Who doesn’t want to get away from it all but stay within the comfort of their own home? Staycation allows just that. A critical aspect of this exhibition of abstract paintings is that it consists solely of Austin artists. And oddly enough, it’s something you can actually feel in the space.
I concurred with several people that I was spending more time at this Mass Gallery opening than any other, but it wasn’t until I spoke with Jules Buck Jones, one of the show’s three curators, that I understood why. Jones told me they hoped to make the exhibition an annual event, and I thought he meant an annual show of abstract paintings. “No, no,” he said, “an all-local show.” The exhibition works well with the rest of their quality programming, but it offers a subtle warmth not always felt in the space.
There are a few fresh Austin names, such as Caitlin Halloran, Anthony B. Creeden, and Jeana Baumgardner, alongside familiar names like Dan Sutherland, Ryan Davis, and Raymond Uhlir. Although each artist is indeed a local painter (and in this show, abstract at that), there is certainly a wide variety in terms of background and approach.
Anthony B. Creeden | (Red, White, Blue)
Creeden, for instance, uses a series of thin, colorful layers of egg tempura, alkyd, and oil to create a depth that is mesmerizing and disorienting. It’s as though Creeden has hidden a layer or two of ultra-thin glass among the layers and layers of swirled paint. Sutherland and Baumgardner take on a more geometric but just as methodic appearance. All of Sutherland’s angular paintings contain a central shape that feels like a jagged hole or stairwell to somewhere else. An initial tinge of cubism is diminished completely when you realize it is less about a central object and more about the outward space it creates. Although they are significantly smaller paintings, Sutherland’s work feels just as large as the work surrounding it. Halloran and Davis, on the other hand, use large, bold lines of color organically and playfully. Their work almost seems engaged in childlike conversation with one another in the gallery.
Jeana Baumgardner | A Funny Conversation
Dan Sutherland | Crystal and Violet
Tiptoeing the line of abstraction is Uhlir, who works from images that have been manipulated in Photoshop. Liquefied almost to complete abstraction, one painting literally peaks a single eye out of the melting colors surrounding it. This acts as a kind of anchor or reference point for the viewer. His other painting, which provides no such reference, ultimately leaves its audience wondering what it might have been pre-manipulation. The subtlety of this painting is overwhelmingly preferable, but the way it is now being informed by the previously mentioned painting works quite nicely. Titled Nostalgia 1 and Nostalgia 2, the work successfully speaks to our personal distortion of memories. Once again, as seen throughout the exhibition, the methodical control and execution is exceptional.
Raymond Uhlir | Nostalgia 1
Rebecca Marino is co-editor of Conflict of Interest. She also works as a visual artist and curator in Austin, TX.