Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994

13

No bust for the artists in the show. Yet unless it is
a major turning point in more regional scheduling,
T/BTW is by all accounts a bust of "art scene"
expectations. If, however, T/BTW is the son et
lumikre for the vast "gray area" between life and
death, then it is a winner! The issue here is about
institutional marketing and delivery. CAM finds
itself "between two worlds": what does CAM want
with this show? Or:What does the show itself say?
The entryway installation by Tre Arenz of Austin
consists of forty-two glass Fleaker jars (tall, beaker-
like jars with large matte-black plastic caps). As the
Gallery Guide states, they are filled with "assorted
fluids" (household liquids.detergents, cleansers, oils,
etc.?), and arranged in a handsome Assembly Line
installation. FORTY-TWO Barbie-like figurines
made of unfired clay are immersed in the Fleakers,
one in each, where they are left to react-or not-
with their "assorted liquid"(so we're told). What
specific fluids (Standard #'s?) are these that
decompose and disperse to the degree we see in
each jar? Gallery Guide, catalogue, and videos all
fail to answer anything more specific than
providing highly charged environmental/feminist
bromides. The split-wall/chute wedge installation
of Assembly Line besides breaking the "line"(Oh,
please! - more division, dissolution, wrack-to ruin),
is architecturally satisfying, but it wastes space
without enhancing the original wit of Arenz's
presentation intent.

a1 ( u992 ( 9 Judin frp
rav gs ot is dji
thom why sh wuld p previously well
demonstrated co tcual concerns. Such concerns
include a Mr. ce-like seasonal marketing,
storage/demo wa strategy. Nonetheless, Texas
Monthly's Michael Ennis (whose review otherwise
missed two walls/three artists in T/BTW) sees
historical ramifications of the "hearth" in Altman's
15-foot wall of fake, functioning fireplace logs,
ascribing to them an apocryphal apocalyptic
quality - with the alpha and omega yet! Perhaps
this wall would work well at Texas A & M,
supplying fatuous artificial crackling effects to their
homecoming-at-the-hearth maxims. I'm sorry, I
don't feel it or see it.
As the viewer passes through the "chute," the three
AArt Guys assemblages flank Altman's Inferno.
The Shmart Guise(Michael Galbreth and Jack
Massing) are self-proclaimed post-pop, post-
conceptual, post-post Dada humorists. Following
the credo, "busy hands are happy hands," they
obsessively pursue a formalist ideal with materials
the catalogue calls "non-traditional." (Since before
Marcel Duchamp's Bottle Rack (1914), artists
happily have been using materials deemed "non-
traditional." Too much is made of this throughout
the catalogue.) The AArt Guys, however, make
the most of their materials with three labor-

intensive minimalist sculptures:
Noon (3,840 hot pink Excedrin
capsules stacked 22' tall), Dawn
(7,714 generic aspirin), and
Dusk (7,386 Tylenol gel caps
making 1,231 toy jacks),
positioned in that order on a
North-South axis. Is the
obsessiveness of these
constructs enough to disrupt
the temporal order? As Patricia
Johnson, the Houston
Chronicle critic, nails it, this
work is, "enough to give any
viewer a headache."
To the right, Ann Wallace's
Family Tree offers only
temporary relief. Wallace is
principally known as a figurative
wood sculptor, addressing her
will of idea and form only upon
salvaged timbers. This assemblage
is built from salvaged timber, the
pieces bolted back together and
sprawling procumbantly. There is a
wondrous reflective potential with this work.
Circling Wallace's anthropomorphic
constru the viewer confronts knotty
fissure rice affinity without query. Steel
functi s an effective framing and raising
devi e fr ie cut and vulnerable timbers, in a
way hat uestions s of all lif
1 alla, fio w - a l thea. i io Gr e

Toby ' opek's installation successfully uses
shelving scale, lighting, and viewing isolation
to pull the viewer into the curative powers of
collecting. Topek transforms simple shelves
into a place to project our interests, dreams,
and fantasies, and ultimately our fears as well.
Her The Dining-Room Piece is a plea; it
demands a serving for all. Its bottled waters
are "troubled" with news clippings. Its array
of limestone wrappings and stepping stones,
from her journeys in search of "healing
waters," binds the hard realities of life
together. The piece seems to derive comfort
from compression.
As you move along, don't trip over, step on,
or overlook Jesse Amado's not-so subtle,
indeed provocative felt and zippers. Amado's
erotically suggestive minimalist forms beg,
albeit teasingly, for better placement. Only by
cupping your hands (as suggestive as it too
may seem) to the sides of your eyes is it
possible to isolate Amado's titillating forms.
Likewise, Kelli Scott Kelly's painting
assemblages, profound autobiographical
visions of origination and self-doubt, would
work better if located around corners or in
intimate alcoves.

Patricia Ruiz Bayon's homage/altar, 7 Imagery,
To Magdalena, also suffers from scale and
placement problems. Why was no sanctuary
made for this work, which consists of seven
headless and armless figures made of palm fiber
and paper? These are icons shorn of their
sacred space, lost in the crowd, unframed, non
sequitur.
Casey Williams, a Houston photographer, is
the only returning artist from the "first" CAM
Triennial, in 1988. Williams has a wrap on
what curators want. His hypothetical images
have always been prolific and large-scale, often
with hand-painted color. Moreover, his work
is non-offensive, non-preachy, and generally au
courant, and thus he is well-represented across
the country. His three photographs here are
technical marvels that aspire to more than just
over-printing darkroom wizardry or classic
double-exposure cliches. Still, one can discern
here the standard T/BTWstatements: overlays,
dualities, and ever-doubling paradoxes.
Thomas Glassford, the show master of cool,
the Mr. Potatohead of jangling dualities,
commands the viewer's awareness by using the
seductive potential of violence. Using chromed
fittings and polyvinyl tubing, Glassford
juxtaposes an up-to-the-minute biotechnology
feel with the simple anthropomorphics of dried
spherical gourds. And what wondrous space is
g to hments, r( sp cnd chrmuiesm A

And then there is the "life thus death" reality
testing of Greg Reuter's 25 suspended ceramic
heads and Bill Thomas's photographic
lampoons of suicide. Oh, the absurdity of it all!
These two artists depict an existential
fascination with death that seems almost to
follow Albert Camus, book by book. Four
visits to T/BTW since the opening have been
quite revealing, as one hears people comment
about Reuter's and Thomas's images: "Oh
good- more death!" I am sure that CAM has
not been using subliminal tapes to transmit
this "message." At least Thomas's large images
have humor, however dark you may find it.
The only male painter in the show, David
McGee, also of Houston, exercises the
paradigm palette of foreboding, angst, and
alienation. Using emphatic gestures, McGee
gives his work a strong emotive power,
especially in Inferno IX: Bronwyn's Red Rain.
He successfully evokes a sense of "falling,"
providing handsomely haunting manifestations
of self-examination.

Cont. on Pg. 2

Carroll, Don. Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994. Houston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228034/. Accessed February 1, 2015.