Exploring Austin with the Nasher Sculpture Center

Clock Knot (2007) | Artist: Mark di Suvero (b. 1933) | painted steel | “498 x 260“x 420” | Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art. (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Although Di Suvero enjoys devising names, he held a contest to name this work. A New York City poet suggested Clock Knot, the winning title.

On a sunny Saturday, a group from the Nasher Sculpture Center’s Avant-Garde Society gathered in an Austin hotel lobby, Starbucks coffee cups in hand, eager to start a day full of learning more about art.

As with most field trips, we boarded a bus and turned our attention to Nasher’s Curator Jed Morse who began explaining the significance of our first stop – University of Texas Austin. (Note: Jed is proud UT Longhorn alum.)

His story was interesting.

New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has more art than they can possibly exhibit. Much is warehoused and rarely, if ever, viewed. This “embarrassment of riches” isn’t unusual for a major museum. However, what is unusual and quite clever are the partnerships the Met is forming nationwide to make their stored sculpture and art accessible to the public.

UT Austin was among the first “experiments” between the Met and a satellite location where a large quantity of sculptures (28 in total) were loaned on a long-term basis. This gesture boosted the UT administration’s and faculties’ vision of implementing “Landmarks,” a campus-wide public arts program which has proved to be a success. Plus, as the university continues construction and renovation, a percent-for-art policy has been approved whereby 1% to 2% of the budgets for building projects will go toward acquisitions of art. According to The New York Times, the campus is “poised to be a destination for modern art.”

Jed walked us through the grounds and buildings giving us highlights. On view were sculptures by well-known artists, including Mark DiSuvero (see photo above). DiSuvero has said his large-scale sculptures are really “drawings in space.” Instead of charcoal and paper, he uses steel I-beams, industrial materials, a crane and space. Favored by Dallas collectors, we have easy access to more of these bright red structures back home in the Dallas Museum of Art’s Ross Avenue Courtyard, the Meyerson Symphony Hall and NorthPark Center.

On tours such as this one, my friends and I play the game, “If you could bring one piece home, which one would you pick?”

From the UT Landmarks collection, my choice was the Ursula von Rydingsvard sculpture, Seven Mountains (see photo below). It was made by gluing and doweling four-by-four inch lumber beams, the most ordinary of materials. Next, Ursula hand chiseled the surface until it became craggy and ancient, as if Mother Nature had eroded the forms into stone cairns over eons of time. Then, graphite powder was rubbed into the surface and burnished with steel wool pads until a silvery gray sheen developed. Simply gorgerous.

Untitled: Seven Moutains (1986 - 1988) | Artist: Ursula von Rydingsward (b. 1942) | cedar and graphite powder| Collection: Metropolitan Museum of Art (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

If you are visiting Austin, you can take a self-guided tour of The Mets’ sculptures. Just download the map available on http://www.landmakrs.utexas.edu. The site itself is a good read, full of information and easy to navigate.

Hopping back on the bus, we next headed to the Austin Museum of Art’s 12- acre Lake Austin location, Laguna Gloria which was built in 1916 as a private residence. There we played miniature golf on artist-designed putting greens. Art on the Green is a 9-hole outdoor phenomenon where all ages interact with nature and art. The set-ups were challenging, goofy and a blast, as you can see by one of us in action…

Art on the Green | Laguna Gloria with AMOA-Arthouse | March 9 – May 20, 2012 (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

We visited the studio and home of artist, Ginger Henry Geyer who is represented by the Valley House Gallery in Dallas, stopped for lunch at Chez Zee (of course – food is a given at any Avant-Garde Society event), and then visited two private residences.

Below is the entrance to the second residence, designed by the San Antonio-based architects, Lake Flato who are famous for their Texas Vernacular Style.

The couple who lives here has been cited in ARTnews’ “Top 200 Collectors” international list. Naturally, the works we saw were first class as was the couple who were so gracious, warm and welcoming.

This was the last stop of the day – a peaceful waterfront peninsula.

Architects: Lake Flato (photo: Meg Fitzpatrick)

Many thanks for the fantastic organization of this day trip go to Maribeth Messino Peters and Scott Potter who Co-Chaired this year’s Travel Committee.

No matter which city is selected for the 2013 trip, I’ll go and recommend anyone who enjoys this sort of adventure also join me and the Avant-Garde Society. http://www.nashersculpturecenter.org/Membership/Avant-Garde-Society

…until Sunday, April 15th.

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Inspired by Ordinary Materials

“The artist’s world is limitless. It can be found anywhere, far from where he lives or a few feet away. It is always on his door.” – Paul Strand (1890 – 1976), photographer

The most prosaic materials with a touch of “je ne sais quoi” can find a place on my studio walls, like the plastic six-pack rings and fabric netting that cushioned a shipment of holiday fruits. I lived with them hanging from this black clip for about a year wondering….

I found the design of these six-pack rings elegant. This might seem an oxymoron, but their negative spaces are ovoid surrounded by a mesmerizingly rhythmic pattern and the plastic is a cool-shaded blue. I had saved discarded boards marred by a saw mark which is now the intentional thin white line contrasted against a solid red, blue or dark brown color. Then, I explored ways to suspend the translucent rings and create cast shadows. The five finished pieces in this series called, “Save the Dolphins,” can be hung alone or as a group. Here are examples:

“Save the Dolphin” Series | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick| 11-1/2” x 11-1/2” | acrylic on board; mixed media

What appealed to me about the fruit packing material was its delicate quality. The transparency of the mesh made for another experiment with cast shadows. The wheat color was perfect against a dark brown surface. For “Save the Dolphins” and this piece named, “Quantum Wave,” the materials were suspended by using hardware-bought clear plastic nuts and metal bolts. The “Quantum Wave” when lit shimmers, yet the piece always has a 3-D wafer quality.

Quantum Wave | Artist: Meg Fitzpatrick | 38” x 19” acrylic, graphite, mixed media on board

As I’ve spent more time getting educated and learning about sculpture at the Nasher Sculpture Center, I’ve noticed that I have become more experimental with materials and some of my paintings, like these, are a hybrid of painting-sculpture.

Notice the beauty in the ordinary and enjoy your week…until Sunday.

One museum – two must-see shows

The Nasher Sculpture Center scored again this weekend with the opening of a new work the museum commissioned by 30-year old Syrian-born artist, Diana Al-Hadid. Much of her work and this site-specific piece, “Gradiva’s Fourth Wall,” evoke the atmosphere of ancient archeological digs which was the same theme that inspired Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Renzo Piano, when he was hired to design the Nasher building and site.

Last month, I also attended the opening of “Tony Cragg: Seeing Things.” This was the first USA retrospective in 20 years of Tony Cragg, a 62-year old British artist. Cragg’s body of work fully inhabits the Nasher space, greeting you on the Flora Street front sidewalk and then extending its welcome into the back gardens. Both are shows by well-respected contemporary artists whose interests are multidisciplinary with thought processes that intersect sciences, physics, philosophies, literature and anything that captures their interest.

What is the effect on my creativity? I have observed that over the past 4 years that I’ve been involved with the Nasher, as a volunteer, fan and advocate, that my own paintings have become more textural and 3-dimensional – a totally subconscious direction. There was no conscious plan to shift my materials and style. It is simply happening, and it is a direction I like.