The Texas Biennial is an exhibition of contemporary art that celebrates the many cultures and identities that influence and impact our daily lives across the state. The Biennial is an independent survey of the contemporary art in Texas centered around our artistic voices and the communities that thrive on them. Curated by Leslie Moody Castro, the TX★17 exhibition is one cohesive show taking place in a single venue in Austin, located at 211 E Alpine Rd, #700. The exhibition will run from September 30 through November 11, 2017, on view Thursday – Saturday, 12-6pm.
We asked each of the 33 artists featured in this year’s Texas Biennial for their reading recommendation.
Speculative Everything: Design, Fiction, and Social Dreaming by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby, MIT press
This book played a significant role in the creation of “the Hall of Shame.” One of the core themes in the book talks about how to and why we should be using design and art as a tool to create / share alternative scenarios to those in which we currently live. As I created the fictional “Hall of Shame,” I certainly leveraged the principals directly taken from this book. In addition, as a collegiate educator I’ve found the “what if” scenarios + examples discussed very helpful to use as project starters for graduate and upper level undergraduate graphic design courses.
Concubines and Courtesans by F.M. Bertholet
This book depicts women in Chinese erotic art from paintings, photographs, sculpture, textiles, and porcelain. I am most interested in the history of the female form on porcelain export wares that traveled the silk road for trading all over the world. Some of the imagery in this book makes me blush!
“Subterraneous Virginia: The Ethical Poetics of Thomas Jefferson” by Douglas Anderson
“The Minimal Unconscious” by James Meyer
A lot of the making of this work was reading about two historical figures, Thomas Jefferson and Donald Judd. I was trying to find, or force, a connection. Histories, particularly River of Dark Dreams and Minimalism, framed Jefferson and Judd in a way that I could see them as bookends to a type of expansion; Judd unwittingly acts out Jefferson’s vision of a yeoman farmer transforming the West.
If I have to limit my reading list to 1 recommendation, here are 2 articles: “Subterraneous Virginia: The Ethical Poetics of Thomas Jefferson” by Douglas Anderson and “The Minimal Unconscious” by James Meyer.
Judd and Jefferson share an attitude toward nature, history, and labor that is outlined really nicely in each article. Anderson uses the way Jefferson interacts with and talks about nature as emblematic of his racial myopia and moral blindness. And Meyer gets at how Judd can both maintain and relinquish control over his work by employing others. Necessary to this type of creativity is his own historical, racial, and cultural myopia. He needs to be able to see an established place as “empty.” Its infrastructure and history are relics devoid of context.
Tao Teh Ching
I read from the Tao Teh Ching almost everyday. I sometimes compare the translations of John C.H. Wu and Stephen Mitchell. As I evolve, my comprehension of It evolves. I have been reading it for years.
Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe’s Guide to Better English in Plain English by Patricia T. O’Conner
This is what I am reading now. It is informative and an entertaining read.
As an artist using visual symbols, the written symbols to explain or identify an artwork must have precision in structure and language clarity. Writing is a craft and skill with artistic merit and I am always looking to improve my writing skills.
There is another book I am interested in by Richard Prum, The Evolution of Beauty. It is a version of Darwin’s sexual selection theory, which says that beauty rather than brawn is independent and sometimes contrary to natural selection. It was reviewed in the NY Times Book Review and it sounds like a delicious read.
Wabi Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers by Leonard Koren
A beautiful little book on the history, evolution and aspects of the Japanese aesthetic.
St. Sucia Zine
Unapologetically brown, mujer, and strong. All of these stories, poems, drawings, and photographs within this zine remind me of how beautiful it is to be a mujer, honest, and to just be yourself.
Backyard Homestead edited by Carleen Madigan
The Backyard Homestead is definitely in the category of escape/fantasy for me. I feel weird recommending anything for people to read in book form because other than the (maybe) necessary theory and history, my tastes are made by random celebrity suggestions- like, “Oh, Anthony Bourdain is hanging out with Jim Harrison, who is that?” and then I read Dead Man’s Float and I’m ashamed I hadn’t read it before. We tried raising chickens for eggs, but Rainy (feet pictured) broke through the wire and ate them. The only win we’ve had with getting back to nature is that our tomato and pepper plants are insane. I doubt we’ll be milking goats for cheese/soap or distilling anything any time soon. Though, when governmental collapse happens, it could come in handy.
Labels for Locals by Paul Dickson
Dickson compiles more than 1,000 names for residents of cities, states, and countries around the world. I am fascinated by the way we segregate ourselves, both the way we do it and the way we do it to other people.
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
A Tale for the Time Being is a quiirky, magical book about our connections across time and beyond geography. Through the lens of a lonely Japanese teenage girl and an Asian American writer who finds her diary washed ashore after the Fukushima tsunami, Ozeki contemplates notions of legacy, purpose and how chains of events can influence us in big and small ways. For me this book perfectly illustrates our interconnectedness, a subject I explore a lot in my work through the use of multiples that work collectively to create a larger whole.
Robert Smithson in Texas by Leigh Arnold (Author), Amy Von Lintel (Author), Jonathan Revett (Author), Elyse Goldberg (Editor), Maxwell Anderson (Foreword)
This book is my roots. It discusses the projects that Smithson attempted in Texas. The one he completed, Amarillo Ramp, represents a critical moment in my development as an artist, and as a result, I have gained access to the greater art world because of my 20 plus year relationship with this work. One of the main things I have taken from Smithson’s work is the importance of a geometric foundation, obvious in the tessellations I screenprinted on the records in the Biennial. His influence has permeated my practice and there is not a day that goes by that I don’t discuss dialectics or pragmatism with my students or in the context of my own work. It took Smithson five tries to execute a work in Texas, and the biggest lesson of this book is to always keep trying and never stop making art.
The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors by Edward Hollis
One of my favorite books that has inspired my work is titled The Memory Palce: A Book of Lost Interiors by Edward Hollis. This book found me while visiting a bookstore in New York; I was drawn to the title, which refers to an ancient technique for memorization whereby you build upon images of rooms to aid in public speaking. Throughout the book, the author compares his grandmother’s house to historical interior rooms that have been lost or hidden over time. The chapters follow chronologically, beginning with Nero’s palace Domus Aurea to the palace of Versailles to the Crystal Palace. It is rich with history, detail and sentimental nuggets that inspires me every time I read this book.
“One to One Performance” by Rachel Zerihan
One body to an-other. Spanning time, sharing space, marking place, blending breath, sensing touch. An emerging inter-face addresses both parties in this mise-en-scene of togetherness. The function and development of the encounter is reliant upon shared economies of exchange, identification and understanding.
“Conservation is Good Work” from the book Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community by Wendell Berry
Wendell Berry insists that “small” lives lived at a modest local level are the solution to global problems. This was a catalyst to my life and work in Midland, Texas at a very crucial time. His essay “Conservation is Good Work” from the book Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community, allowed me to commit to seeing beauty in the place I’m from. I saw this beauty easily as a kid but felt embarrassed by it later in life as I learned more about the social and environmental implications of certain local beliefs and practices. My re-awakened appreciation has further allowed me to find value in myself and in the lives and stories of the people in my community. Berry’s voice guides the reader to a point of connection with place as the motivation for change, a connection that by extension allows people to take pride in themselves.
The Coming Community by Giorgio Agamben
“As with Prince Myshkin in Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, who can effortlessly imitate anyone’s handwriting and sign any signature.”
The Odyssey by Homer
When you go back home and neither you nor home is the same.
Poetry Magazine, March 2015
The Contemporary American Poets; American Poetry Since 1940 edited by Mark Strand
“Los Supermachos” by Eduardo del Río García
The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights by Autumn de Wilde and Jim Jarmusch
Anyone that knows me well would tell you I’m a big White Stripes fan. Seeing two people fill up a stadium all by themselves had a big influence on my approach to art. I realized that minimalism wasn’t about stripping a work down to nothing but to its essentials. What mattered was putting yourself into the work physically or metaphorically and rolling with the punches. Which is why I chose to recommend photography book The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights by Autumn de Wilde with a foreword by Jim Jarmusch. The book documents Jack White and Meg White’s 2007 tour of every province and territory in Canada leading up to their 10th anniversary show. It’s a very intimate view of the band traveling, playing surprise shows in pubs, old theaters, on boats, to babies, native elders and more. It’s a beautiful book and if you enjoy it I also highly recommend the documentary that was released under the same name.
Daybook by Anne Truitt
when i think about a book that resonates with me as an artist i like to refer to daybook by anne truitt.
it helps us understand how she navigated the academic and professional world of art in the 60’s while hearing her progressing thoughts on making minimal colour field totems.
one paragraph keeps me eternally grounded.
she describes an evening that revolves around one of her openings. read it here:
if i feel overwhelmed or am riding too high on the social dynamics of art openings, i might remember this and chill out.
“This is Water” by David Foster Wallace
My recommended read is “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace, which is easily accessible in multiple forms via the Internet. It’s a quick read or listen. I come back to it regularly when I feel like I’ve given enough of myself to the world around me and would prefer to be locked in a room making work that connects to nothing other than my own need for the process of its invention to occur. It is an immense privilege to have any amount of time or space to make and think about art, and I listen to This is Water somewhat regularly to keep this perspective. This text reminds me not to ignore or underestimate the significance of day-to-day life beyond the studio. With any luck, its message will also keep me from imposing my perspectival truth upon the pictures I make, which are intended to shed light on collective human experience in modern society.
Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman
The Interventionists: User’s Manual for the Creative Disruption of Everyday Life edited by Nato Thompson and Gregory Sholette
I have found it to be an inspiring book on creating interactive works with social and political commentary, which blends well with my works.
How to Talk to Your Cat about Gun Safety (and Abstinence, Drugs, Satanism and other Danger that Threaten their Nine Lives) by Zachary Auburn
This fits my sense of humor and the parody is easier to take when involving cats and not children.
The Freedom of the Migrant: Objections to Nationalism by Vilem Flusser
McDonaldization of Society by George Ritzer
Pursuing the ideal of efficiency, rationalization of every experience has become what we ought to expect. The irrationality of this rationality has been materialized not only in the contradiction of what this rationality seeks to achieve, but also in the loss of enchantment. This smooth introduction to the sociological imagination is quite transformative. It will leave you wondering how much McDonaldization has taken over your life, even in the most personal experiences, including sexual or spiritual.
Battles in the Desert by Jose Emilio Pacheco
I have never been able to keep a single copy of this book. Somehow, I always give it away. It is a must-read of Mexican literature, a short story that must be considered a classic. Falling in love while in an emergent sexuality is still falling in love. A boy is taken with a woman in a changing Mexico that nevertheless persisted in old habits, full of anecdotes that never existed. Revisiting this book routinely has become a search for a mirror that I haven’t been able to hold. It has never ceased to baffle me how I can feel nostalgic for events that I could never experience and for those that never really happened
Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People: The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived by Amarillo Slim Preston and Greg Dinkin
This book is filled with memoirs that are jam packed with adventure and excitement. It’s hard to put this book down and not be amazed with how Amarillo Slim thinks and manages to get away with outsmarting so many people.
El Decameron by Boccaccio
For years I use to read a chapter before going to bed. I was fascinated by these 14th century tales told daily by a group of young women and men sheltered in a Villa to avoid “la peste” or “black death” outside Florence, Italy. It is a classic I keep with me all the time.
This book is part of my life. It was a gift. Some say that the I Ching has to be given, not bought, in order to help you with its revelations. It has helped me with decisions and guidance.
This Planet is Doomed by Sun Ra
Afrofuturism is a mythical canon that uses elements of sci-fi to critique black experiences within society. The genre as a whole is influential to my practice, particularly in regards to the notion of black people being otherwordly or alien. Such themes serve as a good vehicle for exploring the common feelings of displacement and disconnection within white society, especially among African Americans and other diasporic African communities. Afrofuturism as a genre encourages black people to create our own narratives, a revival and reimagining of traditional African storytelling. A good introduction to this genre is the poetry and music of multidisciplined artist, Sun Ra. This Planet is Doomed is a collection of poignant, critical poetry. The classic jazz album Space is the Place is an afrofuturistic Opus. Both works have deeply influenced how I produce and consume art.
The Sympathy of Things, Ruskin and the Ecology of Design by Lars Spuybroek
John Ruskins’s aesthetic experience contains three main elements that are intriguing to me: variation, fragility and imperfection. According to Spuybroek in The Sympathy of Things these concepts define the relations between people and their artistic creations, and also between all things, animate and inanimate: ”Sympathy is what things feel if they shape each other.” In this book a lot of concepts are questioned: the Radical Pituresque, the Sublime, Williams Robinson’s Wild Garden. The content is illustrated with beautiful drawings of John Ruskin and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, amongst others.
My personal sense of aesthetics evolves around the intense feelings evoked by wild nature: on the one hand I am looking for the accidental and nature’s spontaneous growth, but at the same time I am always looking for a certain stillness that is pure. I can find myself in Ruskin’s definition of Sympathy as a shaping force, in nature, and between objects. When plants bloom they grow ornaments- flowers- but when people bloom, they “fulfill their potential.”
“Still: On the Vibratile Microscopy of Dance” by André Lepecki
I found this reading to be brilliant and applicable to more than just dance.
My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
My recommendation would be a book that I’ve treasured and always come back to entitled My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. The protagonist, main plot, and story structure give me that extra push on what it means to live a life in the arts. I love it so much that I named my first born son Asher. Of course, he’ll probably end up entering a profession as far away from that of an artist but that’s ok.
Cracking Creativity by Michael Michalko
The follow-up to the bestselling THINKERTOYS, this book by internationally renowned business creativity expert Michael Michalko shows how creative people think—and how to put their secrets to work for you. Through research and analysis of hundreds of history’s greatest thinkers—from Leonardo da Vinci to Pablo Picasso—Michalko teaches you how to bring their techniques into the modern home and workplace to approach problems in creative, new ways.
DeKooning : An American Master by Mark Stevens
Willem de Kooning is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, a true “painter’s painter” whose protean work continues to inspire many artists. In the thirties and forties, along with Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock, he became a key figure in the revolutionary American movement of abstract expressionism. Of all the painters in that group, he worked the longest and was the most prolific, creating powerful, startling images well into the 1980s.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Paulo Coelho’s masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago’s journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life’s path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
Posada: A Century of Skeletons by Juan Villoro (Author), Mercurio López (Author), Montserrat Gali (Author), Helia Bonilla (Editor), José Posada (Artist)
The United States of the United Races, A Utopian History of Racial Mixing by Greg Carter
I had the privilege of meeting Professor Carter at this year’s Critical Mixed Race Studies Conference held at USC. This book explores mixed race movements and reinserts mixed race conversations for those who live outside of the confines of black and white. A must read.
2666 by Roberto Bolaño
The 2017 Texas Biennial Catalog Release is this Saturday, November 4, 3-6pm at KC Grey Home Furniture (211 E Alpine Rd, #700).