Amber Shields, DAY TRIP, 2008, pigment print, 20 x 24 in. Image courtesy of the artist © 2016 Amber Shields.
The Honesty of Rocks is not a typical summer group exhibition. Organized by The Contemporary Austin and presented at Austin’s GrayDuck Gallery through Sept. 25., the show is akin to a thesis show and marks the end of the 2016 Crit Group. By presenting a sampling of each artist’s work, it leaves gallery visitors wanting more.
Crit Group, a program now in its third year, provides the opportunity for a small group of local artists to build a supportive network over eight months. Each year artists apply and are selected by the three co-leaders of the group—Andrea Mellard and Sarah Bancroft and Andy Campbell—who are ending their stints this year. Crit Group artists have studio visits, group critiques, and discuss professional development over the course of the program.
This year features Crit Group artists Emma Hadzi Antich, Amy Bench, Ted Carey, Christina Coleman, Lauren Klotzman, Josef Kristofoletti, Betelhem Makonnen, Rebecca Marino, and Amber Shields. Although their conversations, studio visits, and critiques can’t be directly experienced through the exhibition, gallery visitors are able to see the results of each artist’s progress.
Ted Carey’s humorous works, placed at both gallery entrances, bookend the exhibition with his found objects ever so neatly arranged. long crunch, bored corset, and high energy balls occupy the front yard of the gallery. Made of logs, boards, balls, and rocks, the sculptures blend into the patchy lawn and chain link fence. In the courtyard, 186,000 endings per second hangs from an old oak tree. Drum heads strung from a tree, some painted and some with decals of natural landscapes, spin in the breeze. found flat end 1, found flat end 3, and found flat end 2 consists, respectively, of a flattened and framed styrofoam cup, remnants of a Diet Coke can, and another styrofoam cup, greyed with dirt and placed on the backs of The Contemporary Austin catalogues, the museum’s signature teal contrasting against the discarded material.
Three untitled works by Christina Coleman hover in a nook. Synthetic hair wraps around the steel and zinc sculptural forms. The shapes resemble antennae, scaffolding, a football goal post. The goal post-shaped sculpture’s dreadlocks spin away from the steel form. Next to this is a pedestal with two of Coleman’s ceramic combs with unusable ends and broken teeth. The glaze glistens and makes the combs appear both beautiful and dangerous—sharp teeth that would scrape the skin of a user.
Next to Coleman are three video works by Betelhem Makonnen. A large monitor sits on the floor, two more are hung on the wall; all three videos incorporate mirrors and the artist. She looks in the mirrors, repositions them, and moves back and forth. yous heres is the most compelling. Makonnen moves back and forth in the frame. She stands in what appears to be a bathroom with white walls and white light. The camera fixes on the artist and a mirror. As Makonnen moves in the space the camera re-adjusts and refocuses. Depending on where she positions herself, the camera brightens or darkens. She then breaks the frame and the viewer’s perception by painting over a mirror that was, until then, unapparent. Three of Makonnen’s framed pieces accompany the video work: Untitled (mute calendar), Untitled (two illiterate witnesses, and Untitled (mute photograph) which consist of found objects and an image accompanied by a script. The works are ruminating and the presentation of the objects echo Carey’s 2D works.
On the opposite wall are Emma Hadzi Antich’s Byzantine portraiture works, demonstrating a centuries-old style of painting and toying with the idea of relics with the use of vertebrae in Behind a Thousand Bars, Nothing 1, and Behind a Thousand Bars Nothing 2. Rebecca Marino’s photography and sculpture continue her series focused around space travel, NASA, and Anna Lee Fisher, the first mother in space. Two photographers, Amy Bench and Amber Shields hold a corner of the gallery with their rich work. Bench, a cinematographer, debuts her work through six nostalgic photographs taken around the central Texas area. Shields presents work from her series Visions of Johanne wherein she documented the last 15 years of her grandmother’s life. A digital video piece by Lauren Klotzman and a painterly mural by Josef Kristofoletti complete The Honesty of Rocks.
A solo exhibition of any one of these nine artists would be a meaty thing to behold, much less one show that contains them all. By presenting a sampling of each artist’s work, it leaves gallery visitors wanting more.