Chris Ballantyne at the Tamarind Institute
8” x 11 1Ú2”
Photo: courtesy Tamarind Institute
Chris Ballantyne’s paintings of suburban landscapes and scenes are the stuff of graphic novels—the flat use of color, the strong lines. His murals have a graffiti artist’s awareness of his environment, the way certain cracks or objects tie into the scene. And collectively, his work has a humorous, theoretical sense of architecture, as if he had raided the concepts folder at the Franz Kafka Memorial Neighborhood Planning Office.
Distributor brings indie film from India to the US
Real life is a privilege afforded to the educated and elite. By “real life,” we mean the everyday struggles of average people as depicted in films. Average people outside of films, meanwhile, would much rather watch an escapist blockbuster than a reenactment of their own day-to-days. This describes the difference between independent cinema and Bollywood in India as related by Alka Bhanot, founder of the Austin-based distribution company Indie Meme.
"For a country with such a large population that faces a harsh reality, [escapism] is important for them," Bhanot says. "When you show films that reflect reality, it isn’t that compelling to them."
What Texans Talk About When We Talk About Art
I step out of my car at Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum in San Antonio to find a spent bullet casing underfoot. It’s from a smallcaliber rifle. Maybe some renaissance dude inadvertently knocked it off the floorboard of his truck as he climbed out to dine in the trendy art complex, but regardless, it’s a bullet in the parking lot outside a happening white-walled art gallery. I pocket it. Later, I show it to Austin video artist Abinadi Meza, who moved from Los Angeles three or four years ago to work in Texas, and he is overjoyed. He asks to take a photo, saying, “That is Texas.”
As happens to artists without a single definitive style, Hassel Smith has received a patient and exalting study of his work posthumously. The resurrection and vindication of the “underground legend” is encouraged by an extensive monograph of the artist’s work, as much as it is by the forgiveness of time (Smith was known to be argumentative and hypercritical of the work of his time). In this case the attention is well deserved.
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.”
A couple argues in a park that split the distance between Old Town and downtown Albuquerque. A red pickup truck pulls up, soul music lifting out of the open windows. The truck shines. It’s new, sport-style. The black man inside the truck looks through his windows for a minute. He sees a man playing with his child under some trees. He sees the couple, and the woman looks angry. The man looks distant. The woman, who is white, yells, “Thank you for your service,” which could very well mean she’s happy for the music. And the man next to her, Mexican, says “Turn it up.” But when the man gets out of his car, leaving the music on, and she says, again, “Thank you for your service,” she reveals that she’s a little drunk, and that she’s referring to his bumper sticker.
Breaking a ‘Fever’
New filmmakers hope to shed light on the Navajo Nation’s paradox of plenty
An outbreak of yellow fever has been infecting the Southwestern United States since World War II, but you probably haven’t heard about it yet, because it helped win the war and it powers many of our homes. We’re talking about the yellow glow of uranium ore and its devastation of the Navajo Nation.
Living with Form and Structure
Back when I worked on a Northern New Mexico farm, we didn’t have trash pickup, so the farmer took household waste and recycling to “the away place” himself. He suggested that I go with him, saying “It’ll make you think about what you throw away.”
Jason Webb’s collection “Discard Piles” at grayDUCK Gallery* certainly offers the possibility of a didactic narrative on consumerism and waste, but what it really does is make us think about what we throw away as a process of understanding and communicating something about ourselves.
'The Motherfucker with the Hat'
I’ve known people like Ralph D in The Motherfucker With the Hat, currently being produced by Capital T Theatre. Mostly young people and Objectivists, but ex-addicts are capable of that same solipsistic benevolence – a sort of self-sustaining, self-centered sense of survival that they pass off as morality. Ralph is also an opportunist and a manipulator, who happens to be conveniently exonerated from the consequences of his actions by his philosophy. Maybe others don’t always fall for his logic, but he comes off as unaffected, and that is infuriating.