Department of Art and Art History News

Venice Biennale to Showcase work of UT Austin Professor Teresa Hubbard and Colleague Alexander Birchler

Mon. November 14, 2016

picture of Flora, vintage photograph on a blue background with handwriting
Teresa Hubbard / Alexander Birchler
Flora, production still 
Courtesy the Artists and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York, Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, Vera Munro Gallery, Hamburg.

Teresa Hubbard, professor of photography at the Department of Art and Art History and Alexander Birchler, a Swiss artist who is an affiliate research scholar at UT Austin, have been invited to create and showcase new work at the 57th annual Venice Biennale, one of the largest and most prestigious exhibitions of contemporary art in the world.

“Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler have a deft ability to create visually compelling works that reorder cultural myths while implicating the conventions of photography and film,” said Jack Risley, chair of the department of art and art history at UT Austin. “Hubbard brings an exacting standard to her collaborative work with Birchler, a standard that also characterizes her teaching at UT where she has a profound effect on our studio art program.”

Curator Philipp Kaiser of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia selected Hubbard and Birchler to show their work in the exhibition “Women of Venice” at the Pavilion of Switzerland. The exhibition explores the historical absence of artist Alberto Giacometti in the Swiss Pavilion at the Biennale. The artist was considered one of the most influential Swiss artists of the 20th century, but he repeatedly declined requests to represent Switzerland in the Venice Biennale.

In their work, Hubbard and Birchler use a documentary approach to delve into the archaeology of film. At the Biennale, they will present their film installation “Flora,” based on discoveries made in the course of their research on the largely unknown American artist Flora Mayo, who studied in Paris in the 1920s at the same time as Giacometti and became his lover. By weaving together fictional and documentary material, the artists reconstruct and re-imagine Flora Mayo’s life and work, while giving voice to her previously unknown son. Giacometti and Mayo’s relationship and their ensuing portrait reflect the creative energy generated by their collaborative artistic activity and also shed light on Giacometti’s early life.

This is the second time that Hubbard and Birchler have been invited to exhibit their work at the Venice Biennale. In 1999, curator Harald Szeemann invited them to participate in his group exhibition at the Giardini, “dAPERTutto.”

a silhouette of a structure against the setting sun whose colors are purple red and orange
Production still from Teresa Hubbard/Alexander Birchler’s Giant, 2014, 3-channel video installation; at Ballroom Marfa.

For the UT community, Hubbard and Birchler’s work will be on view at The Blanton Museum of Art in the summer of 2017 with Giant. “We are so fortunate to have internationally recognized artists Teresa Hubbard and Alexander Birchler based in Austin and look forward to having Giant on view at the Blanton as their newest film debuts in the 2017 Venice Biennale,” writes Veronica Roberts, curator of modern and contemporary art at The Blanton.

Giant (2014), a three-channel video, takes as its subject a decaying movie set built outside of Marfa, TX for the 1956 Warner Bros. film Giant starring Elizabeth Taylor, Rock Hudson, and James Dean. After the filming was completed, the three-sided façade was left behind in the landscape. “Hubbard and Birchler explore the skeletal remains of the set as seasons change, day turns to night, and parts of the structure swing and fall off,” Roberts writes. “Scenes of a film crew recording the current conditions are juxtaposed with a Warner Bros. office in 1955, where a secretary types up the location contract for the motion picture that has yet to be created.” Giant will open to the campus and Austin community on July 9, 2017.

Theater Company of kt Shorb Honored with B. Iden Payne Award

Fri. November 11, 2016

photograph of actor Jonathan Itchon with hair tied in a bun playing a traditional guitar
Jonathan Itchon, member of graduate coordinator and Theatre and Dance M.F.A. candidate kt shorb's theater company, was recently honored with the B. Iden Payne award for Outstanding Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Musical Theatre) for his work in The Mikado: Reclaimed. The Mikado: Reclaimed flipped the Gilbert and Sullivan classic on its head, presenting an (almost) all-Asian American cast performing a devised theatre piece with select musical numbers from the (in)famous operetta. Set in an internment camp in the near future, internees seek humanity amidst racism, corruption, and xenophobia.


GAPP brings Gfeller + Hellsgârd to UT Austin for Fall 2016 Artist Residency

Thu. November 10, 2016

by Christopher Callison
two printmakers working

Last month, the Guest Artist in Print Program (GAPP) invited Berlin-based artist duo Christian Gfeller and Anna Hellsgârd to The University of Texas at Austin for an artist residency. Over the course of ten days, the artists collaborated on the creation of a large-scale silk screen print project titled, Die Wand/Die Mauer.

ink being laid down

The Guest Artist in Print Program (GAPP) is the visiting artist program of the Print Area within the Department of Art and Art History at UT Austin. GAPP seeks to expose the university community to a combination of emerging and established artists immersed in an expanded print practice.

This year, GAPP brought Gfeller and Hellsgârd, who started working together twenty-one years ago producing zines and artist books. They’ve been commissioned work for familiar brands like Converse, Sony and Vice. “We like to challenge ourselves workwise,” states Gfeller. “Pushing the boundaries keeps the work interesting, exciting. Research, experiment, risk taking; this is what being an artist is about.”

man reviewing screen print work

The duo’s work has grown to encompass large unique formats like wood, panels and canvas and they aren’t afraid to let the influence of “accidents” disrupt their process. “Accidents (smearing, offprints, misprints...) of the screen-printing process are one of the pivotal components of our work,” states Gfeller. “Functioning like this makes it harder to fit the art market expectations, but our freedom is more important than our comfort.”

Aaron Yuhas, a freshman art student at UT, assisted the Berlin duo during their residency. “[Gfeller and Hellsgârd] would say, ‘we are not chasing perfection’ and it was a profound statement,” Yuhas reflects. Screen printing usually requires perfection to create a crisp product, however Yuhas learned that Gfeller and Hellsgârd preferred to use the medium in an unconventional, abstract way.  When asked why they didn’t paint free hand, Yuhas states, “they were adamant that you don’t get the same imperfections that you can with screen printing.”

different colors of ink about to be pressed

Gfeller and Hellsgârd spend the majority of their time in their own print shop called Re:Surgo in Berlin. The project took its name from two German words for “wall,” one implying a structure built for separating an area and another for a permanent division in a building.

“Re:Surgo! stands for the idea of reinventing yourself,” states Gfeller. This notion is reflected in their open acceptance of “accidents” in their work and how, as artists, they have adopted an iterative, adaptive practice. Even though they are consistently working, they spoke about how they do still try and get out to meet friends and artists in the huge Berlin art scene and enjoy their individual hobbies of horse riding (Anna) and collecting vinyl (Christian).

Anna Hellsgârd working with ink
Die Wand/Die Mauer was on view at the Visual Arts Center on October 27, 2016. Consisting of three free-standing billboards constructed out of screen printed plywood, each side of the of the freestanding “walls” were constructed to evoke the symbolic political meanings around walls in contemporary Germany and the United States. In contemporary Berlin, elections summon the papering of walls and buildings. During the Cold War, the Berlin Wall was erected by the German Democratic Republic, a Communist government, to divide Communist East Berlin from “fascist” West Berlin. One side of the wall made evident the presence of human contact and expression through graffiti and papering while propaganda, decoration and expression were heavily regulated on the other side. The final exhibition of Die Wand/Die Mauer recalls emergent issues of censorship and philosophical conflict in the contemporary United States.

After Gfeller and Hellsgrâd exhibited Die Wand/Die Mauer, the piece was deconstructed into smaller units and handed out to various students, alumni and visitors, much like the Berlin Wall itself upon its deconstruction in 1989. They are now working on documentation of the project, including collection of images of the smaller units with their new owners.

Shannon Faseler to Address Climate Change in New Work during Residency at Creative Centre, Stöðvarfjörður

Thu. November 10, 2016


Icelandic landscape with small green mountains perhaps on a lake with rising fog and a house on the left displayed among greenery

Lecturer in Studio Art Shannon Faseler has been invited to attend a fully-funded artist residency in Iceland at the Creative Centre, Stöðvarfjörður. In her work at the Centre, Faseler will be focusing on the environment and climate change while working on and around the largest glacier in Europe. She intends that the work produced will be ephemeral and site specific.

“My recent paintings and drawings use a formal language to express the difficulty of conceptualizing climate change,” writes Faseler about the work. “It is my intention while in Iceland to use the glacier itself as the ground for a series of images that redirect the viewer’s attention to the fragile nature of the ice. I also plan on collecting documentation in the form of photography and discussion with the local villagers. The local village has been under stress due to a decline in the fishing industry. I hope to understand how the change in environment has affected these individuals.”

Associate Professor Nassos Papalexandrou Shares Research Findings in Menil Symposium

Wed. November 9, 2016

objects from early greek art
Image and copyright credit: Nassos Papalexandrou

Nassos Papalexandrou, associate professor of Greek Art and Archaeology presented the results of his latest research in a symposium organized by the Menil Collection, Houston, TX, Rice University and University of Houston-Clear Lake (Collaborative Futures for Museum Collections: Antiquities, Provenance and Cultural Heritage, October 17-19, 2016). Papalexandrou’s paper is titled “Collecting Greek antiquities in the ‘60s: a group of Early Greek bronze horses in the Menil Collection.” The symposium presented the findings of scholars participating in the Collections Analysis Collaborative project (CAC), a research and educational initiative spearheaded by Rice University professor John Hopkins, a Ph.D. graduate of the art history doctoral program at the University of Texas at Austin. CAC aims at investigating questions of cultural heritage in order to produce a deep, historical understanding of nearly 600 objects from the ancient Mediterranean in the Menil’s permanent collection. Papalexandrou investigated John and Dominique de Menil’s interest in Early Greek art and how it dovetails with their parallel interests in African and modern art and especially surrealism.