Department of Art and Art History Studio Art

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).

UT Austin professors speak out against proposed elimination of NEA and NEH

Thu. March 16, 2017

In a bid to reduce domestic spending, the White House has proposed the elimination of multiple federal programs including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in its budget priorities, according to details outlined by The Hill and The New York Times.

This is not the first time that the NEA and NEH have come under fire. In the 30-year history of the NEA, the agency has continued to work to support excellence in the arts and humanities despite continuous political opposition. In response to the recent threat to both agencies, a host of arts leaders at UT Austin have spoken out against the latest budget proposal, including Art History Professor Eddie Chambers, Art History Professor John Clarke, and Stephen Enniss, director of the Harry Ransom Center.

UT Austin professors have argued against the notion that the combined budgets of the NEA and NEH—totaling some $148 million each (about .5% of the requested $54 billion increase in defense spending)—will move the needle on reducing deficit spending. “Given that cutting the NEH/NEA will do virtually nothing to positively impact the nation's deficit, this planned axing represents a serious diminishment in the cultural and educational life and health of the nation,” writes Chambers in The Dallas Morning News. “Doubtless we would all agree that the nation continues to grapple with monumental problems on a great many fronts, but the continued operating of these agencies is most assuredly not among these problems. Quite the reverse.”

Since 1984, the NEA and NEH have contributed an estimated $14,942,822 to the success of multiple projects across the university as well as faculty publications and research benefiting the UT student body, the city of Austin and the wider scholarship of arts and culture. Among them, Art History Professor Jeffrey Smith has seen his research sustained over 25 years by NEH support, beginning with a subvention grant from the NEH in 1984 for New Perspectives on the Art of Renaissance Nuremberg: Five Essays, a book he edited to a six-month research fellowship from the NEH in 2008, which ultimately grounded the research presented in his book, Dürer (London: Phaidon Press, 2012).

As Chambers made clear, the NEA and the NEH are vital to the cultural and educational health of the nation, including those that affect the academic and professional lives of those on the UT Austin campus. Speaking on behalf of the Oplontis Project, an archaeological study devoted to the excavation, study, and publication of the site of Oplontis in Italy, professor John Clarke spoke to The Daily Texan, “It’s impossible to think about continuing research without the NEH, particularly since the humanities are so terribly underfunded in general. The important part of the NEH is to remember that the humanities feed into and overlap with both the hard and soft sciences, so it’s literally a way of bridging disciplines.”

It remains to be seen how the Budget and Appropriations committees will handle the White House budget, but as professors from the Department of Art and Art History know and will attest, the NEH and NEA are critical to America’s legacy of artistic excellence and cultural investment.
 

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