If you have a chance, go and see Radical Realism at the Dougherty Arts Center, an exhibit of figurative work by twelve Austin artists that has been extended till March 17. What a visual feast! And for me, a figurative painter, what a relief from the conceptual shows usually seen around Austin that frankly leave me cold because there’s so little emotional content. Let’s start with Felice House’s piece, Knowledge, a complicated painting of a woman with a pile of books on her head that’s intentionally sweet in tone, no doubt because of the riches knowledge will bring. (A friend taught one of my daughters to read by placing gum, candies, dollar bills between the pages.)
Another seriously talented painter in the show is Justin Balleza, whose skill and depth of training are evident in the three pieces on display:
Balleza’s brushwork is soft and magnificent, his lines fluid and masterful. These portraits, so alive and full of expression, are worth going to see if you like truly powerful, accomplished work.
A third artist who really caught my eye is Amanda Lee Jones, whose in-your-face paintings demand attention with their taunting themes and execution. In one, a girl holds up her hand as if to say, Don’t look at me, which of course totally draws the viewer in, making him/her want to know what the hell’s going on with this girl — is she staring out a window, hand flattened against the glass, warning people to stay away? And why is she so sad? What I like about Jones’ work is that there’s a real story component to what’s happening on the canvas so that the images stay in your mind, causing wonderment and fascination long after you leave.
I wish I could include commentary on all the wonderful painters and sculptors in this show, but my editor keeps me on a tight leash. For years we’ve been seeing empty canvases, talentless dots, stripes, and b.s. on uninteresting surfaces. The emperor without clothes. Now, finally, there’s really something to see: realism that’s radical because it’s been out of style for so long that it seems fresh and new. My advice? Don’t miss this show.
Radical Realism runs through March 17 at the Dougherty Arts Center – 1110 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704.
Cover photo: The Travelers, Johnnie Sielbeck, 16×20”, 2018, $2400