Friday night the AMOA Arthouse gave viewers around Austin a glimpse into the dynamic art world that is sprouting all around Texas — and especially Austin. The opening of Texas Prize promises a bright road ahead for arts in Texas and as a foretelling of the importance that artists will have for our state in the near future.
Texas Prize started when a group of art professionals around Texas nominated their own Texas-bred artists, who are commonly not recognized by the public, for recognition. This highly selected group was then judged by local art directors and international jurors, who narrowed down the list to three finalists. This year, the group was composed of the extremely contrasting talent of Will Henry, Jeff Williams and Jamal Cyrus. These candidates were then given a generous space at The Jones Center to install their works.
The opening of Texas Prize promises a bright road ahead for arts in Texas and as a foretelling of the importance that artists will have for our state in the near future.
Will Henry’s serene, glowing paintings line the walls of the first floor of the exhibition. Henry received his art education at our very own University of Texas at Austin, and his connection with the West Texas / Southern ambiance is reflected in his various landscape paintings. Henry predominantly works with loose mediums, such as oil and gouache, which differs greatly from the clean and economical after product evident in his paintings.
Henry’s depiction of icons such as arid flatlands, vast emptiness and majestic horizons cannot be divorced from the essence of West Texas landscape. In most of his paintings, the low sky horizon predominantly occupies the most space, which creates a sense of nature’s overwhelming and powerful presence.
The second floor of the exhibition holds the mixed media work of Jeff Williams, who currently holds a position as assistant professor for sculpture within the studio art department of UT Austin. Most of his works present during the opening were of a range of mediums, creating an interesting play on the constantly changing nature of objects. In this exhibition, he placed Texas fossils on top of a Plexiglas, surface which was then dripped with unknown chemical solutions, leaving the natural processes to slowly corrode the fossil.
Williams work demands interaction of the viewers; one must kneel down to see details of the fossil or walk around the piece multiple times to understand the purpose of his piece. Williams definitely crated a dynamic installation that speaks loudly about the importance of process in creating art.
On the second floor, Jamal Cyrus installed a stage for his performance piece. The stage itself is made out of a cluster of different items, from sand bags to animal skin drums to various visual projections. Cyrus’ ability to incorporate elements like musical rhythm and visual collage shows how innovative he is as a performance artist. His talent of combining contrasting elements, such as old materials versus recording equipments and projectors, in affect creates a very dynamic and refreshing performance for the viewers.
The Texas Prize highlights the potential that Texas has to establish itself as an art hub — and it helps under-exposed artists gain a well-deserved wider audience.