Inner City Sanctums
Adam Young's Songs of the Early Riser makes art gallery and collective CommonHouse feel like home
Arriving at Common House, on 49th Street and Airport Blvd, is more like pulling up to a friend's house than an art collective or gallery space. Faded yellow paint is peeling off the facade of the reclaimed residential house, which now serves as a gallery and shared studio spaces.
Once you cross the bare, concrete porch (showing well-worn signs of good times with good friends, with a few odd beer caps and cigarette burns showing here and there) and enter the modest space, it's easy to see there are no pretensions here, no noses turned up and away in the name of underground art.
It's just a familial atmosphere of Austin artists (Conner O'Leary, Rich Cali, Autumn Spadaro, Adam Mendez, Patrick Lillard and William Gaynor) who are dedicated to sharing their work, and the work of other local artists and cooperatives, with anyone who walks through their front door.
Songs of the Early Riser, by Adam Young (whose woodwork can also be found at local haunts like Yellow Jacket Social Club and Rainey Street's Javelina), is the latest exhibit at the creative wellspring and will be on display through the second week of June. Young's impressive, sometimes simplistic, sometimes whimsically grand, woodwork is a lovely complement to the stripped down atmosphere of Common House and conveys his concept of "Make a home a home."
The illustrations and woodwork seem to be from a bygone era, and the exhibit does seem to bring up things we haven't thought of in years.
A short and sweet introduction to the large and varied selection of warm woodworks — which, for the most part, feature simple, down-home musings printed sometimes discreetly, sometimes loudly, sometimes poetically across wooden, bucolic backdrops — is a thin, rectangular illustration of a man digging a hole in the ground, framed above and below by the words "Pick up a shovel and humble yourself."
Another two-toned wooden work frames the words "Fly on Home" sitting squarely above an illustration of a man releasing a butterflies into the wind, with small type underneath that reads "Rest in Peace - Levon Helm."
The illustrations and woodwork seem to be from a bygone era, and the exhibit does seem to bring up things we haven't thought of in years. Like the crude illustration of a group of dead-eyed, scarecrow-like men sitting down to eat a whole alligator for dinner. The type reads "Back Home (the folks are barely ok)." But it also brings up things that always seem to be on our minds in the modern day world. Like the haunting image of a lonely androgynous figure, bottle in hand, sitting on a hillside overlooking a city skyline in the distance.
"It's hard to be a saint in the city," the type reads.
The focal point of the exhibit is a wooden, teepee-like lean-to, rooted right in the middle of the gallery's small main room. It's a fairly large structure, but it proves to be a lovely, and fittingly whimsical centerpiece, allowing guests to walk through and inspect the mismatched wood interiors from the inside or admire the exterior sides, which feature three narrow shelves full of "Little Wooden Somethings," tiny sculptures made of wood by Young, Aaron Michalovic, Mason McFee, Kevin Trahan and David Clark.
The focal point of the exhibit is a wooden, teepee-like lean-to, rooted right in the middle of the gallery's small main room.
All of the organic creativity and warm, wooden colors makes visitors feel like they've wandered into some sort of artistic wilderness.
Tucked right behind the gallery's main room, there's a fun video, entitled "Bottle Cap Blues", (made by Young in collaboration with Chris Sumers), which features a plethora of ways to open a bottle of beer, from a machete to a skateboard to a tooth, accompanied by music from Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson and others.
The last bit might make you bit thirsty, but overall, Common House is the ideal artistic refreshment to indulge in as the Texas heat waves start rolling in.
Gallery hours: Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, 12-5 p.m.