by Danielle Houtkooper
Gallery Black Lagoon has been vital to the resurgence of the Austin art community; it's intimate settings provide the perfect place to enjoy powerful new voices in the local scene. Danielle Houtkooper recently attended an opening and was struck by both the gallery and the art inside. Located in Hyde Park, Gallery Black Lagoon offers a fantastic art experience that's not to be missed.
Since the Gallery Black Lagoon opened a few years ago, it’s been a sort of cultural touchstone to the burgeoning arts community. Caddy corner to Hyde Park theater and just down the street from the Mondo print gallery, the whole area is like a tiny urban art revival, keeping the edge of Hyde Park just a little bit more interesting than developing “New Austin” could ever hope to be. The latest gallery opening took place this past Friday, July 11th opening up the community to both an iniquitous world full of confusion, drafting, sordid ideas; and expansive landscapes brimming with monotony and beauty. Exploration & Vice: The Landscape of the Past is an incredibly fitting title for this quaintly significant space. Last month I attended an opening at the gallery, and it was my first time ever walking in the door. What struck me on both my first and most recent visit was the feel of the gallery itself. When you walk in, there’s an overwhelming light scent coming from the electric oil diffusers strategically placed all over the gallery. Most likely in place to hide the pizza smell that inevitably must float in from The Parlour next door. Why anyone would want to hide pizza, even if it is to establish a setting, I will never know. But I digress. Last month’s opening still dominates the whitewashed walls of the first room of the gallery. My eyes were drawn to some of my personal favorite works of the summer. Rich Brouilet’s small paintings were hard to look away from. Whimsical and nightmarish, it was stirring to walk by Brouilet’s works on the promise of a whole other room lying in wait.
The first thing you see when you walk into the back room of the gallery was the pop up bar. The mecca of any free event, the bartender was the hero of the evening serving Circle Brewery’s Overboard Pale Ale to the guests as they perused the art. The gallery patrons of the evening were an interesting bunch. There was a gaggle of middle aged-elderly folks, beaming and jumping at the opportunity to socialize with free booze. Wealthier West Lake types floated from piece to piece, likely the only ones actually able to purchase anything that evening. Finally there was the youth, aged 17-25 checking out the art for various reasons that were made clear by both their vocabulary and willingness to step in front of the beer line when they felt it was taking too long. Though there were two artists on display that evening, the right wall of the room held the biggest draws of this month’s opening.
Work by Padaric Kolander was at first glance a fantastically over-sized draft framed figuratively by the gorgeous gallery lighting and the tipsy gallery goers, and literally by large frames and glass panels for the final pieces. Walking up to each work was an adventure as the depth and motion defined in Kolanders’ work is not something that can be judged by a quick viewing. Each character is something straight out of an F. Scott Fitzgerald short, and it’s impeccable the way he successfully conveys the movement of the scene by superimposing the main subject on top of itself in a different position throughout each work. Something I found interesting was the lack of color in each piece that was substituted with a different medium. For instance, though there were only a few pieces that featured even the primary colors, each one featured pen, pencil, charcoal, ink, marker, and even what appeared to be watercolor (or quite possibly just water pushed around the piece to alter shapes and tones).
In addition to the creative depth of the work, was the physical depth of the texture that went into each piece. Where one would usually find layered paint, you would run into tape, white out, hearty pen strokes, and etched in lines; all a part of the movement of the pieces. I enjoyed the fact that there were the finished products of what the artist referred to as “studies”. Study 1-10 were smaller representations of something that may or may not be a larger work, using a short phrase completely out of context to the works as a way of keeping the whole thing from becoming too serious. Some were completely unreadable, a feat undoubtedly intentional by the artist. The larger “finished” pieces were still draft-like in their composition, but it worked. The imperfections were the main view of these pieces, and they worked better than most perfections you find in art.
On the other side of the gallery, and the other end of the spectrum was Gina Gwen Palacios’ paintings. The work itself focused on both sweeping landscapes and still scenes from what could be your grandmother’s childhood. Her smaller paintings were slightly disappointing, the imperfections in this case taking away from the larger work. Overall there were two pieces that really stood out, a third that was almost there, if for nothing else having the same style as one of the previous two. Her larger work on canvas had an impressionist feel. One such piece was a landscape painting of a field about to be stormed on. The color gradation and the texture throughout the painting was fantastic. She layered her paint in ways that added to the overall feel of the piece, allowing the viewer to get drawn into the scene as if they were looking at it through a rain streaked car window.
By far what I thought to be her best piece was Gregory House. Primarily it seemed to stand out because it was painted on wood instead of canvas. Her wood pieces held her work better than canvas did, the broad brush strokes and almost careless color placement holding the wood grain rather than fighting the texture like it did on the canvas. Gregory House focused on a scene taken from any suburban neighborhood you can remember from your childhood. A graying sky, a telephone wire floating in the middle of the scene, dead trees, and a water tower all placed throughout the fore, middle, and background respectively. A blur of what could be rooftops were planted at the bottom of the piece, and the color scheme ranging different blues and grays together worked well to set the tone of the whole thing. It’s disappointing that more of her paintings were lacking in the fluidity found in this work, but then again it’s hard to appreciate something if there’s nothing to compare it to.
Overall it was a wonderful experience, between the staff, the space, the free beer and the art it’s hard to not want to attend each opening the gallery advertises. The gallery doubles as a yoga studio, and for anyone who is a fan of art and a calming space I would suggest taking the time to check out a class or make an appointment to view the current art on display.
Other Links: austin.culturemap.com