As you walk past this interactive artwork, you get different effects
I had read about the marvelous Vincent Valdez piece entitled The City currently on display at the Blanton Museum of Art, on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin, and traveled down to the capital to see it. Wow! What a fantastic piece of art. Unfortunately, the artwork is the one thing at the Blanton Museum of Art that you cannot photograph. But pictures of it are on the museum’s webpage at this time. The piece will be on display at the Blanton through the month of October. Then it will probably be on loan. I asked why no photographs are allowed, and I was told because the painting is too controversial to be viewed out of context. In fact, the piece stirred lively debate among faculty scholars when it was first displayed. At the museum, a video by the painter explains what he is trying to convey. Still, the paining of a group of white-robed KKK members, one holding a baby also in KKK white robe, on a hill overlooking a city is haunting and evokes many bad images of the worst of society.
Despite being attracted by this piece, what I found was a very manageable collection of modern and contemporary art with a smattering of Latin American art and Medieval and European classics. A friendly curator made sure I knew that there are noteworthy sculptures scattered around the University of Texas’ sprawling Austin campus. They can be viewed with an audio explanation by going to www.landmarks.utexas.edu. The day I visited it poured in Austin, leaving behind heavy, muggy air—no way I was going to wander the campus in search of these pieces while dripping sweat. Fortunately, the well air conditioned Blanton itself is fantastic. For location purposes, the Blanton is situated across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from the Bullock Texas State History Museum and IMAX Theater—the one with the huge Texas star in front—that has been around a lot longer than the Blanton’s 18 years.
Next to the Blanton’s main building is a piece of art belonging to the museum which takes up an entire building. Combining art and architecture, artist Ellsworth Kelly gob smacks you with an amalgamation of totem pole, stained glass, and black and white marble panels in a chapel-like setting.
The Harry Ransom Center at 21st and Guadalupe Streets, which used to be the University’s main art exhibit before the Blanton, still exhibits art. It is free, whereas the Blanton charges for admission except for students, of which there were many during my visit.
Other notable pieces of interest at the Blanton included an Andy Warhol, a Franz Kline, a great piece by Nigerian artist Anatsui made entirely of wine bottle caps stretched out into what looked like a king-size bedspread, and a piece by Sonya Clark made entirely out of hair comb remnants. By taking out the teeth from the combs she forms the lines for of an obvious female face.
A really fantastic, large Remington painting that used to hang over the Grille Room at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City is a great study in how the west was depicted to New Yorkers. The horses are especially vivid in their detail.
Finally, a collection of postcard-sized art by Cynthia Daignault is the result of her travels in the United States in 2015. She sent back painted miniature images of some of our favorite places, including Big Bend.