lush expressionist paintings on panel, then stringing the images together in much the way that early Walt Disney animations were created — is a painterly blend of gestural depiction that rushes and blends into vibrant displays of abstraction. It glories in paint. Fat, striated brush strokes construct a city; a river appears, and flows into a roiling, mountainous countryside. Blobs of bright reds, yellows, and blues (inspired, says Olivier, by the handmade signs found in San Antonio neighborhoods) float over the quickly changing scenes, ending in an exaltation of color. This isn't a literal depiction of the Alamo City and environs (the soaring mountains seem pulled from memories of cowboy movies), but instead traces the impact of this sun-seared place on the artist, who usually lives among the somber tones of the Netherlands. Projected on three screens totaling over 36 feet in length, Cycle is much larger than Olivier's previous works (which range from 12 inches to 12 feet in length); the sudden growth is a response, perhaps, to the famous out-sized scale of Texas. Bright and dancing, this massive, ebullient video may be dismissed as eye candy by some. But caution is warranted: it shows us a vision through beginner's eyes, offering relief to numbing habit.
Floating Island, the installation and book by Mike Osborne, continues work he began at the Center for Land Use Interpretation. Working at their Great Basin Desert location in Wendover, Utah, and West Wendover, Nevada, he has constructed a series of photo-stories that depict traces of the area's past prominence as a military base (the pilots who dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII were trained at Wendover Airfield) and its current dependence on casinos. Bringing the desert into the western towns are shots of obscure mining slag heaps and of the nearby Bonneville Salt Flats, famed for attempts at ever-increasing land speed records and site of countless car commercials. The book contains over 70 photographs, but no text besides titles and chapter headings. No matter, the stories of sparse buildings and open spaces are cinematic, expansive, and hint at an exaggeration in the service of truth, exemplified in the paintings of Paul Gauguin and films of Wernor Herzog, one of Osborne's favorite directors. A photo on the wall, White Plane, Port San Antonio, was shot off-location, at an SA airplane interiors firm. Bits from the narratives are found in the few photographs of the installation that line the walls; a table is set in the middle of the room, provided with copies of the book and newspapers from the desert towns. It's haunting stuff, revealing little usable information, but much about atopia, the nowhere within the American West.
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