New American Talent: The Twenty-Third Exhibition

Arthouse at the Jones Center, Austin, Texas

Exhibition Review by Nancy Zastudil

Austin's Arthouse invited Nato Thompson, Creative Time curator and producer, to select works for New American Talent: The Twenty-Third Exhibition (NAT23). On view until August 17, 2008, the exhibition is slated to tour until 2010.

As a singular entity the exhibition cites artistic perspectives on happenstance as they relate to collective political, cultural, and social muddles. To this end, the individual works attest to an affinity for negotiating one's relationship to his or her surroundings. Photography gathers at the forefront of these propositions for the second year in a row of NAT's 23 year run.

Several photos depict vast yet undeniably inhabited lands charged with a hint of artificial, slightly suspect conditions: Beau Comeaux's large format series A-Frame, Security, and Kudzu, along with Charles Atherton's lightbox piece titled The Cabin,glow with mysterious lighting and ethereal coloring, summoning rumors of off-the-grid living. Margo Geddes's Lightpole 1and Lex Thompson's Snow Boats allow the seemingly mundane to evince arcane beauty. All beg us to come closer, to peer in the windows and around the corners, ignoring the warning signs.

Other works imagine the secret life of objects. Brooke Berger's Configuration #1 and Configuration #4 play on fantasies and notions of escape. #4 depicts a tenderly-balanced stack of water- damaged harlequin romance novels propped up by a metal rod; #1 shows a neatly stacked pile of dusty black work shoes leading from a cardboard box on the basement floor up to a street level window. Brett Walker's Coffee Filter Hat, Alyssa Taylor Wendt's Byzantium Pause, and Anna Krachey's pieces Bearteeth, Cupcake, Ear, and Path beg for stories to be constructed from their evocative compositions, curious figures, and unexpected imagery. And Seth Lower's multi-media Raccoon Shirt Coincidence builds a narrative by linking childhood studio portraiture, an old man at the beach, and somewhat dangerous encounters - a personal story introduced by way of a certain t-shirt.

The artists included in NAT23 are scouting out their literal and figurative position in the world, in spite of evacuated spaces and unusual or unnatural states of being. To them, location and placement are more important than ever. The artists employ us to use their images as a way to test new sites and reconsider existing ones, to pause and examine our own relationships to structures, lands, or people.