Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994

RESPONSES

14

TEXAS/BETWEEN
TWO WORLDS AT
by Chris Ballou A K

When the Contemporary Arts Museum
announced its selections for their Texas
(Triennial) exhibition last year, the art
community seemed more eager to
complain about the omissions than to
applaud the inclusions. From the next table
at the coffee bar to the crowds at the
springtime openings, something just short
of a collective outcry could be heard about
this or that oversight. Criticism of this sort
was, of course, to be expected. After all,
the stakes were higher than usual: who
among over six hundred artists would be
chosen to demonstrate the creative and
artistic energy of Texas? Everyone had
their own idea of exactly who that should
be. Somehow, five curators were able to
reach an agreement and compile a single
list. The result is Texas/Between Two Worlds.
Entering the gallery, the viewer is
immediately drawn to Helen Altman's wall
of flame. Composed of nearly two hundred
electric fire logs, Inferno benignly flickers
and crackles. Triggering a pyromania-like
response, the viewer might well imagine
and even desire the entire gallery thus set
ablaze; the two little Campfires sizzling
nearby suggest that the fire may be already
spreading. Finding themselves so easily
seduced may arouse suspicion in some, but
then again...
Using a selection of over-the-counter
medications, the Art Guys build large

MUCH TO
EVERYONE'S
structures and systems that force
SURPRISE, their diminutive components
PLURALISM'S into our awareness. In Noon, a
pharmaceutical version of
LATITUDE OF Brancusi's Endless Column,
pink Excedrin-Dual caplets
POSSIBILITY HAS extend from floor to ceiling. In
SOMEHOW FALLEN Dusk, obedient rows of
Tylenol gel caps, glued six-
SHORT OF THE together in the shape of a
child's jack, resemble the
EDEN IT confectionery concoctions of
Willi Wonka.
PROMISED.
Tre Arenz chooses the broad
palette of liquid household
products for her installation
entitled Dust to Dust.
Cleansers, detergents, lubricants
and other such substances are
presented in glass bottles lined up
along narrow shelves set in the wall.
Floating within each bottle is the identical
form of a female nude molded in unfired
clay. Each substance, in turn, reacts with
the clay generating a gradual or rapid
process of decay.
Arenz and the Art Guys, like many of their
contemporaries, express the desire to draw
our attention to the aesthetic qualities of
these and other products. We know, of
course, that it is exactly for this reason that
they are made the way they are. A lovely
semi-opaque shade of green is no more

essential to the functional adequacy
of Palmolive Dish washing liquid
than hot pink is to an allergy
symptom reliever.
Are these artists simply telling us
what manufacturers have
known for years, that a
clever package is half the
battle? Though we may
applaud their explorations
in nontraditional materials,
we might ask ourselves
what these artists have
accomplished: do they
succeed in transforming the
material into something
else or is this simply more
clever packaging? The pill
constructions of the Art Guys, for
example, do little more than
deepen the seduction already
inherent in the material and even
less to invoke the implications of
these substances.
Each of Bill Thomas' painstakingly
composed self portraits shows him
calmly awaiting his end as the
candles burn toward the gas can,
the pool fills with water, or the
dark room timer ticks away the last
moments of his life. Whether it's
the beach ball floating next to him
in the bottom of the pool or simply

o w "
E.

Carroll, Don. Art Lies, Volume 1, March 1994. Houston, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth228034/. Accessed July 23, 2014.