Department of Art and Art History Alumni

New works by alumnus Miguel A. Aragón featured in new book and special exhibition in Peenemünd

Mon. March 20, 2017

a man maneuvering pipes across sheets of print paper


In 2015, Gregorio Iglesias Mayo and Miguel A. Aragón (M.F.A. in Studio Art, 2014) spent the entire summer at the Historical-Technical Museum Peenemünd. They would contribute to a historical exhibition at the site, Wunder mit Kalkül:Die Peenemünder Fernwaffenprojekte als Teil des deutschen Rüstungssystems (loosely translated as Miracle with calculus: The Peenemünde missile weapons projects as part of the German defense system) and are currently exhibiting together in a contemporary exhibition of their own works titled Imprinting History.

It is worthy of note that the Historical-Technical Museum Peenemünd is not technically an art museum, but a museum born of the historical significance of the site of Peenemünd. The site served as a power plant back in the WWII era and later was used during Soviet occupation of East Germany. In recent years, parts of facilities have been re-configured as gallery spaces for permanent historical and rotating contemporary exhibitions that speak to the historical, cultural and human aspects of the site. It was at Peenemünd that early rocket technology was developed by one of Germany’s leading scientists, Wernher von Braun, who would later secretly move to the United States and work with NASA to put man on the moon.

“The Historisch-Technisches Museum Peenemünde is a place charged with history, which altered human existence,” writes Aragón on the Till Richter Museum website. “It is a place that was built solely on the fact of its potential, which would never be fully reached until after the end of the Second World War. I am attracted to this relentless drive to realize the impossible despite the constant failures.”

What began as just the inclusion of a few pieces that Aragón and Mayo produced on site during their residency in a historical exhibition for the museum’s permanent galleries has turned into Imprinting History, a group exhibition of work from the two resident artists. Covering the museum grounds, Aragón would utilize the dust, earth and rust in his cyanotype process to imprint the land itself onto each print sheet.

Reflecting on the work in the exhibition, Aragón writes, “This body of work [created for the Historical-Technical Museum Peenemünd] is connected to my research as an artist, research that explores attempts to capture and freeze a specific moment, the marks of time, conveying the transitory nature of memory, reflecting on the process of recollection, fading memory and alluding to the transitory nature of human existence.”

A courtyard-length painting by Mayo, a large installation by Aragón as well as the documentation by the Catalan photographer Gala Oró will be exhibited in the Turbine Hall of the power plant Peenemünde from May 2016 to August 2017.

See more from the exhibition and Aragón at work in the video from the Till Richter Museum.
 

Wallpapering Facebook: UT Alumna Commissioned to Paint Mural at Facebook, Austin

Wed. April 5, 2017

hallway of painted and brightly patterned houseplants and doorways
Photo credit: Anna Mazurek

Annie May Johnston graduated with her M.F.A. in Studio Art in 2016, and since then has made her home in San Francisco. However, Johnston was recently pulled back to Austin for a mural commissioned by Facebook for their Austin headquarters.

Johnston answered questions from Studio Art professor and artist Leslie Mutchler by email.

Leslie Mutchler (LM): In your recent mural commission at Facebook (Austin), you've created a visually intense space—to say the least. The repetitive, hand-painted wallpaper of leaves, stripes and modernized fleur-de-lis is loose, expressionistic and vibrant; and over which you've added abstracted and flattened faux-doorways to interior spaces that bring to mind Memphis Design (Milan, circa 1980s). When you throw in the split complementary and warm/cool color schemes, it becomes an overwhelming, yet compelling mix. How did you arrive at this result? Was it planned? Was it intuitive? Can you walk us through your process?

Annie May Johnston (AMJ): Yes, I did have a plan, but I would say that I only stuck to the basic idea of a patterned hallway with doorways and houseplants. I decided that one side of the hall would be cool "wallpaper" with warm doorways and interior spaces and the other would be the opposite hue. My color choices mutated and changed from the start as the bright pink wall had an extreme reflective quality, so much so that it cast every color I chose for the green wall in a pink light, changing my colors completely. Originally, I planned to do the base of the wall with a stencil, but then I discovered a paint spray gun and the pattern developed out of moves that I had used before in smaller pieces. I also knew that I wanted to use milk paint, which is a type of material that is extremely matte and organic feeling, and I wanted to contrast it with bright acrylic and latex paints. I filled and layered the hallway until it felt satiated and could hold its own weight and was interesting enough on its own. The doorways were the next step, and I really felt they came out of nowhere as they were different from anything that I had made before. These pathways or portals needed to be modern and simple, but also absurd and a bit confusing. Ultimately, the result came from a combination of what the space needed rather than what I wanted and my own personal time spent wrestling and negotiating with the materials and surface.

one side of hallway painted with doorways to new faux doorways and fleur di lis'
Photo credit: Anna Mazurek

LM: A patterned hallway and houseplants? What led you to this course of inquiry? Is there a reason you work with interior or domesticated spaces? And why are the houseplants important to the overall composition?

AMJ: Houseplants relate to our human desire to control nature. As captives in our home they completely rely on us for water, sun exposure and nutrients. Within wallpaper there is also that sense of wanting to control our natural environment. I link the patterns in floral wallpaper to expertly crafted gardens in their rows and circles and to our desire to be involved in our natural environment, but from a safe and warm location. The plants in this piece are important because they provide an anchor to the interior and to the "real world", a space that becomes separate from the more alien environment that exists through the portals or doorways. In previous work, my focus was on mapping and the psycho-geography of cities. My focal point was turned towards objects in the cities and later the objects in my own personal space. All of these areas felt too distant or too specific, so now my images are abstracted from my own personal memory. I'm currently trying to find a balance between anonymity and nostalgia.

LM: While here at UT Austin, you made prints and paintings—some installation—but ultimately the work always had an element of repetition. I'd say you are a printmaker at heart—although you work in a great variety of media and ways. How do you think your interest in print, specifically contemporary print, relates to how you make and what you make?

AMJ: I think to describe my relationship to contemporary print means I must talk about my introduction to printmaking. For some time I worked for an atelier in Paris that specialized in lithography, and I had the great honor of working with a wide variety of artists whose prints we pulled and published. At the workshop, Michael Woolworth Publications, we didn't just do editions. I saw prints pulled using pressed and pulped flowers and dried flies. Prints were painted over, folded, added on to, and some incorporated printed materials like books or magazines. Early on I saw print being used in dualities, (e.g., the monotype vs. the edition or the precious print vs. the zine) and in using the medium you encounter a kind of push and pull between intention and form. My most recent work sprung from an exploration of plants, pattern and space, so a natural arena to consider was wallpaper, an art form with its roots in the world of print.

other side of hallway with green background and pink inner faux doorways
Photo credit: Anna Mazurek

LM: It's great to hear a printmaker talk about print in a less restrictive way. I think your background in print, especially your experiences at the publication shop in Paris has allowed you to work with the idea of the multiple and process in an innovative way. What's next for you?

AMJ: I really enjoyed having free-reign of a 90 ft. surface, especially the uniqueness of a hallway, so I imagine I will look for opportunities to work with other large surfaces in different spaces. My experience changed the way I'm currently working through compositions and colors, and I feel very fortunate that the environment challenged me. I have a show coming up in San Francisco in a space that has really old decorative accents and I am planning on doing a hand-painted area, so I'm looking forward to using the tools I gained during the Facebook project to continue working with the wall directly. 

Alumnus Aaron Meyers awarded AAF/Seebacher Prize for Fine Arts

Wed. July 1, 2015

wall of constructed overlapping chaotic metal with cheese like holes throughout
Installation view of Cenotaph for a Cenotaph

Aaron Meyers (M.F.A. in Studio Art, 2015) lives and works in Los Angeles, California. Each year, The American Austrian Foundation sponsors four young artists to attend the Salzburg Summer Academy, founded by Oskar Kokoschka in the 1950’s as the School of Seeing. This year, Meyers has been selected for this honor by a jury consisting of: Herwig Kempinger (President of the Secesssion – first president was Gustav Klimt) Luca Lo Pinto (Curator, Kunsthalle Wien) Adriana Czernin (artist and professor at the Summer Academy) and Hildegund Amanshauser (President of the Summer Academy).

Q+A with Alumna and Curator Rebecca Giordano

Wed. March 22, 2017

West wall of Christian-Green Gallery exhibiting March ON!
West wall of Christian-Green Gallery exhibiting March ON!


Curator Rebecca Giordano (M.A. in Art History, 2015) is one of the founding members of the curatorial collective, INGZ, a collaboration that grew out of Art History Associate Professor Cherise Smith's Historicizing the Politics of Identity seminar. March ON!, an exhibition curated by Giordano, is currently on view at the Christian-Green Gallery through April 15, 2017.

On Friday, March 24, INGZ and the UT Austin campus will welcome Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell for a public conversation at the Hogg Auditorium. A film screening of "Get in the Way: The Journey of John Lewis" will precede the panel, but tickets are required.

On Thursday, March 23 at 5:30 p.m. there will be a reception and conversation between Giordano and artist Nate Powell at the Christian-Green Gallery. 

 

image of gallery with display of comic art and panels
March ON! in the Christian-Green Gallery


Can you tell me how the March ON! exhibition came together?

I began thinking about this exhibition after reading the first volume of March back in 2014. John Lewis' personal story is certainly a compelling and important one. But it is actually the quality of the brush-and-ink illustrations made me think this graphic novel would make a fantastic exhibition. While they are, of course, comics, they are also extraordinary drawings that address essential political issues of the last century. The illustrator, Nate Powell, is an old friend of mine. I approached him about two years ago to discuss the idea of building an exhibition around the original drawings.

How do you approach curating an exhibition based on a comic? How has your work as an art historian or a curator previously crossed paths with this medium?

In general, comics are accessible. They are considered a low medium, a literally pulp form. The flip side of this disregard is that people are eager to pick them up and tear through without recognizing how much work they do to read them or feeling intimidated by the theme or content. This affords a unique opportunity for drawing out a nuanced and layered perspective and interesting, fine-tuned illustrations for a broad (and sometimes unsuspecting) audience, which March does very well.

This is my second exhibition of comic artwork. The first was In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes, which showcased work from four newspaper series by the first African American woman cartoonist. (One of Ormes’ comics is also on display in March ON!) I approached both shows archivally, putting these fantastic comic artworks in conversation with other kinds of cultural production. Because of the historic content and the necessity for visitors to spend time actually reading the text on the page, March ON! required a different curatorial approach. One question I had was about how to curate work from a comic book. These drawings are reproduced in an award-winning and best-selling graphic novel, so how could I approach this to make an exhibition that is interesting and does something different than the book? The exhibition March ON! features more than 50 original drawings from March by Nate Powell. I included a variety of ephemera and works of art by other artists to help fill out the historical period that the graphic memoir covers. Documentary photographs by Charles Moore and Spider Martin and pamphlets and newsletters from the activist James Farmer's archive (all of which came from the Briscoe Center here on campus) along with comics from the 1950s and today addressing racial justice, and protest albums from the era are on display to help visitors think about how the ideas behind the Civil Rights Movement spread in material ways.

depiction of 50s comic strip where little girl is talking to mom
Panel from In Heartbeats: The Comic Art of Jackie Ormes

 

What conversation or question do you hope to inspire with this exhibition?

March ON! offers UT a place to reflect on the relationship between a particular historic moment and our own using outstanding and innovative visual culture that centers Black experience. This is an undeniably important contribution to our campus culture. One really fantastic aspect of March as a graphic novel series is that there are so many points of entry for different people. Curating from more than 600 pages required selecting what events and ideas covered in the three volumes to represent in the exhibition. I chose to highlight the breadth of Lewis' story to invite as many connections as possible, whether it be a shared concern for social justice, empathy for the violence of racist treatment, the excitement of finding community as well as the difficulty of bridging differences within a movement, or using art to voice a deeply felt political position. The exhibition—like the books themselves—doesn't let you forget the past or the present. While there is no one thing that I hope visitors take away, I hope the exhibition offers an opportunity to reflect on the many roles people can play in social movements including the ways that the strategies that proved successful were developed, honed and carried out by ordinary people for ordinary people.

What are INGZ’s future plans?

INGZ is motivated by a creative approach to curating as a political practice. We like to rethink what happens in galleries, with whom, and how the curatorial process changes when we move beyond traditional models. For us, that can mean shifting our approach to the time and space of an exhibition—what does it do to offer two exhibitions back-to-back by the same artist in two very different spaces on the same campus, as we did with LaToya Ruby Frazier: Riveted? It can also mean seeing what comes out of condensing a semester-long performance series into three days to create a viewing and performing experience with density and in support of emerging and ongoing webs of connection and participation as we undertook with Sampling. Our current projects include a collaborative expanded video and a work that intends to bridge the worlds of inspirational speaking and chatty memoir through performance art. We like questions that emerge at limits. We also like archives. To that end, we are exploring how we create faithful archives of our own processes and projects. Online, this can be found out ingzcollective.org.
 

Alumnus Ender Martos exhibits temporary, site-specific installation in pop-up exhibition/designer showcase

Wed. March 8, 2017

monofilament wires in yellow, red, pink, blue and green are used within a square
Ganzania-Rebirth, Ender Martos, 2017


East Side Collective and Atmosphere Coworking will showcase a temporary, site-specific installation and new works from Department of Art and Art History alumnus Ender Martos (B.F.A. in Studio Art, 2008) on March 9, 2017. The opening reception for the event is on Thursday, March 9 from 7 – 11 p.m. and will be on view until March 23.

four columns of wire in various colors displayed in a maquette of installation
Graceful Sanctuary of Minimal Presence II, Ender Martos, 2017

Martos specializes in creating colorful experiences of optical movement, shifting the viewer’s perception of the space and materials as they move around the work. “When light interacts with the translucent material, light travels in, through and out creating a sense of movement,” he writes. For this site-specific installation, Martos will be using commercial monofilament wire, aluminum and concrete to activate the space with the intent of initiating an immediate, joyful visual impact. 

East Side Collective is a studio space shared by creative minds cofounded by Jared Hass, Tim Derrington, and Javier Martin. This entity helps lead Austin into thoughtful, innovative design while offering an authentic piece of Austin's creative culture. Atmosphere Coworking builds strong connections with others in the Austin digital creative and design community.
 

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