Texas Biennial

A strong sense of independence


Texas Biennial Invitational
Christie Blizard, Marcelyn McNeil, Tom Orr and Brad Tucker
Curated by Michael Duncan and Virginia Rutledge
On view August 23 — September 28, 2013 at Lawndale Art Center
Installation view
Photo courtesy of Lawndale Art Center

Not many biennials can claim to focus on artists from the place they’re located, nor can the artworks claim to use the local color. Though a trend toward regional contemporary art narratives has begun to surface at international institutions such as the Getty Center and SITE Santa Fe, the Texas Biennial has always let artists in the Lone Star State dictate the tone through a statewide open call process. Entering its fifth celebration, the Biennial challenges what we think we know about Texas art with a sizable, multidisciplinary curatorial team and events meant to explore art making in the state. “The Texas Biennial is what it’s about to be in Texas and the infrastructure for contemporary art in Texas,” says Virginia Rutledge, the curator-at-large for the event who splits her time between New York and Austin. “There’s as much focus on the audience for art as there is on the artists. It’s really about what it means to be located in a particular place.”

The 2013 Texas Biennial, or “TX13,” takes place September 5 through November 9 at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in San Antonio. A number of complementary events elsewhere in the state, all headed by the Austin arts organization Big Medium, will also help realize the ambition of the Biennial’s name on the way to honoring its longevity. This fifth cycle is an important marker for an event that others have twice tried to initiate, a triennial 1988 and biennial in 1993, without making it past a first edition. Some credit Big Medium’s inclusive, DIY process that begins with an open call for submissions, a rarity for any exhibition, let alone one of this size. The only requirement is that the artists have some connection to the state, which Rutledge interprets as meaning “the experience of being Texas was important somehow.” This year, the group expanded the curatorial team to 13 participants (actually 14, if we disregard that two are acting as a team)–a relief to Rutledge, who curated the event alone in 2011, and now acts in an advisory capacity. This list pulls from a wide range of practitioners, among them Fort Worth artist Dario Robleto, LA writer David Pagel, and independent curator Barbara Perea from Mexico City. “We invited curators to participate who have a relationship to Texas or on-the-ground knowledge of Texas but who happen to be based elsewhere,” said Rutledge. “That was done deliberately to try to get more perspective.”

After hosting a satellite event for the biennial in 2011, Blue Star offered to host the group survey this year. It is the first venue outside Austin to host the marquee event and the first venue to (almost) gather the whole collection in a single space, which will come as some relief to critics who complained in 2011 about the scattershot organization of locations. Each curator acted independently, however, amassing a collection from 69 artists that has forced Blue Star to open an annex around the corner and schedule a second opening on October 3 to unveil additional works. An increase in the number of video art selections further complicated the installation process by requiring light-controlled spaces, free from glare.

Biennial curator Bill Arning, the director of Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, says that the collection displays a great diversity of art from across the state, calling it edgy and performative, “even the paintings.” “It’s not just cowboys,” he stressed, citing works by Michael Bise and Mark Ponder, chosen by curators K8 Hardy, a New York artist; and Clint Willour, of Galveston Arts Center. Bise’s drawings depict his experiences with “ICU psychosis” while getting a new heart. And an example of Ponder’s work includes a disturbing music video of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” over motion graphics and photos of corpses in their coffins. “One thing about Texas is it has a long history of not answering to anyone outside it,” said Arning, a transplant to CAMH from MIT’s List Visual Arts Center. “There’s a deep tide between the LA and Texas art scenes, because they have strong sense of independence from the East Coast narrative, so celebrating that independence is part of the Zeitgeist that makes the Texas Biennial interesting.”

Events specifically celebrating the Texas Biennial’s anniversary include a retrospective at Big Medium in Austin and an invitational at Houston’s Lawndale Art Center. Both events run August 23 to September 28, but whereas the Austin show collects “crowd pleasers” from the four previous biennials, the invitational features four past biennial artists hand-selected by Rutledge and Michael Duncan, the LA critic and curator who encouraged her to get involved with the Biennial in the first place. “Michael and I have different tastes and approaches,” Rutledge said. “And figuring out a grouping that would satisfy both of us was a really fun thing to do.”

The Biennial also breaks out of central Texas with a commissioned open studio project in Marfa, Texas, and a month-long installation and performance series at the University of Texas at Dallas. Ballroom Marfa features Every Person Is A Special Kind of Artist, with Baggage by the Dallas Collective, led by Michael Corris who had taught members of the collective at Southern Methodist University. The group made vinyl bags as art pieces. Adorned with artwork, they’re meant to represent the process of art-making and lead to discussions about it. Rutledge said that Biennial organizers commissioned Corris because of his reputation as an “interested and active collaborator” well before it was trendy, and they were hoping he would produce something that would allow viewers to talk about art making in the state. Up at UT Dallas, the collective HOMECOMING! Committee, in the CentralTrak residency program, has put together a hilarious and poignant installation and performance for the month of September. The group asks that people bring in worn, defective or otherwise useless Ikea furniture for them to turn into shipping crates that will return to Sweden. The kicker: Sweden has so effectively turned its garbage into fuel that they need ours. But is the joke on Sweden or on us?

HOMECOMING! Committee collective makes an important connection between Texas and the international art world through its humor and its political engagement, as much as through its transformation of makeshift constructions into art–traits all reflected in Texas art. Yet as the global art market tends toward the local, Rutledge speaks for many in the Texas art scene when she describes the impetus of its labor as homegrown.

“In a sense, contemporary art practice is the same around the globe,” Rutledge said. “People have some shared history for what it means to make contemporary art. People are, for example, interested in formalist traditions or a politicized way of making art, and I think the art being made in Texas certainly participates in every national or international trend. But, of course, there’s a big difference that comes with being in different location. And the depth of the community [in Texas] obviously shapes what we see here.”


Texas Biennial Invitational
Lawndale Arts Center
4912 Main St., Houston
(713) 528-5858
August 23 – September 28

New and Greatest Hits: Texas Biennial 2005-2011
Big Medium
916 Springdale Rd. Building 2,
Suite 101, Austin
(512) 939-6665
August 23 – September 28

TX13 Group Survey Exhibition
Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum
116 Blue Star, San Antonio
210) 227-6960
September 5 – November 9
Opening: September 5
Second Opening: October 3

Commissioned Artist Project, The Dallas Collective, Open Studio:
“Every Person Is A Special Kind of Artist, with Baggage”

Ballroom Marfa
108 E San Antonio St., Marfa
(432) 729-3600
September 5 – November 9, 2013
Opening and artist talk by
Michael Corris: September 14

CentralTrak–The Artist Residency of the University of Texas at Dallas
800 Exposition Ave., Dallas
(214) 824-9302
September 5 – 28, 2013
Opening: September 21

George R. Brown Convention Center
1001 Avenida De Las Americas Houston, TX 77010

Thursday, September 19
Sneak Preview
6 – 7:30pm
Black Card holders only
Hosted by Houston Arts Alliance

Opening Night Preview
7:30 – 9pm
Benefitting the Houston Business Volunteers for the Arts Program of the Houston Arts Alliance
Opening night tickets required.

Friday, September 20
Panel: “Curators in the Community”
2pm at the Theater
Panelists include: Anne Roberts, New Orleans Museum; Toby Kamps, The Menil Collection; Anne Tucker, Museum of Fine Arts Houston; Sara Cochran, Phoenix Art Museum; and Valerie Cassel Oliver, Contemporary Art Museum Houston.
Open to all ticket holders.

Artist of the Year Award
4:30pm in the VIP Lounge
This year’s recipeint of the Houston Fine Art Fair’s Artist of the Year is Houston native Robert Pruitt, known for known for his drawings and
sculptures about the complexity of Black identity. “Robert Pruitt: Women,” is on view at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, through October 27.

Saturday, September 21
Lifetime Achievement Award
12pm in the VIP Lounge
Reception for Houston Fine Art Fair’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient: Wendy Watriss and Frederick Baldwin, who founded FotoFest in 1983, with the mission to promote the exchange of art and ideas through international programs and the presentation of photographic art.

Panel: “Donating to a Museum”
2pm in the Theater
Panelists include: Sara Cochran, Phoenix Art Museum; Rene Barrilleux, McNay Art Museum; Elyse Gonzales, AD&A Museum; Christine Stakman, Museum of Fine Arts Houston; and Kelly Bennett, Asian Art Museum.
Open to all ticket holders.

Panel: ArtSpeak: Managing an Art Collection as an Asset
Moderated by Margaret Preston (Regional Executive).
Panelists include: Vincent Keaveny, Private Client Advisor; and Ramsay Slugg, Wealth Strategies Advisor. All panelists from US Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management.

September 19 – 22
Korean Pavilion
This year, the Houston Fine Art Fair is hosting a Korean government sponsored pavilion featuring 14 galleries and 150 artists from Korea.
Open to all ticket holders.

For more information, visit: informationwww.houstonfineartfair.com

George R. Brown Convention Center
1001 Avenida De Las Americas Houston, TX 77010

Thursday, October 10
Texas Contemporary Preview
6 – 7:30pm, Benefiting the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston

Opening Night Party
7:30 – 9:30pm, Opening night tickets required.

Texas Contemporary Award
Each year, the Texas Contemporary Award, a best-in-show cash prize of $10,000, is bestowed to one exhibitor-nominated artist who navigates new and innovative directions in contemporary art. In 2013, in addition to the cash given to the winning artist, the artist’s representing dealer will receive a complimentary booth at Texas Contemporary 2014. This year’s esteemed jury includes Bill Arning, Director of the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, and Rita Gonzalez, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art at LACMA.

Friday, October 11
ACCESS Contemporary: After Hours Cocktails
7 – 9pm
The final in a series of five events will take place at the Texas Contemporary Art Fair, hosted by Liz Anders, Michael Mandola, Jessica Phifer, Caroline Walker, and Adrienne Johnson Yost. Behind the scenes access to the Texas Contemporary Art Fair after hours while mingling with fair organizers Max Fishko and Jeffrey Wainhause. Enjoy a cocktail and light bites. RSVP required: www.eventbrite.com/event/7321259083

For more information about ACCESS Contemporary programs, visit the ACCESS Contemporary Facebook page. www.facebook.com/AccessContemporaryTX

October 10 – 13
Zephyr by Troy Stanley, presented by Barbara Davis Gallery
Wishy Washy by The Clayton Brother, presented by Mark Moore Gallery
1308 by Pablo Siquier, presented by Sicardi Gallery
The Labor Party by Ernest Jolly, presented by Patricia Sweetow Gallery

BAD Shop
A collaboration between Blaffer Art Museum and the University of Houston Industrial Design, Graphic Design and Fine Art Departments.

September 27 – October 13 (online)
For the third year, Texas Contemporary Art Fair will present MRKTworks, a charity auction that benefits local non-profit arts institutions. This year we are thrilled to be working with Houston Center for Photography, Project Row Houses and Workshop Houston.

The auction will launch on September 27 through online auction house Paddle8, and will continue through October 13. Bids can be placed through the Paddle8 website, or onsite at the fair. The MRKTworks auction will offer four donated works from artists and their participating galleries for sale; all proceeds benefit the designated institutions.

For more information, visit: www.txcontemporary.com
—matthew irwin