Monday, November 2, 2009

Death of a Propane Salesman

Anxiety and the Texas Artist


Seth Alverson, Michael Bise, Matthew Bourbon, Vernon Fisher, Lawrence Lee, Margaret Meehan, Amy Revier, Ludwig Schwarz, Edward Setina, Kevin Todora, Terri Thornton, Jeff Zilm, Eric Zimmerman

October 30, 2009 – December 13, 2009.
Opening Reception: Friday October 30, 6-9pm

Following is a brief essay written for the exhibit curated by FWCA newly appointed curator Christina Rees. The line-up alone merits a visit to see the show (includes Marty Walker Gallery artist Jeff Zilm!).

Relevant artists are barometers of their environments, and whatever form their art takes, their tendency to tell the truth leads them to create work that mirrors otherwise unseen, undiscussed or repressed phenomena and ideas.

After all, Texas is many things: polite and aggressive, lacking in urbanness with a desire to duck the searing sunlight; it’s part of the Bible Belt, it’s famous for doing things in its own time and it often seems unrattled by world events, and of course it’s known for stetsons, big hair, and plastic surgery. This, when viewed from afar, can appear to be an unnatural environment for contemporary art.

So what kind of art is being made here? Texas, as an environment, makes for rich place of contradictions for an artist to probe. Discomfort is a key element that takes many forms in this exhibition: erasure of content, degradation of material, violence, miscommunication, an attempt to organize and name uneasy thoughts, and dire tension about the kinds of cultural “norms” we’re all meant to take in stride.

So unlike artists working in the more progressive or art-lofty spheres of the two coasts, the Texas artist—especially the highly reactive, imaginative, and sensitive one—finds himself fighting battles of cultural contradiction from the inside. But really, no matter where he lives, this reactive artist would be grappling with the high stress of modern living or the hostile chemical bath of his own brain. Having to fight that good fight in the lone star state merely adds a new dimension of melancholy, if not poetry, to the work, not to mention a lack of commercial compatibility. Unlike news headlines, stress in art doesn’t always sell, and yet the artists in this exhibition keep on telling their truths, and they keep spelunking their personal obsessions as a way of better understanding and navigating the world. The work itself often seems destined for museums, gallery shows, or back in storage in the artist’s studio; even the most hale Texas art collector doesn’t necessarily want a nervous breakdown permanently affixed to the wall of his living room.

Thus, around here, the coming together of artists in exhibitions is one of the clearer manifestations of the desire for an expression of liberty, of honest dialogue about the state of our culture, and often what you see in art galleries is the stuff that doesn’t belong anywhere else. And for every imaginable personal reason, Texas artists stay in Texas, and they keep making their work.

a not entirely unrelated image - King of The Hill's season 3 opener is titled "Death of a Propane Salesman"

The Art Galleries at TCU [MAP]
2900 W Berry St. Fort Worth, TX 76109 P:817.257.2588
gallery hours: Thursday-Sunday 1-6pm