March 8, 2004

University of Houston

I had a great day at the school of art, morning and afternoon visiting student's studios and a slide lecture after lunch. The university has a tropical feel to it. Houston was built in a river delta, swampy land. Nature is sprouting everywhere, the air is thick and humid. As an art center, Houston has a healthy set of all the things a city needs: the top end of museums; a broad middle of galleries in a full spectrum; schools and residencies sprouting knuckleheads and new thinking, new work; and collectors (both locally and across Texas and beyond). Since Houston is the strongest art center in Texas, it tends to own all things Texan, conceptually annexing Dallas, San Antonio, Austin and Marfa. The tropical air there seems to color the ferment in the art scene appropriately.

As for my slide presentation: although I recieved many a postive feedback, attaboys and good reviews from students and faculty after the talk... subjectively, I felt it could have been much better. I had rested in my plan to show my work in three ways: this weblog and the work I did in the past year here in Dallas, a carousel of slides that tell the linear story of the work out of school and into the thick of this wet in wet work, and another carousel of what I call the lunar lander view: a topographical series of slides that are on an automatic setting. Immediately, scrolliing through the weblog was a non-starter. I should have created an iPhoto summary of the images instead. The content in the blog was impossible to convey to the audience. So I jumped into the linear storyline carousel... but as I cruised into my description, I felt as if I was tracking over old territory (I gave a similar talk to the school several years ago); and to top all this off, the lunar lander strategy was a no-go as the school didn't have a slide projector with an auto setting. After what seemed like too many awkward silences and rolling past glitches, I got to a conversational space with the audience in the the Q&A part.

I want to do it again and get this right. (Note to self: rehearse next time)

What was better was the studio visits with the students. They are graduate students, interesting people with facinating backgrounds. Most of the work is pretty good, all are on or in range of their own track in making and thinking of their own art. Most of what I had to do is to get them to see what might be truely theirs in their work and what is derived from looking at other, mostly contemporary work. At the end of the talk, I mentioned Lawrence Wiener's reply to Buchloh when he said that he had to question the answers given to him in school. I asked the students what questions they had for the answers presented to them here in this school. And although stutters and silence greeted this query, I repointed it in the studios. I hope it stuck somewhere.

This is Joe Ives, who was painting in a performative manner, and spread into sculpture with the same motive. Although the studio was strewn with debris, a piece could be seen in the upper left of the pic above. His stuff reminds me of Paul McCarthy's early painting perfomances and Mory Baden's work that's scribed by human activities.
Here's Luc's work. An economist by an earlier degree, he began studying under John Pomara, painting with a strong Twombly vibe. Moving past that (thank g-d), he is now painting directly on the wall, inspired by calligraphy/language. A challenging crit, he had his defenses up. But I think I was able to get an idea or two across.

Posted by Dennis at March 8, 2004 9:33 AM

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