Was lucky enough to catch the latest show at the Austin Museum of Art today. In the past I've always been slightly disappointed in the exhibitions I've seen there. Never quite reaching their potential. Thought provoking and stimulating, but always missing something. Today was easily the best pair of exhibitions I've seen in that space.
Damian Priour makes chairs. Small chairs, constructed from limestone and glass. Hundreds of chairs. He had the idea of sending one of those chairs to 100 of his favourite Texan artists, that agreed to return to him a chair that they themself had made, that would fit in the 8"x8"x8" box he had originally sent their chair in. The exhibition shows the myriad of responses he got back. Constructed from a wide range of materials and in a variety of styles, the results are exciting and surprising. Photographs, paintings folded and packed into the box. Snow, globe chairs, repurposed Tecate cans. Dollar bills and gold painted toy soldiers. Works in intricate detail from wood, neon chairs, a great array of different styles and approaches, within such a narrow set of constraints. That's the key for me in this - the end results were interesting themselves, but the concept was fascinating. A good example of how such a narrow constraint can let the imagination and creativity soar. I also really was inspired by the collaborative aspect of the project. Rather than working alone he involved many other people and the results from each are so much greater when combined than if they were considered individually.
This was paired by an exhibition of Sebastiao Salgado's Workers series of documentary photographs. Calling these images documentary is almost unfair. They were a lyrical and dazzling array of beautiful photographs, of some of the harshest conditions I've seen people working in, in the present day. Photographing for 7 years around the world, these images show fishermen and pig slaughterers, ship breakers in Bangladesh, Gold miners in Brazil, oil workers in Kuwait. The photography is great, the images harrowing and the spirit of the people really shines through the conditions they are found in. I was moved and inspired in equal measure. The power of still photography to show these situations and hopefully even effect change is unmatched.
Also really enjoyable was the audio tour, which for a once presented the artists talking about their own work and process, rather than being interpreted or explained by a curator. I much prefer hearing about it in their own words and learning about the struggles they faced or what they feel the work represents.
The current exhibition runs until February 9th, 2009. Good value for $5!