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5. The 2005 Texas Biennial:
Bi Art I didn't want
to look at, at first
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Story + Photographs by J R Compton

Texas Bi Pages:   The Cover   1 - 3D   2 - Tech   3 - Venues   4 - Stats   6 - Correspondance   7 - Birth of the Bi


One of art's duties is to scare us silly. When artists fail that we're likely to drop into idiot conformity. We lose faith and our way. Frightening us wakes us up to possibilities. Bad art may be the best thing we got going. Or then again, maybe not...


Lodge -

Austin artist Nina Rizzo - Lodge - acrylic on panel

I keep looking at this piece, one of the first we saw in the Biennial, in the lobby at the Dougherty center. When I first saw it, I saw only that Brillo bit of reddish-orange smudges in the lower center left. Like a blot on sunglasses, I want my mind to tune it out.

With it gone, I might enjoy this optically delusional architectural painting zooming through painterly space in exaggerated 3-D colors. I like the random streaks of contrasting colors, the thick brush strokes, the a lot going on that I don't understand about it.

It is a small painting, and there was a similar one nearby that I found easier to enjoy, but this one's dare I say it PostModern pile up of images and unironic juxtapositions make me want to like it, but I can't not look at the orangish brillo glitz.


McAllen artist Matthew Guest - Sick-Sixty-Sick - acrylic on canvas


It's not difficult to understand how someone who likes this piece would also like the one below. They're of the same phantasmagorial ilk. Like maybe both artists attended East Texas State University (now called something else) under Lee Baxter Davis in the 70s or 80s.

See Lee Baxter Davis & The Lizard Cult Grow Up to get a grip on this statement.

Hard to believe pieces like this are avant again, but the art world keeps going around. If McLuhan was right, and he was often enough to throw us all off, art is whatever you can get away with, and placing this in this show proves it.

Very expressive. 666, we know, is the Number of The Beast, the End Game, when the system overloads, Koyaanisquatsi — Life out of balance. With an abundance of pretty much everything but also a nice selection of textures, colors and shapes, and a interdimensional (that word again) composition that invites us to look closer.


Austin artist Ali Fitzgerald - Blubbering Heights


This horrific vision wants us to look away in disgust, and I did.

Then I looked back and shot this photo, clipping its left edge as I shot in the dark. I was careful to photograph the pieces I took instant dislike to, so I could expore those visions and my feelings on a page very like this one.

It's easy to dislike art that offends. Gloomy grotesqueries combine with a vivid pallet to turn our stomachs, then sneak looks back to see why. Look away, talk nervously, then return to the scene of crime against aethetics.

I hope to discover who this artist is and their title before this is published, in vain hope that knowledge might shed light on the narrative, but ya never know. Meanwhile, I'm beginning to enjoy disliking this one. Think I'll keep at it.

See the Feedback page for some sprighty feedback from artist Ali Fitzgerald.


Austin artist Heyd Fontenot - Lucky Log - oil on panel


Two naked men on a log in the woods in monochromatic flesh reds, watching us from their joint perch. What's not to loathe in this simplistic painting? Anatomically accurate except for those big heads, woodgrain texture in the shadow of the forest behind them, a single, unifying shadow of tree holding them up — the lucky log in question. Okay, but what's it all about, anyway?


Austin artist Jonathan Marshall
The Eruption of Mount St. Helens, 1980
acrylic and ink on board


We barely noticed this very large monochromatic drawing until the founders gathered in front of it to announce the Juror's Choic Best in Show $1,000 award at the top of the opening at Gallery Lombardi Saturday night.

We were shocked and dismayed. All the amazing art running loose in this statewide competition and some furry out of town judge chose this as the best? We didn't and still don't understand.

For what it is, it's a nice enough piece. What it doesn't show, however, is deep thought, unique expression, fine drawing, impending doom, threatening, scary or even a great job at rendering smoke. What gives?

There's more art I wanted to explore in more depth, but first I had to get this stuff off my chest and out of my mind.



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