A Visit to the “About Face” Exhibit at the Blanton Museum

Chuck Close Self-Portrait, 1999 Relief etching
Chuck Close Self-Portrait, 1999 Relief etching

Yesterday we checked out the “About Face” portrait exhibit at the Blanton Museum.  Another great exhibit!  For exhibits like this that are (more or less) chronological, we try to start our viewing at the end, or the latest works and work our way backward in time.  I usually enjoy viewing contemporary works the most, as I haven’t seen as many of them, and they are more relevant to my own work.

I absolutely love all works by Chuck Close.  He’s one of the painters that I contemplate often when I am about to start a painting session.  I love how his portraits are made up of tiny abstract shapes, and how interesting all those shapes are, and how much fun it is to see a progression of the various shapes within the portrait—more fun when the work is in color, but almost more interesting in black and white.  I keep wondering how I could incorporate shapes like his into my abstract paintings.  (Does it even make sense?  Maybe I should paint little representational shapes that make up a larger abstract work.)

Byron Kim | Synecdoche, 1991-1998 | Oil and wax on twenty panels
Byron Kim | Synecdoche, 1991-1998 | Oil and wax on twenty panels

I was thrilled to see the work “Synecdoche” by Byron Kim, which consists of oil and wax on twenty panels, and are portraits in the sense that each panel is the base skin color of each of twenty models that he found on the UT campus; thus the title, “Synecdoche” (a figure of speech in which a part represents the whole).  These twenty panels are in a way part of a larger work, or kind of a synecdoche within a synecdoche, the larger work now owned by the National Gallery of Art.  The larger work has been shown at such museums as the Tate and MOMA, which has a link to a nice video explanation by Byron Kim.

Oliver Herring | Patrick, 2004 | Foam core, museum board, digital C-print photographs, and polystyrene
Oliver Herring | Patrick, 2004 | Foam core, museum board, digital C-print photographs, and polystyrene

<– This sculpture made up of photographs by Oliver Herring amazes me. Kind of like David Hockney in 3D.  🙂

The oil painting by Jim Torok below is only about 4″ x 3″ — awesomely done and really requires close viewing!  I’m trying to imagine the numbers of hairs in the brushes he must have used.

The portrait by Robert Henri is a long-time favorite of mine; I can stare for hours at almost any of his paintings, and his portraits are particularly amazing.

It is also great to see again the “Portrait of George Gershwin in a Concert Hall” by David Alfaro Siqueiros, which is also a portrait of dozens of audience members.

So much great work, so little time to talk about it, so go to the Blanton and see this show yourselves, if you can.  It’s up through September 4th.  There are rooms and rooms of paintings from present-day back to the 14th century.  I took photos of many of the ones that I found compelling, which you can see in the gallery below.

Pictures from the Davis Gallery and the Blanton Museum, 12-2010

wood sculpture of Caprice Pierucci

My brother visited Austin last December, and my husband and I took him on a sightseeing tour of several great places around Austin, including a couple of places to see art.

One day, we made it over to the Davis Gallery to see the really awesome wood sculpture of Caprice Pierucci. Her work really blows me away. It’s both very labor-intensive and very organic in appearance. I love the undulations and how she makes wood appear so fluid!  Take a look:

Here’s a good little review of the whole show in the Chronicle.

Davis Gallery

Caprice Pierucci

The next day we headed over to the Blanton to see the “Turner to Monet: Masterpieces from The Walters Art Museum” exhibit, which was slightly underwhelming.  But then we headed up to the second floor to view the American and Contemporary galleries.  A lot of wonderful humongous works and a few interesting and even awesome installations.

I was hoping to see a piece by Byron Kim titled “Synedoche,” that I had seen years ago.  It’s a 20-panel piece that is composed essentially of portraits of 20 people randomly encountered on the UT campus—but each panel is a solid color— the color of their skin, representing the whole person (hence the title), with the group of painted panels representing the larger population.  I’ve seen another larger portion of this project, which I thought I saw here in Austin, and which has even more impact.   The initial work received a lot of acclaim in the 1993 Whitney Biennial.  There is a 400-panel iteration of this at the National Gallery that I would really love to see in person.

Unfortunately, this was not on display during our brief visit to the Blanton, but here is a group of photos I shot from the Contemporary galleries there.  For artists and explanations of the work, you really owe it to yourself to go to the Blanton and take a look yourself.  Many of these pieces become even more interesting when you find out the motivation and intent behind their creation.

The Blanton