Everything about the new art gallery and show

Shout it from the rooftops: the new Women & Their Work gallery is a resounding success.

Here’s why:

1. The airy and lightly brushed space of 1311 E. Cesar Chavez St. is the first permanent home of Women & Their Work, founded in 1978 to promote women artists.

2. The new gallery is larger and more open than their longtime home on Lavaca Street, just south of the University of Texas campus. Parking is also easier.

3. The new complex includes attached and detached offices and performance spaces, as well as an inviting courtyard shaded by a gnarled pecan tree. Remember, Austinites love their outdoor events.

4. A former neighborhood grocery store, the sensitively renovated building was built in the 1930s and had been locked up for storage for years. Most recently, it served as the home of the Big Red Sun landscaping company. He therefore now returns to active service for the general public and the neighborhood.

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5. Much like it once did for a downtown art district in Lavaca, the Women & Their Work gallery anchors an emerging art area that now includes at least half a dozen functional galleries nearby.

6. Due to its location near downtown on Cesar Chavez, it also serves as a gateway to dozens of additional galleries and workshops further north and east.

7. The opening show, “We Know Who We Are. We Know What We Want,” is hosted by Vicki Meek, a famous Dallas painter who was named 2021 Houston Art League Artist of the Year, and whose the work can be found in quite a few collections, such as the African American Museum of Dallas.

8. Meeks continues Women & Their Work’s tradition of nuanced but unabashed feminism, as guided through most of its history by director Chris Cowden, these days as a team with employees Diane Sikes, Ali Vanderhider and Lauren Winchell Bechelli. .

9. The nine artists on display live in Texas, yet they are from Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Kenya, Iraq, Lebanon and India, as well as the United States.

ten. Their work looks lavish online and as published in the gallery catalog, with words from Aïssatou Sidimé-Blanton, but the art vibrates enough when seen in person in the new gallery.

11. It all works together. This is no small feat in a group show, no matter how artfully organized it is. Shapes, colors, textures, technologies and materials speak to each other in a common language.

12. The most charismatic pieces were created by Naomi Wanjiku Gakunga: three large, dense sculptures of sheet metal and steel wire – leaning against the back wall – which were inspired by the mabati roofing made by Kenyan women, who used them. also to collect drinking water. the water. You can’t take your eyes off them.

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13. One could hardly ask for more contrast from these roof sculptures, which are topped with a delicate net, than the suspended gauze by Rehab El Sadek coated with pigments, paper and glue. Indirect natural light passes through them from the west courtyard. I was told she would be the subject of a solo Women & Their Work exhibition in the fall.

14. Lahib Jaddo daringly works on several exploratory materials, including acrylic paint, fabrics and engravings, to recall a past in Iraq and Lebanon.

15. Pat Johnson’s delightful little clay sculptures – some painted – exude humor and anxiety, while presenting the artist as subject and current events as inevitable backdrops. I have admired his work for decades.

16. Pallavi Govindnathan’s digital videos address sexual, racial and gender topics through the lens of Indian and Native American experiences.

17. Angela Faz combines the elements of kitchen aprons and safety vests to reflect class and gender roles in the Mexican-American community.

18. Lauren Cross combines images from the past, mainly on paper, to reclaim the communities built by South African-American women.

19. Nida Bangash’s two-channel video “Sight Plan” takes a while to absorb, but the images are crisp, clear and efficient.

20. Lovie Olivia’s collages and take-offs invite a closer look. I plan to return to the new gallery and enjoy his pieces along with all the others in the near future.

Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be contacted at mbarnes@statesman.com.


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