Department of Art and Art History News

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.


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.”

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.

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.

Members of New Barbizon Painters to Complete Residency at UT Austin in Spring 2017

Mon. November 7, 2016

by Moriah Reyes

The words Plein Air Painting with transparent shadow superimposed over blue square

The Department of Art and Art History is pleased to embark upon a collaboration with the Israel Institute and The University of Texas at Austin’s Jewish Studies program to host the “New Barbizon School,” an Israeli artist collective in the Spring of 2017. The group comprises of five women artists who all studied and were trained in traditional art academies in the former Soviet Union, and later in Israel and Europe. The group takes its name from The Barbizon School that opposed the Romantic movement and formalism that dominated nineteenth-century art in favor of the style now known as French Realism, which focused on painting scenes from nature and rural life.

The New Barbizon School formed to offer their contemporary version of en-plein-air painting, attempting to create situations in which more traditional painting practices are celebrated. Painting in the field (i.e., en plein air) provides an unmediated encounter with the painted subject. In the duration of painting, the artist gets to observe a slice of people’s lives, talk to them and, for a short time, become a part of their world.

Though each artist in the Barbizon collective has their own independent career and style, their shared praxis relies on the rejection of a culture of perceived self-reflection in conceptual art and a hope to expand on the definition of what it means to be contemporary. Their methodology challenges the current art climate by mirroring contemporary reality, making art about their immediate environment while situating themselves within it.

The group travels to various parts of the country to paint their observations, creating work from an urban perspective. Instead of going to forests or fields, they have taken to the gritty streets of urban Haifa and Jerusalem. They actively seek out diverse, far-away locations such as Bedouin markets in Rahat, an army base in Negev and a refugee camp in Bethlehem, to bring those “forgotten ones,” like Israeli foreign workers or immigrants, from the background of the picture to the foreground. Though primarily concerned with the aesthetic subject, the New Barbizon members recognize the documentary element of their work and its political implications. Painting from reality becomes a construction, a political and social tool. The group’s own immigration from the former Soviet Union has made them sensitive to the challenges of integrating into Israeli society, adding a double conceptual layer to their work: on one hand they bring a socialist and collective spirit to the Israeli artistic scene, and on the other their Russian-identity reinforces their position of “isolated majority” within the Israeli population. While in residence, UT students will be given opportunities to join The New Barbizon Artists in painting and drawing from an urban perspective while discussing the cultural significance of this experience and its historical context.

The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program is bringing The New Barbizon School to UT to provide students a chance to work with the artist collective in The New Barbizon School’s chosen environment and techniques, outdoors from observation.

The residency is supported by the Israel Institute, which is dedicated to enhancing knowledge of study of modern Israel.