Shawn Smith images  about news  contact


Gift of Fountainhead

On View through January 13, 2013

Visitors to the Nasher Sculpture Center this fall will be able to see the newest addition to the museum’s collection:  Fountainhead, a beautifully produced oversized artists’ book.  A gift of the Art Foundation, Fountainhead was inspired by one of the great conceptual gestures of modern art.  In 1917, Marcel Duchamp, using the pseudonym R. Mutt, submitted a porcelain urinal as a work of art to an exhibition supposedly open to all.  Its rejection prompted Duchamp to issue a statement that laid the foundation not only for Conceptual Art, but also for art that embraces everyday objects: 

 “Whether Mr. Mutt with his own hands made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under a new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object.” 

In the ensuing scandal, Fountain disappeared, its existence documented only by photographs (until being replicated by Duchamp on several occasions, many years later). The Art Foundation’s founding members – Joshua Goode, Ryder Richards, Lucia Arbery Simek and Andrew Douglas Underwood – had the inspired idea to return to this “fountainhead” of contemporary art by soliciting the alteration of various photographs of Fountain, by a number of local and international artists. Their imaginative efforts render an iconic image of the past a newly vibrant part of the present.

Artists include: Frances Bagley (Dallas), Jesse Morgan Barnett (Dallas), Laetitia Benat (Paris, FR), Richie Budd (Fort Worth), Rebecca Carter (Dallas), Steve Cruz (Dallas), Matt Cusick (Dallas), Laura Doughtie (Dallas), Erika Duque (Fort Worth), Celia Eberle (Dallas), Cassandra Emswiler (Dallas), Teresa Gomez-Martorell (Barcelona, SP), Brenton Good (Harris, Pennsylvania), Sara Hignite (Dallas), Kelly Lynn Jones (San Francisco, CA), Gerald Lopez (Corpus Christi, TX), Stephanie Madewell (Brooklyn, NY), Sam Matineau (Brooklyn, NY), Lindsay McCulloch (Washington, DC), Ruben Nieto (Dallas), Tom Orr (Dallas), Sara Pringle (Brooklyn, NY), Teresa Rafidi (Dallas), Adam Raymont (Berlin), Enrico Riley (Vermont), Gregory Ruppe (Fort Worth), Gretchen Schermerhorn (Washington, DC),Shawn Smith (Austin, TX), Ian F. Thomas (Slippery Rock, PA), Karen Weiner (Dallas), Jonathan Whitfill (Lubbock, TX), and Zero (location unknown).

The pages of Fountainhead will be turned periodically during the run of its exhibition.

The entire book can be viewed online at The Art Foundation website.

For more information, vist:



Smithsonian eyes future of crafts with 40 artists

Associated Press

Published: 12:24 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 4, 2012

Alberto Martínez/2010 American-Statesman

WASHINGTON The Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery in Washington is exploring the future of artistic crafts with a new exhibit featuring works from 40 artists from across the country, including one from Austin, who are younger than 40 and who represent something new.

The exhibition, "40 under 40: Craft Futures," opened July 20 with artworks all created since Sept. 11, 2001. Their work spanning ceramics, metalwork, fashion, industrial design and other fields, is meant to reflect the changed world since 9/11.

Austinite Shawn Smith is the only Texan in the show.

"I like to take non-things, like digital images, and translate them back into things," Smith told the American-Statesman in 2010.

The museum says the 40 artists in the show share philosophies of emphasizing sustainability, valuing hand-made things and considering what it means to live in a state of persistent unease.

Curator Nicholas Bell reviewed work by 2,000 artists to find work representing new directions.

Bell says the artists represent the most engaging work of their generation.



Digital Sculptures Inspired by Atari’s Pitfall

05.29.12 8:07 PM

Photo: Brent Humphreys

As a kid, Shawn Smith spent hours playing the Atari game Pitfall, in which players tromp though a forested gauntlet of rolling logs, quicksand, rattlesnakes, and fire. “I’d never been camping, so I thought that’s what it was: wrestling crocodiles living in pixelated lakes, jumping over scorpions,” Smith says. “The whole idea was to avoid nature and win some gold coins.”

That 8-bit-centric worldview still holds true for the Austin artist, who is working on a series called Re-things: three-dimensional pixelated sculptures of animals and other outdoorsy objects, which he builds from wooden cubes and square dowels.

“The ’80s were a transition time—videogames were just coming into the home,” Smith says. “They became an escape for me.” To construct his pieces, Smith zooms in on a photograph and then creates a drawing of it on graph paper. He uses that as a map to build digital-looking mountain goats, campfires, even a marlin called Tevatron (above). The big-game fish was put through what the sculptor calls “my own particle accelerator” to create a disintegrating effect; it’s an exercise in removing data without compromising our ability to recognize an image.

Smith will be part of the Smithsonian’s upcoming show 40 Under 40: Craft Futures, which opens in July. For the exhibition, he’s creating a new campfire piece. Maybe one of these days he’ll finally get around to going camping.

Photo: Brent Humphreys


Smithsonian American Art Museum Announces Artists Selected for Exhibition
“40 under 40: Craft Futures” Opening in 2012 at its Renwick Gallery

Shawn Smith's Between 1 and 0 (2011). Photo by Teresa Rafidi.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has selected the 40 artists who will be featured in its upcoming exhibition “40 under 40: Craft Futures” that will be on view at its Renwick Gallery from July 20, 2012, through Feb. 3, 2013. Nicholas R. Bell, curator at the museum’s Renwick Gallery, selected the artists and is organizing the exhibition.

All of the artists in “40 under 40” were born since 1972, the year the museum’s contemporary craft and decorative arts program was established at its, branch museum, the Renwick Gallery. The exhibition investigates evolving notions of craft within traditional media such as ceramics and metalwork, as well as in fields as varied as sculpture, industrial design, installation art, fashion design, sustainable manufacturing and mathematics. The range of disciplines represented illustrates new avenues for the handmade in contemporary culture.

“40 under 40: Craft Futures” is presented in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Renwick Gallery. The museum intends to acquire artworks by every artist in the exhibition for the permanent collection, to mark the anniversary. The exhibition will tour nationally after it closes in Washington, D.C.“When the Renwick Gallery opened in 1972, it introduced a new generation of artists to the American public,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “I am excited that we are poised now to introduce to the museum’s community these 40 young artists who will inspire a new generation of craft enthusiasts and collectors.”

The 40 artists selected to be featured in the exhibition are: Vivian Beer, Melanie Bilenker, Jeffrey Clancy, Dave Cole, Cristina Córdova, Gabriel Craig, Jennifer Crupi, Erik Demaine, Joshua DeMonte, Brian Dettmer, Nick Dong, Joseph Foster Ellis, Jeff Garner, Theaster Gates, Sabrina Gschwandtner, Jenny Hart, Sergey Jivetin, Lauren Kalman, Lara Knutson, Stephanie Liner, Marc Maiorana, Sebastian Martorana, Christy Matson, Cat Mazza, Daniel Michalik, Matt Moulthrop, Christy Oates, Olek, Andy Paiko, Mia Pearlman, Lacey Jane Roberts, Laurel Roth,Shawn Smith, JenStark, Matthew Szösz, Uhuru (Jason Horvath and William Hilgendorf), Jamin Uticone, Anna Von Mertens, Stacey Lee Webber and Bohyun Yoon.

“What ultimately unifies these artists, who originate from every region of the United States and five countries, are commonly held philosophies of craft’s role as a positive force in contemporary life,” said Bell.

Information about each artist is available through links on the exhibition page on the museum’s website. The public can join the conversation about the exhibition on Twitter by following @americanart and using #Renwick40.

A catalog is forthcoming. It will be written by Bell with contributions by Bernard L. Herman, the George B. Tindall Professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Michael Prokopow, associate professor, faculty of liberal studies at Ontario College of Art and Design; and Julia Bryan-Wilson, associate professor of art history at the University of California, Irvine.
Fleur Bresler, the Ryna and Melvin Cohen Family Foundation Endowment and the James Renwick Alliance generously support “40 under 40: Craft Futures.”
About the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with works of art in all media spanning more than three centuries. The museum’s branch for craft and decorative arts, the Renwick Gallery, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. It is opendaily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except Dec. 25. Admission is free. Metrorail station: Farragut North (Red line) and Farragut West (Blue and Orange lines). Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, ArtBabble, iTunes and YouTube. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000; (202) 633-5285 (TTY). Website:



April 21 - June 3, 2012

Norwegian National Art and Culture Center, Norway

Shawn Smith's "Precarious Twin" (2012)



"Shawn Smith's 8-Bit Pixel Sculptures Give Us Geek Nostalgia"

by Sam Parker

Posted: 18/04/2012 10:39 Updated: 18/04/2012 21:58

Disintegrating Eagle, by Shawn Smith

The brief lifespan of video games has been one of extraordinarily rapid advancement, particularly in terms of graphics.

If a comparison can be made to the art world then computer games have travelled from crude cave drawings, through the Renaissance, landing somewhere around Realism in a relative blink of an eye since they first appeared in the late 50s.

These wooden sculptures by artist Shawn Smith pay homage to a period in the mid 80s when computer graphics actually had more in common with a kind of Pointillism - if you were to use a square paint brush; the pixilated fires, monsters and animals gaming veterans will associate with early consoles like the ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64.

"Video games are an inspiration," Smith admits, "But so is the fact I really don't know much about the natural world."

"What I do know, I really only know through a screen. I grew up in Dallas, Texas. It is a big city without that many places to go camping. I have never seen a real campfire. I have never spent the night under the stars in a sleeping bag.

"These sculptures are about how much of the world is understood through some type of coded digital translation/re-translation rather than direct experience.

Albino Alligator, one of Smith's pixel sculptures

"What happens to an object or experience when information is lost, colours are distilled?"

40-year-old Smith holds a masters degree in sculpture from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, and has been widely exhibited around America. This year, his work will be shown as part of a large show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery.

"I think the work has engaged people in and outside of the art world. I get very interesting responses from people who work in the technology, computers, video games. I think the subject matter has a universal appeal that a lot of people can relate to" he says.

After 7 years exhibiting in his own country, Smith now plans to try expand elsewhere.

"I am about to have my first solo show of this work in Europe. I am hoping to have more of a presence in Europe, Asia, the world!"

Perhaps, somewhere along the way, he'll get a chance to camp out under the stars.


An exhibition presented by The Art Foundation

April 14-15, 2012

The Gibson Company Lofts/824 Exposition Ave. / #6/ Dallas

Opening reception Saturday, April 14, 6-9 pm

(Dallas, TX, March 22, 2012) -- For its inaugural curated exhibition, Fountainhead, The Art Foundation has solicited the alteration of various photographic iterations of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade, Fountain, by a number of local and international artists. The altered images have been compiled in an outsized book that will be exhibited during the weekend of the Dallas Art Fair, April 14-15, alongside a small exhibition of art objects that explore themes of authorship, receptivity, deception and manipulation. 

Referencing the prankster quality of Duchamp’s decimation of the existing art structures of his time, Fountainhead parrots the language of the traditional exhibition structure while reveling in the paradoxes and latitudes allowed in our current poly-post-ism of art. Flexing ideas of attribution, the works presented in Fountainhead alternately specify and misconstrue authorship, as a means of bothering the leveled readings of the objects and actions presented in the exhibition.

Contributing artists featured in the Fountainhead book include: Frances Bagley (Dallas), Jesse Morgan Barnett (Dallas),Laetitia Benat (Paris, FR), Rebecca Carter (Dallas), Piotr Chiszinski (Ithaca, NY), Steve Cruz (Dallas), Matt Cusick (Dallas), Laura Doughtie (Dallas), Erika Duque (Fort Worth),  Celia Eberle (Dallas), Cassandra Emswiler (Dallas), Teresa Gomez-Martorell (Barcelona, SP), Brenton Good (Harris, Pennsylvania), Sara Hignite (Dallas), Kelly Lynn Jones (San Francisco, CA), Gerald Lopez (Corpus Christi, TX), Stephanie Madewell (Brooklyn, NY), Sam Matineau (Brooklyn, NY), Lindsay McCulloch (Washington, DC), Ruben Nieto (Dallas), Tom Orr (Dallas), Sara Pringle (Brooklyn, NY), Teresa Rafidi (Dallas), Adam Raymont (Berlin),  Enrico Riley (Vermont), Gregory Ruppe (Fort Worth), Gretchen Schermerhorn (Washington, DC), Shawn Smith (Austin, TX), Ian F. Thomas (Slippery Rock, PA), Karen Weiner (Dallas),  Jonathan Whitfill (Lubbock, TX), and Zero (location unknown).

Exhibited art objects by Jesse Morgan Barnett (Dallas), Brian Jobe (Knoxville, TN), Kelly Lynn Jones (San Francisco, CA,) Gerald Lopez (Corpus Christi,) and Carla Nicolás (Zaragoza, Spain).

Exhibition hours: Saturday, April 14, 12:00 pm – 9 pm; Sunday, April 15, 1-4 pm.


Craighead Green Gallery

2012 Group Exhibition

March 31 - May 5, 2012
Opening Reception Saturday, March 31st 5:00 – 8:00 PM

1011 Dragon Street, Dallas TX 75207

Hours: Mon 12:00 - 5:00 ♦ Tue - Fri 10:00 - 5:30 ♦  Sat 11:00 - 5:00



Rooms with a muse

Washington Design Center pairs interior designers and crafters for dream collaboration

March 22, 2012

by Susan Reimer


A modern lounge designed by Jeff Akseizer and Jamie Brown inspired by Shawn Smith's sculpture, Between One and Zero (Morgan Howarth, Baltimore Sun)

WASHINGTON — — It is a match made in heaven, or at least in that part of heaven where the hip and young creatives types hang out.
For its 2012 DreamHome, the Washington Design Center asked a handful of young interior designers to take inspiration for residential spaces from works of craft. Not just from any crafters, but a group of artists whose works are set to be showcased this summer in a Smithsonian exhibition, "40 Under 40: Craft Futures."
What the room decors and the craft creations have in common is that their authors all began their careers after 9/11, and they brought with them a new, more earnest sensibility.

"What you have are artists who are grasping at bigger issues in a society that is changing rapidly," said Nicholas R. Bell, who is curating the exhibit at the Renwick Gallery that opens July 20. The interior designers chose from 70 pieces that will appear in that show, and a photograph of their selection hangs in each room.

"You are seeing reactions to what is going on in our culture and a need not just to make something pretty, but something that gives back, that serves a purpose," said Bell, who predicted that his artisans will be "completely blown away" by how the interior designers reinterpreted their work.

In contrast, the Design Center's Jennifer Sergent said the newbie designers, chosen from among those recognized each year as "designers to watch," are taking their cues from the comfort of the past, and then bringing those patterns and ideas into the present.

"There are more graphic patterns, more bold colors," said Sergent, the marketing director for the Design Center, where the DreamHome exhibit will be on display until Nov. 30. "But there is a new sensibility in this new generation of designers. They are paying homage to the past, but blowing it up, in a sense, and making it entirely their own."

The idea to introduce these two disciplines and see what might emerge makes so much sense, Bell wondered why somebody hadn't thought of it before.

"These [craft pieces] are familiar and cozy to us, but then to see them through someone else's eyes — that is magical," said Bell.

The leap from craft piece to room in this show is indeed magical, and not at all linear. The designers used the items they chose to evoke, to echo, to hint at, to trigger or to dream on.

For her craft inspiration, Catherine Hailey of Hailey Design, selected a lounge chair made of slats from the Coney Island boardwalk. The base of the lounge chair is made of struts that resemble a rollercoaster's frame. The elements of her dining room design evoke the rollercoaster, too, and its curves and angles.

In a black-and-white bedroom, interior designer William McGovern of Washington has positioned a lurid red four-poster bed. But it is the wallcovering and drapes that entice, sweeping across the room to wrap themselves around a female mannequin, trapping it in this room in the same way that a woman is trapped inside the upholstered egg created by Stephanie Liner and chosen by McGovern for his inspiration.

Andy Palko's blown-glass spinning wheel, which is functional and will be in use during the Renwick show, was the inspiration for the glass and crystal and the circular patterns that dominate the drawing room designed by Kori Keyser of La Plata.

The laser-cut plywood "origami" chair by Christy Oates inspired interior designer Shanon Munn of McLean, Va., to create "an office Vera Wang would love." The room's angles, which reflect the chair's angles, are softened by curves in a chair and the shining fabric colors by warm neutrals in wall coverings and window treatments. All of the textures are layered like one of Wang's famous wedding gowns.

But the showstopper might be the "Mad Men" lounge designed by Jeff Akseizer and Jamie Brown. It is inspired by Shawn Smith's piece — one-centimeter cubes in black and orange arranged to look like a campfire.

Akseizer said he immediately thought of the 1960s, when the country was burning with new ideas.

The lounge is rendered in black and white, and modernity — in the form of an acrylic piano — is paired with artifacts that include a vintage black rotary phone, an old typewriter and even 1960s advertising textbooks.

"We felt the space needed to be paired with an era where ideas were sparked over cultural change and an explosive amount of creativity," said Akseizer.

"Once these [crafts] are out in the world, anyone is free to take it and make it their own," said Bell of the Renwick.

"I think we're going to see a lot of this cross-pollination," he predicted. "What more could you ask for?"

If you go

2012 DreamHome: "Design Craft"

Washington Design Center, 300 D St. S.W., Washington. The exhibit, on the fifth floor, showcases eight regional interior designers exploring color, texture, scale and perspective in residential spaces by interpreting artworks from the upcoming exhibit "40 Under 40: Craft Futures," which is scheduled to open at the Renwick Gallery July 20.

The DreamHome is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, through Nov. 30. Free.

For more information, go to


Vultures of Vicious Venue Grab the People’s Choice Award

The City of Austin Cultural Arts Division has announced that Shawn Smith’s Vicious Venue, a sculptural installation of digital vultures made from painted balsa wood, is the People’s Choice selection from the 2011 People’s Gallery exhibition and has been added to the permanent art collection at City Hall.

Smith’s sculpture depicts three life-sized vultures viciously recycling outdated technology. Two of the vultures devour a rotary telephone, while the third tackles a film canister. Vicious Venue will reside on the 3rd floor of City Hall. This work is the seventh People’s Choice selection since the inception of the People’s Gallery program.


Resolve curated by Tony Curanaj
January 26 to February 25, 2012 

Joshua Liner Gallery is pleased to present Resolve, an exhibition of twenty-five emerging and established artists whose work is rooted in classical art traditions and training. In rendering the figure, still life, or landscape subject, this illustrious group (including twenty-two painters, two sculptors, and one photographer) expresses a collective interest in classical art forms with a variety of distinct and decidedly contemporary voices. As the first in a series of annual artist-curated exhibitions at Joshua Liner Gallery, Resolve is organized by gallery artist Tony Curanaj and includes works by the following artists:

Anthony Waichulis, Brad Kunkle, Christopher Gallego, Dan Thompson, David Kassan, Edward Minoff, Graydon Parrish, Jacob Collins, Jacob A. Pfeiffer, Jefferson Hayman, Jeremy Mann, Kate Lehman, Kim Cogan, Kris Kuksi, Kris Lewis, Lee Misenheimer, Michael Grimaldi, Rob Leecock, Scott Waddell, Shawn Smith, Shawn Barber, Steven Assael, Tony Curanaj, Travis Schlaht, Will Wilson

According to curator-artist Tony Curanaj: “This exhibition of colleagues and influences reflects a relatively narrow but varied slice of the art world, and presents it to an audience that may not be exposed to this segment of contemporary art practice. The title Resolve speaks of their determination and progression, qualities that imbue each of these works with beauty and technical virtuosity. From concept to execution, these contemporary masters of their craft are completely engaged in the artist’s process and an artistic direction that is unwavering, regardless of fashion or trend.”
Joshua Liner Gallery
548 West 28th Street
3rd Floor
New York, NY 10001
(212) 244-7415



New Pixelated Animals by Shawn Smith

By Christopher on December 20, 2011

New Pixelated Animals by Shawn Smith wood sculpture art

New Pixelated Animals by Shawn Smith wood sculpture art

New Pixelated Animals by Shawn Smith wood sculpture art

New Pixelated Animals by Shawn Smith wood sculpture art

New Pixelated Animals by Shawn Smith wood sculpture art

Shawn Smith (previously) has a number of new pixelated animal sculptures on display at Craighead Green Gallery in Dallas, Texas. Smith works primarily with balsa and bass wood that he meticulously cuts, dyes, and assembles to create these beautiful animals. Smith via the gallery:

For the past few years, I have been creating a series of “Re-things.” These whimsical sculptures represent pixelated animals and objects of nature. I am specifically interested in subjects that I have never seen in real life. I find images of my subjects online and then create three-dimensional sculptural representations of these two-dimensional images. I build my “Re-things” pixel by pixel to understand how each pixel plays a crucial role in the identity of an object. Through the process of pixelation, color is distilled, some bits of information are lost, and the form is abstracted. Making the intangible tangible, I view my building process as an experiment in alchemy, using man-made composite and recycled materials to represent natural forms.

Smith’s work is on display through December 29th. All images courtesy Craighead Green Gallery.

Shawn Smith's "Disintegrating Eagle" Starts with a Google Image

Categories: Fine Lookin' Piece
Sculptor Shawn Smith likes to take stuff apart so he can put it back together--pixel-by-pixel. He finds images online, and then crafts them into 3D reality: One little piece at a time. He starts with a Google image, usually nothing more than a thumbnail.

He zooms in until the image is pixelated, and then he draws what he sees on graph paper. From there he creates a map, of sorts. Then it's on to cutting tiny pieces of wood, dying them, and, ultimately, assembling them.

In "Disintegrating Eagle," a three-dimensional bird looks as if he might dissipate into pieces. The simple act of searching online gives us an image. But Smith dissects that image and then reassembles it, painstakingly recreating in reality what was instantly granted virtually.

So, there's an interesting social commentary at work here: Is there artistic value in the Google search, as well as the resulting rendering? Are you, Google searcher, a part of the art?

They're interesting questions, all ones you can seek to answer at Smith's current show at Craighead Green Gallery, where you also can see the work of Peter Burega and Pamela Nelson through December 19.

Cain Schulte Contemporary Art

Please visit us at booth 116, December 1-4, 2011
Aqua Art Miami, 1530 Collins Ave, Miami Beach, FL



Thursday, December 8, 2011 - Saturday, January 28, 2011
Opening Reception: Thursday, December 8, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm

Cain Schulte Contemporary Art is pleased to present a group exhibition featuring works by gallery artists David Buckingham, Will Marino, Jessica Drenk, Shawn Smith, and introducing Gyöngy Laky and Ruby Wescoat.
The art works present a span of media that ranges from sculpture and drawing to site-specific sculptural installation to conceptual works.


Peter Burega     Pamela Nelson     Shawn Smith

Shawn Smith "Disintegrating Eagle" 2011

November 19, 2011 - January 7, 2012
Opening Reception, Saturday, November 19th, 5:00 – 8:00 PM

View a Slide Show of Our Current Exhibition

Craighead Green Gallery

1011 Dragon Street, Dallas TX 75207

Hours: Mon 12:00 - 5:00 ♦ Tue - Fri 10:00 - 5:30 ♦  Sat 11:00 - 5:00


Ted Kincaid, Laura Lark, and Shawn Smith
Curated by Michael Henderson


Shawn Smith "Albino Alligator" (2011)
Sam Houston State University
Gaddis Geeslin Gallery
October 3 - October 27, 2011
Reception: Oct. 6 , 5pm - 6pm

 Art Department P.O. Box 2089. Huntsville, Texas, 77341 phone 936.294.4311



Obsessive Worlds

September 24, 2011 through January 8, 2012


This exhibition will feature artists whose works embody and embrace obsessiveness in one form or another. The obsessive is a product of their repetitive, excessive use of a particular material, idea or process as in the case of Lauren Levy, who utilizes hundreds of buttons incessantly to create sculpture. These 15 artists fall into what is considered an obsessive world and these worlds will be united in one exhibition at AMSET to explore their shared and individual forms of obsessive creativity. The artists whose work will be featured include: Charlotte Smith, Shawn Smith, Ellen Frances Tuchman, Paul Booker, Marco Maggi, Gabriel de la Mora, Jonathan Whitfill, Susie Rosmarin, Harvey Bott, Beili Liu, Elisa d’Arrigo, Vincent Falsetta, Mary McCleary, Lauren Levy and John Adelman.

Art Museum of Southeast Texas

500 Main Street
, Texas 77701



Shawn Smith: "Re-Things"

September 7 - October 9, 2011

Grand Rapids Art Museum
101 Monroe Center
Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Gallery I: Wild Kingdom

August 24 – September 22

Shawn Smith "Arctic Game"

 Flora and fauna through a contemporary lens is the focus of Wild Kingdom, a survey of works by artists who use animal and landscape references to convey ideas of our relationship to nature and the wilderness. The exhibition includes work by Helen Altman, Audrey Barcus, Kate Breakey, Candace M. Briceño, Debra Broz, Malcolm Bucknall, Mark Calderon, Claire Cowie, Chad Curtis, Chris Engman, Claudia Fitch, Sol Hashemi, Victoria Haven, Valerie Hegarty, Roxanne Jackson, Jules Buck Jones, Lori Kella, MyeongBeom Kim, Ted Kincaid, Tania Kitchell, Charles Krafft, Leigh Anne Lester, Beauvais Lyons, Lisa Ludwig, Sherry Markovitz, Paul McMullan, Steven Miller, Leslie Mutchler, Robyn O’Neil, Joseph Phillips, Michael Roch, Francis Schanberger, Isaac Smith, Shawn Smith, Adam Sorensen, Erick Swenson, Maki Tamura, Darren Waterson, Paula Winokur, Alice Wheeler, Wayne White, Susan Whyne, Blade Wynne and Claude Zervas. 

Texas State University-San Marcos | 601 University Drive, San Marcos, Texas 78666


Feature: An Interview with Shawn Smith
Tuesday August 09, 2011

In the spirit of hyperreal sculpture, Shawn Smith’s pixel art blurs the line between real and simulated. But while the deceptively photoreal work of folks like Duane Hanson or Ron Mueck are, in fact, just sculpture, Smith flips the illusion on its head. Though pieces feign digital rendering, each “pixel” is carved entirely from wood: a real, tangible thing. This process is an arduous one, sometimes taking months at a time. Smith currently resides in Austin, TX, where he continues tedious production on his work. —Tyler Curtis

Tyler Curtis: Your email has the word "thingify" in it. What does it mean to "thingify" something?

Shawn Smith: I went to CCA for grad school. I took this class called "Thing Theory," taught by a professor named Barry Katz. There was an article I came across by this guy Vilem Flusser, where he talked about this relationship that human beings have had to the "thing," the "object." He talked about it in terms of this new object that’s come into our lives, called a "non-thing." So this non-thing is basically something that is like software, a Google search, these types of things that you can't quite put your hands on but you think that you're using.

So anything that's not tangible, but real enough to impact our day-to-day lives.

Yeah, exactly.

 Is this more rooted in TV and radio and broadcasting technology, or is it specific to the digital age?

I think this was more along the lines of coming out of a VHS tape. There's no way to really decode it without a machine, because it's all just plastic magnetic tape. So it’s coming out of that, and at the same time you have some form of digital format beginning to shape objects and shapes things (or non-things) at that time. I’m giving you kind of a long answer, but I feel like this background information is important to it. To “re-thing,” this term I coined when I was playing around with Flusser's idea of this non-thing. So what I've been doing is taking things I find online that exist as a non-thing, and turning them into a thing by reconstructing them with little pieces of wood, pixel-by-pixel, and creating a re-thing. That's kind of where that idea came from, thingifying a non-thing into a re-thing.

Your work seems to effectively flow between real and digital. What's a real thing? What's just a representation of that thing used to create the experience of said thing? You bring this all to question, and in your artists' statement, you mentioned that you get your content from images on the Internet. Do you consider your work just a representation of another simulation/representation? How many layers of representation are at play here?

I am definitely playing around with representation and I think of them as a surrogate, a re-representation of something that already exists. I use these natural forms, they're not just things that I create out of nowhere. I pull them from the computer. And they're usually things I don't have a whole lot of first hand experience with, at least when I start it. I have this joke that I've never been camping, but one of my first pieces was a campfire. And so I’m using this real object and I’m re-representing that. They're like surrogates, in a way. You've got the photograph of the object that somebody's putting into their computer, you've got the translation on the computer, you've got me seeing it, you've got me taking that off the computer, doing a drawing, and then building. So what is that, seven layers?

 And you've got people like me looking at it on a computer.

Exactly. Or just seeing it in real life, that's like eight or nine removed. It calls to question Plato's idea of art representing real life, and that's something I've never really put to my work.

What makes one representation better than the next? By that I mean, more representational. How do you value a representation?

For me, a certain aspect of representation needs to be there because I’m talking about this natural world that has recognizable forms. I think that's where the importance of being able to convey that and build it with these square pixels comes from. But as far as representation goes, I can think of people that do it very well. The sculptor Ron Mueck does these pieces of human beings where he changes the scale, and the amount of detail that is there is just impeccable. Duane Hanson is another person. These are human forms that they're re-representing. And the detail that's there allows you to fall into the narrative. Everything is there, and there's not one thing that's going to kick you out of it. It's a seamless, fictional narrative. That’s something I’m trying to work with when I’m building these objects; try to build them the best I can by hand so when you're looking at them as an object, you're getting sucked into that reality, and there's not some flaw that's going to remove you from the experience. Kind of like when you're watching a film that has tons of digital reconstruction in it. If you begin to see the seams, it's going to throw you out of it.

 What exactly do you expect from your audience?

I always hope that the audience will experience some humor with the work, but also not just look at what's there making up the language the feedback of what's going on, but more about the labor involved. I think the labor is a very important component of the work.

It seems like a very time consuming, tedious process. Is there a method you have to get focused, to get honed in?

People have asked me if I’m obsessive over my work, but I just look at it in terms of what needs to be done to finish the piece. So as far as getting focused, I do have this process, broken up into about four laborious steps. And it helps me to break it up into sections so that I don't have to look at it as one long marathon. First, I find my subject. I begin to do a bunch of drawings. I find something on the computer, and I usually do my drawings on graph paper. That way, I can figure out scale and all the different proportions, and ultimately what I’m trying to do with a particular piece.

They're kind of like architectural drawings. I'll do a front view and a side view, multiple perspectives, so I begin to understand the form. And after that, I find my material and I cut it down. I have a table saw, and I cut them down into strips. And let's say I’m cutting this material, if it's 1/2 inches thick, I usually cut it into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch strips, and then I set up a jig on the table saw and I cut it into 1/2 inch increments. I’m just using 1/2 inch as an arbitrary measurement, but usually I'll cut 1/2 inch cubes, and then one inch by 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch, and then it grows all the way until it’s whatever I need for the drawing. It might be, say, 18 inches long, by 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch.

At this point, I go back to my drawing, and I start to figure out the color of the drawing, what I’m trying to do with it, and then I start the coloring process. I use acrylic paint, and water-based ink. I don't like to use a lot of super toxic stuff, because I have to be in it for a long time. Then I start dying all the materials by size, or by color, or whatever I’m trying to figure out with the object. Then after everything dries, I sort it into sizes in plastic bins. At this point I start assembling. Depending on the object, I usually start at the center and work my way out. And I use the drawings that I did initially as a roadmap, so I can keep track of how this thing is being built. I'd say it's probably about 85% strictly adhering to what the guidelines of the drawing are saying, but for the other 15%, I do tend to just kind of ad lib at a certain point, because I find that it makes it a lot less stiff. And I never want the forms to be too stiff or not flowing or anything like that, there's no life to it at that point. 

So you use the drawings as a roadmap, not the pictures you initially find on the Internet. It’s almost like a big game of telephone.

Yeah it is. I haven't thought about it like that, but it definitely is. In the process, certain things get left out, certain things are included or added, as far as details.

What was the most difficult piece in this series for you?

I would probably have to say my first piece, “14 Point Buck.” I started it in 2005 in grad school. I built the piece, a deer head, very simple, with it's head turned to the side. And I probably worked on that thing for two or three months, about ten hours a day, every single day. I just kept working and working, because I couldn't quite figure it out. It really was difficult; I was looking at one pixel in the front, and I realized that it's something else in the back, so I had to deal with modifying and getting it just right. Also, I built it with tape, and I didn't glue anything together at first. I'd use this double-stick tape, stick it all together, and bring it home. Then I'd look at it and I’d take it back. I use glue now, and I eventually glued it together. But I'd written all over it, and it had all these marks, so essentially it was this big working three-dimensional sketch. And that probably was the most difficult to build. I think there was a lot of pressure to get the form right.

 Did you know you wanted to continue exploring these themes and forms with this body of work at that point?

With that particular piece, I think I realized it at the end. I had some doubts as to whether or not I could make it work, at first. I didn't know if I could do that because I'd never really worked in that way before.

You didn't have rhythm down yet.

Looking at things, working representationally, I didn't do that before. And I think that just made me change the way I look at things.

How so?

It made me look at things in terms of volume, and before I was making things that were a little bit more abstract or I would make a direct cast off of something, and I wasn't trying to build this form up from little tiny things into a big thing, and all its little constituents, so it kind of changed the way I was looking at building things.

 So before you weren't working from little thing to big thing? Were you starting big and whittling it down, then?

I used books as a raw material. And a lot of it was subtractive, I would take the books and cut parts off to make them into other things. So then the process was subtractive, and this is additive, and I think that's the biggest difference.

I can imagine you feel pretty crazy after working on a piece for a long time.

I think so. I do really silly things when I’m about done with the piece. I find myself sometimes silly about the whole piece. Sometimes I’m super critical about the piece, like, "What the hell am I doing?" That kind of thing. I have mixed emotions depending on the day or how tired I am. I try not to do all-nighters anymore, because I tend to not really be fun to be around, and I don't want to do that to my wife.

Are you a sci-fi fan? A lot of these themes you explore tend to be present in the genre.

I'll watch the old Star Trek series, or the old Star Wars movies, but I’m not super into sci-fi as a genre. I do, however, like to read a lot about science. I think that informs the work a lot more than science fiction does.

 How does science inform your work?

I’m drawn to sciences of the small that make up larger things. I’m really interested in viruses and parasites and I like to read about quantum mechanics. I think it's kind of a fallacy to say that I understand it completely, but it's interesting to read about, and seeing how small things interact to create something bigger.

Biology is interesting, too, and the way planets are formed, gas behavior, I mean these things are really interesting to me. And they inform the work just by trying to understand how things bond or interact with one another, like in chemistry, and how they change once those two things join. If they still have an identity, or what's going on there. There's this great book called Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer. I read that right after graduate school. It was really huge and informative to me about how parasites get in the body and change the color of things. Because the parasite doesn't want to live in what it's in, it wants to live in something else that's going to come along and eat the colorful thing. It's fascinating to take that and play with it. Not necessarily in a scientific way, but using that as a catalyst.

 That's interesting, taking something very empirical and using it as jumping point for an abstract like art.

It gives me a lot of freedom. I try not to get so bogged down to where I try to pay attention to every single rule, because I’m not a scientist. But it's interesting to me.

I think artists and scientists similarly grope for a structure that makes sense. You have that much in common.

Oh yeah, definitely. I want to find a scientist and collaborate with them. I still haven't done that yet.

 What would you want to do?

I want to meet an entomologist and do something with bugs. E. O. Wilson would be very cool to do something with, he's a guy whose whole life is about ants. I think he teaches at Harvard.

Speaking of small things fitting into the space of a whole, here are these insect hive minds and swarms.

Yeah, it's like a whole supra-organism in how it behaves as one. It's really interesting stuff.

The queen as this locus point for all these ants. Just look at social networking, technology can facilitate a human hive mind. too.

I think Facebook is a quicker microcosm of looking at a populous and how it behaves, I think it’s really interesting.

 Thomas Edison did a lot of work bringing sound recording and motion picture technology together, trying to create a complete representation of life. In your opinion, how did he fair?

I would have to say pretty good for the time in which Edison was working. But as far as where I am now, chronologically looking back, I think I would require a little bit more. That's weird to say that Thomas Edison didn't do such a good job. I guess it's my own little thing.

I don't think he'll complain. What would you expect at this point?

A little more interaction. I think that's a big part of where we are with technology now, as far as interaction in terms of things that can think for themselves and respond back. Like bots on the computer and pretend they're somebody, or bots that can take over a computer and do things, even though they've been programmed. I think there's something really interesting there.

For more information about Shawn Smith, contact


In pictures: Artist gives nature the 8-bit treatment

What happens if your childhood experience of nature has been solely through video games? 3D 8-bit-inspired sculptures, that's what.

Shawn Smith, an artist from Texas, transforms images of nature into real life versions of the 8-bit artwork more commonly seen on games such as Space Invaders and Tetris using hundreds of tiny wooden blocks.

In an interview with, Smith explains how his sculptures provide a means of exploring the otherwise unknown natural world, as "pixels became a sort of map from which to experience".

Smith says: "I have been around the depiction of objects and nature on screens all my life and I found myself wondering what these things look like in three dimensions. I didn't want to just recreate something I had seen in a video game. I started to become more interested in what I had learned throughout my life from computers that I hadn't experienced firsthand."  

Although born in the year of Pong, 1972, and initially inspired by the game Pitfall, Smith chooses the animals he creates for a number of reasons. "I like to play around with imparting 'real' world characteristics of one animal on to its digital counterpart. The project Vicious Venue, pictured, was the result of 'asking myself what a digital vulture would eat if it was somehow trapped in reality," he says.

As for how these artworks are constructed, Smith's process is meticulous. After hand-drawing architectural-style designs for the front, top and side views, Smith then cuts each individual piece that he uses by hand, before colouring each "pixel" by hand in a mix of ink and acrylic paint. He then glues each piece together one at a time. Bearing this process in mind, it's just as well that it's 8-bit images Smith chooses to recreate...


Interview With Shawn Smith:

An Artist Who Plays And Sculpts With Pixels Beautifully

Posted On 5/04/2011


Shawn Smith is a Texas based sculptor who represents pixilated animals and objects of nature through his sculptures. He received his MFA in Sculpture from the California College of Arts in San Francisco in 2005. He has also received Clare Hart DeGolyer grant from the Dallas Museum of Art. His work has been exhibited through out the United States that includes some top of the art museums and art centers.

"My work investigates the slippery intersection between the digital world and reality. For the past few years, I have been creating a series of "Re-things". I build my "Re-Things" pixel by pixel to understand how each pixel plays a crucial role in the identity of an object", shares the artist on his website.

We contacted him for a small interview and he has been very kind to spare some time for us. Catch his interview below:


Shawn, please introduce yourself to E-junkies.

I am a sculptor living in Austin, Texas. I make sculptures out of wood, plastics, and metal of volumetrically pixelated objects of nature. I have been making this work since 2003. I am very interested in the abstraction and alterations these forms undergo through being translated into little bits of information.

What materials do you use to create such masterpieces?

I primarily use wood but,I sometimes use plastics and stainless steel. For the color, I use layers of acrylic paint, ink, spray paints, and varnish.

By what process do your sculptures go through? Is there any uniform one?

My process is a very important element part of the sculpture's identity. I start each project by doing a series of drawings to figure out scale, proportions, and elevations-similar to architectural/engineering schematics. After planning, I select my material and mill it down to my desired sizes. Next, I spend some time sorting the sizes into like piles by size. At this point, I start to hand dye the individual pieces according to what I am trying to make.I build my objects pixel by pixel. I really enjoy the labor and duration of focus.

When did you realise that you're an artist? When and what was your first creation?

When I was young, I wanted to be either an astronaut, scientist, or and architect. I enjoyed trying to solve defined tasks and have always been quite curious as to how things work. I first realized I wanted to be an artist when a neighbor and family friend (a painter) encouraged me to set up my own tasks and to solve them in my own way and with as many answers as possible. She illustrated to me that an artist can invent their own questions and come up with interesting answers.

My first creation was probably making large detailed cities of dirt as a child (6 or 7 years old). I would recreate buildings, factories, airports, cemeteries, roads, etc. out of wet mud and let them bake in the hot Texas sun. When the infrastructure was completed, I would build the inner workings of each building. They were almost like mud dioramas.

Each of your creation is a treat to one's eyes. What influences your artwork? Is there an particular subject you like to work on?

I have a wide range of things I look to for influence. When I am conceptually planning a piece, I tend to create a "soupy" equation" to work with. I say "soupy" because some of the ingredients may or may not be related to one another. In the end, the smaller ingredients make up a collective flavor.

As for what those ingredients have been as of late, I will tell you in a list: Neutron star gravity, parasites, viruses, predator/prey relationships, The Twilight Zone, root structures, swarms, birds, the writings of Carl Zimmer, insects, nature as a whole, cooking, video games, candy, and decay.


I loved your 'Peafile' and 'Rekindling' works. I am keen to learn more about them.

Peafile was one of the first attempts at making a slightly larger pixelated work. I also incorporated holes, for the first time, to try and give the plumage more of a lacy quality. I was drawn to the peacock as a subject simply because the male of the species is so full of adornment vs. the female. I read a lot of about the different biological and reproductive ideas at play here and wanted to play with them using a digital bird.

Rekindling was a piece I made for a show at the Austin Museum of Art. I wanted to create a larger fire that was frozen in the moment as fake logs were consumed by fake fire. I am really drawn to the idea of pixels having the physical properties of combustion and the ability to generate of heat.


 Tell us about your 'Swarm' project. How is it done?

Swarm was a bit of a departure from the pixel works. I am part of SculptCAD Rapid Artists in Dallas. SculptCAD is a group of artists using rapid prototyping techniques to create art.In my current work, I use small pieces to create larger objects of nature but with Swarm, I used small objects of nature to create a larger object--a French horn. For the process,I built small flies with digital clay, assembled them with a 3D software, and three dimensionally printed the object in a plastic/nylon material called Duraform. I was really inspired by watching swarms of grackles flying around near my studio. I did some research on Swarm theory to learn more about this very interesting phenomenon.


Which creation by you is closest to your heart and why? 

That is tough. I would have to say the first pixelated piece I made (a deer head). I say this because it was weeks of trying to figure out the form, wondering if it would work, and the problem solving that seemed to never end. I loved the challenge as well as solving it the way I wanted to.

Share one best compliment you've ever received for your artwork.

The best compliment I have received about my work would have to be “You had alot of fun making this didn’t you? It makes me want to go build something."

Many of our readers would draw inspiration from you. What message do you have for them?

I would say find your own questions, your own answers, and remain curious. Take another look at things you don’t like, that is where the good stuff is.

Shawn, thanks for a wonderful interview. It was a pleasure talking to you. We wish you all the very best!


Jessica Drenk and Shawn Smith: Cain Schulte show

Nirmala Nataraj, Special to The Chronicle

Shawn Smith's "Green Ibex" (2010), balsa wood, ink, acrylic paint.

The new exhibition at Cain Schulte Contemporary Art, which features artists Jessica Drenk and Shawn Smith, explores everything from technology filtered through natural forms to the abstract potential of tangible, commonplace items.

Texas artist Smith presents a series of pieces entitled "Re-things," whimsical sculptures that act as representations of entities seen in nature, from birds to wild goats. While the three-dimensional sculptures add up to identifiable forms, they are assembled using a variety of small wood cubes arranged to insinuate 8-bit pixels, abstracting the overall image significantly. His sculptures are built pixel by pixel to explore the object's overall identity.

In Jessica Drenk's work, the process is almost the reverse: She starts with an intangible piece and then works to make it tangible. Drenk's works include sculptural books (books immersed in wax, and then configured so that they resemble abstracted fossils) and pieces made from commonplace, disposable items, such as coffee filters and toothpicks.

"The processes I use to transform objects like books and Q-tips are quite simple, but I come to them through rigorous experimentation," says Drenk, who has worked with books for 10 years. Her processes for reshaping are numerous: tearing, wetting with water, soaking wax, gluing and carving.

In the presented works, manufactured items appear as natural objects, functional tools are transformed into decorative elements, and each piece alludes to the creation of a fabricated natural history.

"My work often appears as if I have accelerated a weathering, fossilizing or erosive process on a familiar object," Drenk says, "but they still retain a whisper or semblance of the objects we knew."

Both Smith and Drenk's sculptures point to new realities - not just in the way we view artifacts but also in the simultaneously self-reflexive and transcendent properties of "making" art.

Smith says that he wants his work "to serve as a conversation starter as to the importance of the 'thing' in our history, and how this relationship is changing with technology as we become more removed from firsthand experience by observing the world through a screen."

While Drenk believes that nature in the future will be affected by the objects we leave behind and the natural resources we use to make them, "on a long enough time scale, there is no difference between man-made and nature; in the life cycle of objects, everything eventually returns to the earth."

Through May 14. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat. and by appointment. Cain Schulte Contemporary Art, 251 Post St., Suite 210, S.F. (415)



“Jessica Drenk and Shawn Smith”

Daily from Thu., April 7 until Thu., May 14
Is It Real, or Is It Internet?

Is It Real, or Is It Internet?

By Paul M. Davis

Despite what you may have heard, the Internet is not actually made of cats or Charlie Sheen jokes or increasingly idiosyncratic porn. It’s made of giant, complex databases that store history’s most extensive library of office time-wasters and masturbation fodder. But no matter what kind of online content you’re consuming, there’s always an abstract, detached quality to the medium. The new sculpture exhibition "Jessica Drenk and Shawn Smith" brings those labyrinthine databases and compressed web images into the physical world. Drenk’s subjects are the information systems that undergird our global digital infrastructure. She creates minimalist works built from some of the most analog materials imaginable — cotton swabs, toothpicks, coffee filters, and other assorted trash. In doing so, her sculptures transform complex digital systems into elegantly simple totems. While Drenk simplifies the impossibly complex, Smith’s work resembles tech so archaic that folks born during the Clinton administration might mistake it for analog. His wooden sculptures are meticulous representations of two-dimensional images from the Internet and TV. A goat from a .jpg or an ibex from a nature program are re-created in the physical world, with results that resemble a cross between the pixel art of 8-bit Nintendo games and a giant Jenga puzzle. In both cases, the artists create physical representations of digitized images of the real world, resulting in a deliriously conceptual mindfuck.


8-bit and mixed media sculptures

April 7 to May 14, 2011
Opening Reception: Thursday, April 7, 5:30 – 7:30pm

251 POST STREET, SUITE 210 • SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94108 • PHONE: 415.543.1550 

HOURS: Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 to 5:00 and by appointment

dberman gallery
26 March 2011
Grand Relocation Celebration

We are excited to open our new gallery space - just off the Square in Wimberley on the banks of Cypress Creek - with a group show featuring work by selected gallery artists. Join us on Saturday March 26th from 4 until 7 for our opening party. Sugar Bayou Band will entertain us with music on our front patio.

Wimberley is less than one hour from Austin. This is the most beautiful time of the year in central Texas and the redbuds are in bloom.

Artists in this exhibition will include: Ellen Berman, Malcolm Bucknall, Jeff Dell, Faith Gay, George Krause, Catherine Lee, Lance Letscher, Beili Liu, Katie Maratta, Denny McCoy, Gladys Poorte, Naomi Schlinke, Shawn Smith, W. Tucker, and Sydney Yeager.

d berman gallery
111 Old Kyle Road # 100
Wimberley, TX 78676


The People's Gallery

The City of Austin is proud to present the annual People's Gallery exhibition at City Hall. This series is designed to showcase regional artistic endeavors and to encourage public dialogue, understanding, and enjoyment of visual art. The program’s goal is to present exhibitions that reflect the artistic excellence and cultural diversity of Austin and promote the City’s cultural and economic initiatives.

When: Friday, February 18, 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Where: Austin City Hall (301 W. 2nd Street)
Parking: Limited free parking is available at Austin City Hall, enter the garage on Lavaca Street.
Because we anticipate high traffic in the City Hall area, alternative forms of transportation - walking, biking, or riding the bus - are highly encouraged!

Join us for a celebration of Austin's creative talents!
The 2011 People's Gallery exhibition features over 100 artworks from Austin-area artists, galleries, museums, and art organizations displayed throughout the first three floors of City Hall.
Short films selected for the 2011 Faces of Austin multimedia program will have a premiere screening in City Council Chambers!
In the Atrium, enjoy music by The Djembabes and refreshments provided by Whole Foods Market!

This year, the People's Gallery is a participating organization in the expanded 2011 Texas Biennial.

Looking for that perfect holiday gift?

How about a Shawn Smith book?


2 December 2010 - 22 January 2011*
d berman gallery’s 10th Anniversary Group Show!

Please join us for the opening reception celebrating 
both the exhibition and our incredible 10th anniversary 
on Thursday, December 2, from 6 - 8 pm.

d berman gallery has been celebrating our 10th anniversary this year! To cap the year, we’re having a giant 10th anniversary group show…. with a little bit of everything fabulous. Most works in the show will be priced at $1,000 and under, so this is an incredible chance to get affordable works by d berman gallery artists!! 

Featuring works by: Ellen Berman, Malcolm Bucknall, Laura Pickett Calfee, Cynthia Camlin, Sandra Fiedorek, Faith Gay, Tom Hollenback, Jimmy Jalapeeno, George Krause, Catherine Lee, Lauren Levy, Katie Maratta, Ann Matlock, Owen McAuley, Marjorie Moore, Leslie Mutchler, Gladys Poorte, Christopher Schade, Naomi Schlinke, Shawn Smith, Jana Swec, Jared Theis, W. Tucker, Susan Whyne, and Steve Wiman.

d berman gallery
1701 Guadalupe Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Regular gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 - 6 & by appointment
Summer gallery hours (July & August): Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 5 & by appointment

*The gallery will be closed for the holidays from 24 December 2010 – 4 January 2011.


Pixel Pushers Nudges Games Into the Art Space

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Eric Nakamura, Adam Robezzoli and Len Higa at the Pixel Pushers reception

Through December 11, Giant Robot and Scion are sponsoring an art exhibit in Culver City, described as an exploration of 8-Bit digital media. The opening reception taking place on November 13 mixed live chip music by Nullsleep with videos by Daniel Rehn. Jude Buffum's 8-bit baddie butcher diagrams were on the wall beside Shawn Smith's pixelated sculptures. A Famicom car touched up by Len Higa was parked in the center of the space projecting Giant Robot's sidescrolling shooter Return of the Quack from its headlights.

Quack is part of an ongoing collaboration with Adam Robezzoli of the LA game culture shop Attract Mode. Publisher and editor of Giant Robot Magazine, Eric Nakamura has produced five games with independent developers. "I love the indie game world," he says. "There’s been such great participants and it’s growing. The games that are being made are super thoughtful and creative. It’s been a chance for indie developers to learn about artists and vice versa."

For Pixel Pushers, Giant Robot reached out to artist Kohei Yamashita to provide '70s and '80s pachinko machines. The artist decorated the space with murals of squirrels and ants transporting silver pachinko balls. "What could be more interesting than working with new people who are doing something different," says Nakamura. "Pushing your own limits with their input and new ideas, that’s just cool."

Kohei Yamashita posing with pachinko machines

On hand at the reception was the team behind Meat Bun, a clothing line and game culture outlet based in Los Angeles. Michael McWhertor identifies a major advantage of organizing get-togethers in the city being its reliably clement weather. "For the most part you can be outside and play a game on a giant screen pretty much all year long," he says. "You might think it would be a little cost prohibitive to be an indie developer in LA, but there are a lot of game studios here with people deciding to go their own way. With Xbox Live and Steam there are now ways to find an audience. If we can help people out by showcasing their games, that would be awesome."

Meat Bun has been lending a hand in organizing game nights in the LA area and had a remarkable turn-out for a Super Meat BoyNinja WarriorsForgotten Worlds to Space Channel Five. The clothing line recently began appearing in Giant Robot shops. "We thought that could be a great start for us in the retail space because our demographics were completely similar," explains Jason Rau. The team is looking for future game nights to feature local developers such as 24 Caret Games, whose rhythm music title Retro/Grade took home the Audience Award at Culver City's IndieCade event.

Chevy Ray Johnston, coder on Return of the Quack, was recognized as part of this year's Game Developer 50, a list of influential game designers published in Game Developer Magazine. The programmer's FlashPunk software was a product of teaching himself Flash and later was released for free. It tied in nicely with another free Flash resource, Adam Atomic's Flixel, used to create Canabalt. "On twitter I offhandedly mentioned a website that I wanted to do for beginner Flash programming," says Chevy Ray. "I had looked into how non-programmers learn and how to teach them how to learn. [Adam] responded saying he had the exact same idea. About a month after that we released the site."

Attract Mode brought together Chevy Ray with illustrator Matt Furie and musician Nullsleep. “It was pretty smooth sailing," describes the game designer, who programmed the game in FlashPunk. "I would say, ‘I need a bunch of power-ups and sparkly looking things for explosions,’ and Matt would fill pages with this stuff. He did all the scanning so it was smooth and anti-aliased.” Return of the Quack is playable at Scion in wood arcade cabinets built by Eric Nakamura's father, while Zach Gage's iPad title Halcyon is viewable on a nearby overhead projection.

Shawn Smith being interviewed

Matt Furie was passing art designs back and forth online during the making of Quack. The duck motif of the game, which blends realistic renderings of the animal with cartoonish variants was a nod to the artist's brother. "He’s three and a half years younger than me, and loves ducks," he says. "He’s more involved in the world of games than I am, so I wanted to do the duck as an homage to his weird obsession with ducks." Chevy Ray would come up with ideas for attacks, and the artist would create them: a hot dog projectile flying out of the bun, or spit shooting from the mouth of a three-eyed monster.

The illustrator credits games like Mario Bros., Golden Axe and Shadow of the Beast with informing his interest in sidescrollers. The biggest stylistic departure of Return of the Quack is the hand-drawn aesthetic. Matt's colored pencil drawings were the basis for all the visual elements of the shooter, from the player and enemies to the explosions and cloud bursts. "The actual drawings in the game are super-small: they’re only about the size of a marble. It’s fun to do all these tiny drawings and see them come to life on the big screen here, where they’re projecting it at the gallery."

In depicting wildlife through his sculptures of foxes and vultures, currently on display at Scion, Shawn Smith takes the pixel art of 2D games as his inspiration. Inherent in his process, which involves researching internet sources, is a sense of alienation from the natural world. "I end up looking at things I’ve never seen in real life," he says. "As technology evolves, the natural world is being seen more regularly through a series of screens. I’m also experiencing nature through that filter." He pays particular attention to the venues of vultures seen over his studio in Austin, located near undeveloped natural reserves.

What interests the sculptor about gaming is that it implies a surrogate, "virtual" experience. In graduate school he had struggled to find an artistic subject or form that was unique to his generation. Eventually he stumbled on games, mentioning that he was born in the year of Pong. His sculptures on display at Scion work against the blockiness of their design materials by simulating motions, from unfolding wings to craning necks. "It can be incredibly liberating," he says of the experience of videogames. "This is something you can immerse yourself in and direct. There’s something really interesting to me about that."

Shawn Smith's sculptures



"Pixel Pushers" is a group show curated by Giant Robot’s Eric Nakamura, centering around the Famicom inspired custom Scion art car which will project the Giant Robot produced video game, Return of the Quack. The exhibition will feature not only video game inspired art, but a bank of retro custom pachinko machines in a pachinko parlor-like installation, an interactive environment by a renowned digital conceptualist artist, 8-bit sculptures, projected digital visuals, and 4 mini game consoles. The featured artists are: Jude Buffum, Matt Furie, Zach Gage, Len Higa, Chevy Ray Johnston, Nullsleep, Daniel Rehn, Shawn Smith and Kohei Yamashita.

Scion Installation Space

3521 Helms Avenue

Culver City, CA 90232

T: 310.815.8840


Shawn Smith: Absence


Guerilla Arts

1900 North Haskell Avenue
Dallas, TX75204

Opening Reception: November 19, 2010  7pm-9pm

Typically I make works that are pixelated sculptural representations of nature.  For this show, I challenged myself to work in a different direction by removing “nature” rather than representing it.  For Absence, I chose to create two installations using video, sculpture, and found objects where the natural elements have been removed leaving remnants and surrogates behind.




Top Shows in the West Kick Off the New Art Season

by Annabelle Sanders 

Joseph Phillips, 'Elevated VIP Lawn,' 2010, gouache, ink and pencil on paper, 13 x 17'

Joseph Phillips / Shawn Smith
at D Berman Gallery, Austin, Texas 

Continuing through October 9, 2010

This two person exhibit of work by Joseph Phillips and Shawn Smith use traditional drafting and sculpting methods to cast a sharp, expert light on the increasing commodification and digitizing of the natural world. Phillips, a master of gouache painting, offers full-color schema depicting combinations of geology and architecture as they might appear in some divine IKEA catalog of utopian real estate: cottages swaddled in vertically arranged beachfront property, subterranean reservoirs of energy topped by tidy storage buildings, discrete units of improbable curbside appeal enhanced by non-indigenous foliage and packaged for some fantasy marketplace. Would you care for a side of julienned tectonic plates with your order, sir?
On the other side of the gallery, Shawn Smith eschews the merely two-dimensional and provides sculptures of wildlife: various birds, the heads of antelopes, a fox. All of these creatures are built from hundreds of hand-cut lengths of wood and rendered as collections of solid pixels, as if the inhabitants of some 8-bit computer game called "Woodland Creatures" had manifested themselves beyond the screen. The effect is consistently gorgeous and jarring and, especially in the case of one piece depicting a vulture perched triumphantly upon the shattered remains of an antique typewriter, more than a little unsettling.



Arts Review


Joseph Phillips & Shawn Smith

D Berman Gallery, 1701 Guadalupe, 477-8877

Through Oct. 9

Joseph Phillips wants to sell you a little piece of Barbados to enhance your deepest Antarctica. Shawn Smith is capturing fire and fauna in pixels that exist in the wood beyond your

computer's seductive screen. D Berman Gallery, no less elegant than ever, has become a real-estate emporium and roadside zoo in presenting this latest pairing of exhibits.

The commodification of the land, the digitization of the meatspace world: These continue apace, and the pace accelerates, and the rate of acceleration itself accelerates as we watch the years go by. The result of an artistic process is often a freeze-frame vision of life's relentless movie, and what better stilled image than one in which artifice is in the service of exploring or exploding the artificial?

Phillips prepares precise gouache paintings of land units optimized for comfort and convenience, with miniature, compartmentalized lagoons cuddling up to split-level bungalows outfitted with Just the Right Number of Palm Trees and vertical landscapes that accommodate – that generate, even – multiple climate options. Need a retail storefront that doubles as a seaside hideaway? This draftsman has just what you're looking for – now with beach umbrellas! Like when you're a kid and you draw the Ultimate House according to your freestyle kid-o-vision, so Phillips has, in clever (and lovely to behold) piece after clever (and archly satirical) piece, arranged geology and architecture toward the fantasies of capitalist control.

Smith brings the world of animals through the looking-glass of digital media and out the other side. It would be impressive enough – both the bare visuals and the deeper connotations – if the artist merely used such modern technology as necessary to create his sculptures of pixilated birds and antelopes and so on, but that he figures each piece out with pencil on graph paper and then cuts and paints the wooden bits, painstakingly, by hand ... well, there comes a time when sheer craftsmanship can make you shake your head in amazement, and this is one of those times. This is several of those times, actually, as you stare at Smith's life-size fox scampering up one wall, at the big vulture perched all baldly crimson and obsidian-feathered upon an exploded antique typewriter, at the many-fingered burst of flame caught mid-blaze within a delicate, wickery birdcage. The medium of what we call the natural world: first made unreally vicarious through the miracle of film, television, and the Internet, now returned to the real and immediate in what might be some ultimate segment of Marshall McLuhan's Wild Kingdom.

26 August – 9 October 2010

Joseph Phillips
Shawn Smith

Please join us for the opening reception on
Thursday, August 26 from 6-8 pm.

dberman gallery

A gallery talk with the artists will be held on Saturday, September 11 at 1 pm.

Shawn Smith
Naturally Competitive Patterns, 2010
Balsa, Bass, acrylic paint, and ink
30 x 24 x 13 inches

d berman gallery
1701 Guadalupe Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Regular gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 - 6 & by appointment
Summer gallery hours (July & August): Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 5 & by appointment



SculptCAD Rapid Artists

September 14, 2010 | TEDxSMU Rapid Artists Salon + Exhibit Opening

In November 2009, SculptCAD, a front runner in blending sculpture and CAD for manufacturing and reverse engineering, invited artists to hang a left from the utilitarian use of this technology and do what they do when they do art. Shawn Smith joins RAPID artists Brad Ford Smith, Dave Van Ness, Jay Sullivan, Erica Larkin, Heather Ezell, Ginger Fox, Heather Gorham, Katherine Batists, Mark Grote, Shane Pennington, Tom Lauerman, Bert Scherbarth, and Nancy Hairston in this groundbreaking project that is consistent with the contemporary vision of the extraordinary Dallas Arts District.

"Wouldn't it be interesting to see what these artists would come up with, if they had access to 3D tools." mused Nancy Hairston, Founder of SculptCAD. An idea was born: SculptCAD Rapid Artists Project. The experience has been transformative, expanding the creative process and arousing a shift in thinking about how art comes to take it's place in the physical realm. A very, very contemporary approach to art. Why "Rapid"? Rapid Prototype Printing, 3D Scanning and Digital Sculpture. New approaches to art making and art output. High speed. On Demand. It allows the impossible to be possible. The SculptCAD Rapid Artists will show the possibilities they discover.

TEDxSMU is partnering with SculptCAD on the Dallas premier of the SculptCAD Rapid Artists exhibition. This exhibition explores the boundaries between sculpture and the digital media. The TEDxSalon will discuss themes relating to technology, art and humanity. What separates the hand of the artist from the automated program and how the artists learned to manipulate this new visual language, and use it to create sculptures that represent their personal creative outlook.

The project will benefit the Edith Baker Scholarship for the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Many of the participating artists are alumni of Arts Magnet and all exemplify the innovative spirit to make this show a noteworthy success. We believe this groundbreaking project is consistent with the contemporary vision of the extraordinary Dallas Arts District.

The exhibit will open at One Arts Plaza with an evening event co-produced by TEDxSMU and SculptCAD. Please join us for the exhibit and a TEDxTalk from Nancy Hairston, Heather Gorham, Brad Ford Smith, and Shawn Smith. Afterwards the artists will be available for one-on-one discussions about their sculptures, inspiration and the experience of working with 3D modeling technology.

Tuesday, September 14 6:00-8:00pm

Presentations at 6:30

One Arts Plaza Lobby 1722 Routh Street, Dallas, TX 75201


Shawn Smith
Swarm, 2010
Three dimensional print in Duraform – EOS.  1 of 1.
29 x 16 x 18 inches


Lindsay’s Quick Queries with Shawn Smith

June 17th, 2010

Shawn Smith was born in 1972 in Dallas, TX where he attended Arts Magnet High School and Brookhaven College before graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, MO with a BFA in Printmaking in 1995. Smith received his MFA in Sculpture from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco in 2005. He has received artist-in-residencies from the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, CA and the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris, France. In 1996, Smith was a recipient of the Clare Hart DeGolyer grant from the Dallas Museum of Art. In 2006, he was commissioned to create a monumental public sculpture in San Francisco, CA. Smith’s work has been exhibited throughout the United States and in France. Smith currently resides in Austin, Texas and is represented by Craighead Green Gallery in Dallas and d. berman gallery in Austin.


Double Dahl

Shrodinger’s Hat

LP: Crushed ice, cubed, or none? Or that weird cylindrical kind with a hole in the middle? Bonus question: if you could have an ice cube mold in any shape, what would it be?
SS: Cubed – Does not melt as fast.  For the bonus question – it is a toss up between a wasp nest or Alfred Hitchcock.

LP: Which are better, obstacle courses or bounce houses?
SS:  Definitely obstacle course.  I like lots of vertical details, subterranean elements, and mud.

LP: Desert island song:
SS:  ”Who’s Gonna Save my Soul” by Gnarls Barkley or “Save Me” by Aimee Mann.

LP: How has your upbringing / childhood affected your art, or has it?
SS: I was born the year of Pong so I’ve always felt connected to blocky digital images.  My father was very much a “detail” type person and a lot of that rubbed off on me.

LP: Explain your process start to finish. Are you just a glutton for punishment, or do you enjoy the seemingly tedious process that your concepts demand?
SS: A tediously long answer for a tediously long process:
Step 1: Mapping.
I generally start by working out the concepts/idea with hand drawn sketches.  Then, I find images of my subject matter, usually online.  At this point I do another drawing (or “map” as I call it) on graph paper. By now, I will have an idea about what material I would like to use.I use a variety of materials, for example: balsa, bass, plywood, various plastics, and MDF (I call it the sausage of woods.)
Step 2: Cutting.
For larger pieces I start with a 4′x8′ sheet of plywood and mill it down to individual strips.  For example if I am using 1/2″ plywood, I mill the sheet down to 1/2″ strips.  Next, I set up a jig on the table saw and cut the incremental pieces.  So for example, if I am using 1/2″ plywood cut into 1/2″ strips, I will probably cut the strips into 1/2″ increments like 1/2″ cubes up to 24″x1/2″x1/2″.  Yes, I still have all my fingers.
Step 3: Adding color.
I hand dye each pixel individually. I hand-mix my inks and dyes with various mediums and start adding color.  Most of the dye is altered by adding other colors or shades after a few pieces are colored.  After all of the dyeing, I sort the pieces according to size and color. The sorting is especially tedious.
Step 4: Building.
I usually start in the middle of the piece (usually on a French cleat if it is a wall piece) and work out towards the edges.   I use a lot of wood glue.  I buy it by the gallon.

I don’t feel like a glutton for punishment; it is just how I work.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 

Lindsay Preston is an artist and graphic designer from San Diego. In “Lindsay’s Quick Queries”, Lindsay brings you work by contemporary artists, and answers to the questions everyone has been wondering about them, like “pancakes or waffles?”



Sculptures by Shawn Smith Installed on the 10th Floor of the Austonian

May 10, 2010

This week, a trio of sculptures by Austin-based artist Shawn Smith was installed on the 10th floor Lawn of the Austonian. A place where homeowners can relax, swim and entertain guests, The Lawn is home to native plants, trees and a reflecting pond.

The three stainless steel sculptures titled "Fuentes Ficticias" (translated to "Fictional Fountains") echo the movement of water in a pixilated 3D pattern.

The Austonian rises above downtown Austin and every other place to live in the Lone Star State as the tallest residential building in Texas. The Austonian, which opens this June, has an art collection comprised of work by over 40 local and regional artists.

Installation photos:






It Takes a Villa: A Preston Hollow Abode


Villa architecture seems an unlikely choice for lovers of contemporary design, but that’s just what Lance andShari Vander Linden had in mind for the exterior of their 9,000-square-foot Preston Hollow abode, completed in 2008. For the interiors, they envisioned big, open rooms furnished with clean, modern pieces that would be comfortable and sturdy enough for three boisterous teenagers and their friends. “We like the villa look, but we also love modern,” says Shari. “We wanted a house that was good for entertaining, so flow was important. But the kind of entertaining we do is mostly with family and friends. We didn’t need anything formal or stuffy, and we didn’t want wasted space.”

The Vander Lindens took their ideas to architect Richard Drummond Davis, best known for classic villa style. To make it all come together, Davis knew that the traditional façade had to somehow tie into the contemporary interior aesthetic. “We automatically made the exterior more austere, simple and unornamented. We left off the frou-frou,” says Davis, who worked with contractor Barry Buford of Buford Builders, Inc., to build the house from smooth-cut Texas limestone, which provides a clean, crisp look. Carved, decorative cornices and entablatures found in most villa-style architecture were omitted. The arches are without keystones or plinth blocks, and the porches without decorative trim. Instead of the ubiquitous cathedral front entry and foyer, Davis lowered the ceiling to human scale, just one story high.  “The essence of this house is that it’s relaxed and not overworked,” he says.

The house was a team effort among Davis and interior designers Robyn Menter and Alicia Quintans, of Robyn Menter Design Associates, Inc., who came into the project from day one. “We got involved in the space planning early with Richard to make sure the rooms were large enough for what the family wanted,” says Menter, who also brought in lighting consultant Ann Linley to create appropriate lighting for the Vander Linden’s growing collection of contemporary art.

A house is not a home until every family member feels comfortable in it. Even the children had their say about what worked and what didn’t and were allowed to choose colors and materials for their own rooms. Each family member drew up a short list of must-haves: Lance, 52, an attorney, wanted a gallery space big enough to hold future modern art acquisitions. Jack, 18, a pitcher who will be heading to Georgetown University on a baseball scholarship next fall, requested a pitching mound in the back yard. Shari, 45, wanted a big laundry room with double washers and dryers and “tons of counter space.” Owen, 11, who loves rocks and fossils, got a bathroom tiled in river rocks, and 17-year-old Hailey’s wish for a hanging Eero Aarnio bubble chair came true, just in time for move-in and her birthday.

Most of the design re-quirements were discussed early on, such as the family’s desire to have a large kitchen that flowed directly into a large family room, and from there, a large veranda with an outdoor kitchen, dining table and sitting area. They wanted the first level to house the master suite, with the children’s rooms and a game room located on the second floor.

To keep the conversation flowing when the children are upstairs, Davis designed a Juliet-style balcony overlooking the family room. With the view from above in mind, a space-saving custom, curved sofa and custom ottoman with storage were designed and upholstered in washable outdoor fabrics. Menter and Quintans didn’t want to clutter the room with too many seating areas, but a card table was a non-negotiable item. Says Shari: “Our family is really big into playing cards and puzzles. My mother taught us girls to play progressive gin, and so my sisters and I have taught our daughters the game. The boys love to play poker.” A custom metal and glass table does the trick, with lightweight leather Cab chairs easily moved around for watching TV.

Warm earth tones in oranges, browns and greens are continued from the family room to the outdoor room to visually connect the two spaces, says Menter. Douglas fir beams and solid walnut doors help warm up the house’s white walls and limestone floors. Shari’s favorite color is red—it also happens to be one of Menter’s—so it was used judiciously throughout to punch up the neutral palette. One of the more dramatic uses of red is in a sculpture by Austin artist Shawn Smith, which they commissioned for a niche in their new groin vaulted gallery. Smith met with the Vander Lindens before coming up with his design, meticulously created from hundreds of small, red wooden blocks forming five fluttering red birds—one for each Vander Linden.

“It was in honor of our family,” says Shari. Nothing could have been more appropriate.


"You're Invited"

March 27 - May 1, 2010
Opening Reception, Saturday, March 27th 5:00 - 8:00 PM

Craighead Green Gallery is proud to introduce our upcoming group exhibition "You're Invited", a celebration in recognition of new works from Gallery artists. We are also proud to acknowledge our fifth year on Dragon Street.  

Partial list of participating artists:

Linda McCall, Kendall Stallings, David Crismon, Carolyn Brown, Connie Connally, Marci Crawford-Harnden, Marty Ray, Ursula O'Farrell, Jerry Cabrera, David Brown, Leslie Tejada, Charlie Goodwin, Kirk Tatom, Jeri Ledbetter, Michelle O,Michael, Danna Ruth Harvey, Jason Brown, Denise Brown, Brad Ellis, Cecil Touchon, Jay Maggio, Mark Smith, Christine Hayman, Steve Seinberg, Shawn Smith, Kenda North, Jeanie Gooden, Heather Gorham, Orna Feinstein, Bill Weaver, Pancho Luna, Lee Mascarenhas, Justin Ginsberg, Jackson Hammack, Norman Kary, Carolyn McAdams, Colin Murasko, Raymond Saa, Chris Mason, JP Long, Gary Schafter, Marla Zeigler, Rich Bowman, Carole Pierce, Arturo Mallmann, Paul Abbott, Chris Armstrong, Gregg Coker, Pearl Dick, Bill Fegan, John Hathorn, Harry Ally

View a Slide Show of Our Current Exhibition

Craighead Green Gallery

 1011 Dragon Street, Dallas TX 75207
Hours: Mon 12:00 - 5:00 ♦ Tue - Fri 10:00 - 5:30 ♦  Sat 11:00 - 5:00


Art Mirrors Life
Public sculptures in San Francisco project evoke elements of the development process

January 19, 2010

photo courtesy of Drew Kelly

It is almost as if the sculptures selected for Shorenstein Properties LLC's Mission Bay office development were inspired by the tenant, a biotech company.

Artist Tony Cragg's stainless steel sculpture "I'm Alive," located on the front lawn of the property, looks like a water drop with a tail. As described by Cragg, the piece's theme is the relationship between geometric and organic form and explores the nature of metamorphosis and evolution.

Meanwhile, the "Doppel Fountain (for Ann)" created by Shawn Smith was made from 1,000 pieces of stainless steel.

Smith's intention was to create the feel of fl owing water.

Both could be biotechnology-related themes, but Leah Levy, an independent curator and art historian who served as the public art advisor for the project and selected the artists, said she did not even know who the tenant was when the decision was made to buy Cragg's piece and to hire Smith to design a sculpture. The complimentary thematic connections between art and business as the headquarters for FibroGen, a privately-owned biotech company, were purely coincidental.

The office park, located at 409-499 Illinois St. in San Francisco's Mission Bay district, is a research facility housing businesses and institutions that work in the biomedical and biotechnology sectors.

"We selected these two unique and compelling sculptures to refl ect both the vibrancy of the place and its residents and to make a contribution to the experience of outdoor sculpture for the entire community," said Paul Grafft, senior vice president of Shorenstein Properties and asset manager of the development.

For the most part, when Levy, who has provided art program coordination for the Art Master Plan in San Francisco's Mission Bay and Foundry Square among other public and private projects, is hired to find public art to decorate the grounds of a building, the tenant is unknown. So how exactly does a developer decide what art will work for a building?

"For me, there is no one answer," she said. "It depends On what the site is, the landscape is, what the budget is, as well as the attitudes of the developer and the potential client." There also are other practical considerations, such as which artists are available and who can get the piece done within the project's timeline.

"Some people think it is simple - that you just go out and get a piece," Levy said. "It is like writing a book or making a movie. There is always much more behind the process then you might realize when you see the project." Even if the tenant is known, that may not be a factor in choosing a piece or artist for a project, Levy said.

"Sometimes I am just looking for the best piece of art for an outdoor site and it is completely unrelated to what will be happening inside," she said. "There aren't clear rules or guidelines. She admits that both pieces do appear to have a connection to biotechnology, however.

"There is a sense that Shawn Smith's work that deals With pixelation is very contemporary and hooks into the nature of biotech," Levy said. "Tony Cragg's piece also could be seen to relate to what is going on in the building." And even if a piece were designed with a specific tenant in mind, sculpture lends itself to interpretation.

"I'm Alive" has as its backdrop Mission Bay, so someone said it looked like a wave," Levy said. "There are a lot of options for understanding the piece." The range of instruction that artists are given when they create a corporate art piece is broad.

"Some city projects are very limited. A lot of direction is given if it is a historic site," Levy said. "But to say that a picture of a broom should be placed in front of a building because a building supply company is the tenant is too limited." And part of the wonder of dealing with artists is experiencing what they come up with that a non-artist would never think of, Levy said.

Levy purchased the Cragg piece for the project, but the sculpture designed by Smith was commissioned after being selected from a group of 20 artists who submitted proposals.

Smith's proposal was to produce a "nomadic" or "wandering" sculpture that would look almost as if a bird perching on the wall, he said.

"I had the idea of using multiple pieces to construct it, which kind of worked into the biotech theme," Smith said.

"I was imagining the sculpture moving around and landing somewhere." In a way, the process of selecting the artists and the execution of the art project parallels that of a developer going through the development process.

The guidance that Smith was given on the outlook was that there was an architectural landscape problem that needed to be solved with the sculpture resting on a slim black square that protruded near a set of stairs.

"There was a structural problem as to what could go up there and work with the elements, but other than that the only parameters were budgetary concerns and deadlines," Smith said.




Time's running out to catch these must-see exhibits

By DOUGLAS BRITT Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle

Jan. 8, 2010, 12:28PM

The first full week of 2010 is the perfect time to catch up on art exhibitions you didn't see before the end of 2009. But you'll have to hurry because these shows are only up through Saturday.

Lawndale Art Center

Kia Neill has blocked off most of the Lawndale Art Center's second floor to create an environment into which you're fully immersed the moment you step out of the elevator. You're in a cave, complete with stalactites and moss-like growths, but one that's tricked out with blinking lights and shiny edges that turn out to be shards of compact discs.

The tightness of the space induces a mild claustrophobia that's offset by the cheerful kitschiness of Neill's embellishments. In her artist statement, Neill draws analogies to manmade imitations of natural environments such as household aquariums, with their fake foliage and rock formations. In her Grotto, you get to be the fish.

Take the stairs, not the elevator, to the third floor project space, where an icky growth on the handrail may at first have you wanting to call the health department, then wondering if the strange, artificial fungus is a continuation of Neill's piece. In fact, it's part of Jasmyne Graybill's mini-exhibit, Negotiation, which also includes Petri dishes filled with her recreations of mold-like substances. The title refers to "the ongoing negotiations for space that arise everyday between nature and domestic life," making Graybill's show a perfect postscript to Neill's. It also makes me want to see what will happen when Graybill, an artist to watch, infests a larger space.

Entering the project space, we're again immersed in a strange world, this time an old-timey office, one that predates not just computers but electric typewriters and push-button phones. It appears to be some type of law enforcement agency, though the reports that Shawn Smith has tacked to the bulletin boards leave you wondering just what jurisdictions these detectives, if that's what they are, serve.

At any rate, there are no people here, only life-size vultures. But Smith's vulture sculptures look like they're made of 3-D computer pixels, as if they've swooped in from the digital world to wreak havoc on this analog office. Because a group of vultures is called a venue, Smith's clever title, Vicious Venue, can refer both to his strange birds and to the room they now occupy. You could spend a lot of time navigating Smith's mysterious narrative, but would you ever solve it?

Inman Gallery

At Inman Gallery, David Aylsworth presents a strong body of recent abstract paintings. Their compositions rely heavily on triangular edges, but calling them geometric paintings feels too cold, perhaps because of their jazzy rhythms, their mostly creamy palettes and their often hedonistic surfaces. White plays an important role in most of these canvases, covering earlier layers of color but not quiet obliterating them, leaving open spaces with lingering traces of presences that once occupied them.

While you're at Inman, be sure to check out Beth Secor's portraits -- some embroidered, some drawn. In some cases, they depict friends; in others, Secor works from found photographs. It's easy to breeze in and out of the room on first glance, but force yourself to slow down and really look, and you'll reap a big payoff that belies the portraits' intimate sizes.


Space Invasion

Enter Lawndale's otherworldly realm.

Published on December 08, 2009 at 12:49pm

There's something selfishly exciting about checking out an installation at Lawndale and being the only patron in the building. That's probably not what the organization wants to hear -- I mean, the place should be buzzing. But with the current batch of artists showing there, it was a thrill to explore the building's three stories and the rooms and stairwells feeling like an invisible spy or an investigator of strange phenomena. I heard the disembodied voices of the staff, footsteps, doors opening and closing, work being done, but by some strange coincidence, not a face was seen; not one fleeting glimpse of a person. It made for an unsettling, and ultimately fun, experience -- perfect really for the work on display, since there's something in all these works that addresses an invasive entity taking over or intruding upon the everyday world.

Monica Vidal's "Blow Up Heart" show occupies the main first-floor space. Her sculpture Tumor Hive dominates the room, and was inspired by a photograph of a large tumor she had removed two years ago, and this thing must've been one crazy-nasty growth, since Vidal says the piece's colors and textures were also influenced by the tumor. The tent-like Tumor Hive stands 12 feet tall and is 22 feet long. Its frame is made up of plywood and fiberglass rod covered in quilt-like fabric that ranges from peach and fleshy colors to pinks and fuchsia. Its two "openings" are impenetrable. Vidal also displays a series of paintings and drawings depicting figures (including herself) wearing garments inspired by an Aztec ritual in which worshippers donned flayed human skins. In the images, the scaly forms envelop heads and even entire bodies. In one, Vidal's head is exposed, and she looks kind of like Bjork on the Homogenic album cover. Vidal also includes a life-size reproduction of the costume, made (thankfully) from flesh-colored felt.

Vidal's contribution is perhaps the most creepy and Cronenbergian example of organic "corruption," a strange mixture of nature and synthetic material, on display, but the theme continues as you get on the elevator to the mezzanine. As you hit the second floor, and the doors open, it's like you've entered a portal to a '60s Star Trek episode.

Stepping out of the elevator and into Kia Neill's "Grotto" installation, a dark, tight cave with hanging stalactites and blinking crystals overgrown with Spanish moss, was one of the most otherworldly things I've experienced in Houston in a while. It was genuinely disorienting, weird and hilarious. Neill's aim is "to place emphasis on gaudy or absurd embellishment" to "render an enhanced synthetic ideal." Mission accomplished. Rather than imagine a totally original and "realistic" extraterrestrial environment, Neill instead mines our collective ideals of kitschy-sci-fi fantasy worlds to trigger an emotional response rooted in mass culture, a shared experience symbolically linked to what Neill calls the "invented artifact." It sounds heady, and it is (like the best examples of the sci-fi genre), but it's not convoluted. The best ideas are also simple ones, and Neill hits a home run here with run-of-the-mill materials like papier-mache, chicken wire, burlap, foam, paint, glitter and some blinking lights. She manages to transport us out of Lawndale's architectural realm in a really cool way. Kids will love it, but it's sophisticated enough to engage everyone.

If you can pull yourself away from Grotto, head up the stairwell to the third floor and be careful not to miss Jasmyne Graybill's "Negotiation" on the way up. I did, so more on that later.

At first I wasn't sure if the third floor Project Space was open, since the lights were off, but the doors were open so I peeked in. A motion detector engaged the lights, and again, the creepy vibe came back. Shawn Smith's installation "Vicious Venue" re-creates a mid-century-era police station office (probably homicide) overtaken by vultures. But in this case, the vultures appear to have materialized from some wacky future in which nature has merged with pixilated light. The life-size vultures, looking like 3-D versions of computerized 2-D images, scavenge the office for food, but instead of rotting flesh, they feast on outdated technology like rotary phones, obsolete typewriters and spools of 8mm film. Made from balsa wood, ink and acrylic paint, the vultures look like they were created by degrading images found online, which were then re-created sculpturally. Amazingly, they still manage to embody that dirty, deathlike aura, even in a pixilated state. One bird watches over the proceedings perched on a mounted deer head, obviously uninterested in what would once, in its devolved vulture state, represent a feast. Smith turns the tables on some of the other environments on display -- his represents the digital world devouring history. Smith also raises the stakes in a really interesting way by placing his narrative within the context of outdated methods of homicide investigation. And I was delighted to find a rolled-up copy ofShakespeare'sThe Tempest in one of the office drawers -- perhaps the vultures' next prey will be archaic literature. Now that's vicious.

Heading back down, it's easier to encounter Graybill's Unknown Specimens, polymer clay re-creations of organic matter growing in Petri dishes on a window ledge, but here rendered not in drab moldy tones but in brilliant color. And her work Gestation, made from latex and flock, mimics a fungal growth that has infested one of the stairwell handrails -- the synthetic feasting on the synthetic. Full circle.

But perhaps the best (and bittersweet) part of this weird journey, though, is the trip back through Neill's Grotto and to the elevator, pushing the button to the first floor, turning around and watching the curtain close on this otherworldly realm.


Quite the Scene Upstairs at Lawndale

By Roy Neinast

November 2009
Will I make it through this quick review of Shawn Smith's "Vicious Venue" at Lawndale without referencing Jean Baudrillard more than once? I think so, but it might be difficult.
Walking into Lawndale's third floor project space feels like getting sucked into a video game of the Tomb Raider variety. First off, it's dark. The lights only come on once you enter the room. The entire place is decked out in furniture that screams Mad Men, but the issue of the Saturday Evening Post on the coffee table is dated April 10, 1948, so I could be off by a decade or so. We're clearly in some kind of investigator's office. On the wall are photos and coroner's reports. The documents reference Queensland, Israel, Downing Street and Las Vegas. An old radio spits out white noise. It's all very dissettling, and I haven't even gotten to the eight pixilated vultures lurking about.
Crafted from hand-dyed pieces of wood, these carrion-loving birds have torn apart a telephone and a typewriter, and one of them sits atop a taxidermied, nine-point buck, its ears and lips shredded by the bird's blocky beak. I'm not sure if you've ever seen a frayed piece of taxidermy, but it's not pleasant.
So what do we have here exactly? Nature, taken over by technology, attacks an earlier version of ourselves. Throw in a little murder mystery and some super cool touches, such as a stack of sugar cubes and an image of lumber that both reference pixilation, and you'e got quite a scene. It's almost pitch perfect, save for a Charlie McCarthy doll poking his head out of the desk drawer. Seriously, what's he doing in there?
Maybe we could ask the vulture who's pulling a copy of Mary Shelley's Frankensteinoff the shelf. He might have some ideas.



December 3rd, 2009

Lawndale Art Center: Interactions of the Artistic Kind

In 6 Words: Stenographer, Petri-art, Geode, Tents, Interactive, Stalactite

The art world has been a mystery to me for ages. I have always imagined a sub-culture of artists actively rejecting the world of squares to live their right-brained life in secret. Well, the secret is that it's not much of a hidden world at all, you just have to be willing to open your eyes and look for it. It's easy to gravitate toward the museums and their classics by the masters. But, I've always failed to recognize the art that's all around. From the work of the graffiti artists in town to the private galleries with their doors always open, I've just kept driving or walking without a passing glance. All that was needed was a metaphorical fist to the proverbial jaw to knock my eyes open. Lawndale Art Center was very much willing to deliver the blow to my cranium, but instead of seeing stars, it opened up my entire cosmos.

By the time I pull up to the Lawndale Art Center at 4912 Main Street in Houston's museum district, I've missed the artists' talks. These probably would have been a good thing to catch, considering that my education in the artistic realm doesn't go much further than "color inside the lines." Then again, the idea of going to this opening with an uninfluenced palate may be for the best. It's something of a cultural study. Can the untrained eye see the artist's intentions?

I pull into the lot to the left of Lawndale and find a spot in the mostly empty lot. Stage one complete, I'm in the right place. Stage two will be finding the correct door. I walk North along Main, hoping for the best, and find an open glass door that shows people roaming within. They look like people that are looking at art. This must be the right place.

I step through the doorway and walk in to a room with a vaulted ceiling, barely partitioned by an "L" close to the front door. Rounding the corner, around the point of the elbow, is a patchwork, half-circle tent propped up in the center of the room. Rectangular sections of different colors are sewn together over a frame, giving it it's distinct half-Cheerio shape. I bypass the big-top for now, opting instead, to find the bar which Afrodethas told me she'll be working for the night.

The "bar" (nothing more than a folding table, draped in linen, with a bucket of wine and a keg of St. Arnold's beer to its side) is in the corner of the room, next to a staircase that seems to lead to nowhere in particular. Greeting my fellow loopscoop author, she introduces me to her cohorts behind the bar, who are serving the gallery's guests. There are many more people in attendance than I had anticipated, though Lawndale has secured enough red and white to sate a small army. Afrodet gives me a quick rundown of the happenings: in the main room is Monica Vidal's Blow Up Heart, the next room holds the Moonlight Towers by Andy Mattern, up the elevator is Grotto created by Kia Neill and Jasmyne Graybill's Negotiation is upstairs along with Vicious Venue by Shawn Smith. Many more installations than I ever expected. Volunteering to write about the opening may have been a bite more than I can chew.


I grab a plastic pint glass and have it filled up with St. Arnolds Amber and decide that my best course of action will be starting at the top and trickling back down through the exhibits. I walk by the large tent in the middle of the expanse of the main exhibit and take a right into a smaller room that leads to the elevator. We rise to the second floor, and I exit into a womb of rock and plastic gems -- this must be Grotto by Kia Knell. It's as if I've been shrunk and placed inside the center of an amethyst geode that were so popular when I was a kid. The space is dark and it's difficult to make out most of the details, but I'm alert enough to avoid a stalactite hanging in the middle of the walkway at eye-level.

There are too many people trying to walk through the cramped space and it seems awkward for me to stop and stare when the elevator is the only access back downstairs. As a couple of people pause to take a picture within the Grotto, I scoot by them and head for the stairs. I hold the rail as I ascend up the steps and I'm greeted by the tickle of something on the underside of the the black metal. Please tell me that someone hasn't disgraced Lawndale by disposing over their gum like an immature adolescent. I quickly find that that's not the case at all.


Within the stairwell exists art. It is here at every turn. I begin to wonder if the fire alarms are for use or admiration as I become aware of Jasmyne Graybill's Negotiation, neatly exhibited between the second and third floor. The rubbery growth beneath the railing is part of her series of petri-dish artistic experiments. This one managed to escape its plastic confines and found a home on the cold steel from the bottom to the top step. It lacks the color of some of the other pieces she's provided, but being able to interact with the art allows an interesting change in perspective.


It's louder up here, on the third floor, than it was in any of the four areas I've been in so far. This is definitely not the hushed museums that I've been to before. For one, there's booze. Secondly, nobody here seems to think that their conversation will detract from anyone else's experience. They are correct. Even though I'm by myself throughout my journey through Lawndale, I feel like I'm part of a community, instead of a solitary viewer.


As I cross the threshold into Vicious Venues, more than anything else, I'm hit by the smell. I'm transported back to my grandparents' house in Connecticut. Even more specific than that, I'm in their basement. The musty scent of the 50's is all around me, invasive. A quick glance around at the furniture set up in the room offers no help in snapping me out of me day-dream. Everything laid out is of the same era that my brain insists I'm residing in now. Vultures, made of lego-sized blocks, roam throughout the room. They are everywhere, wreaking havoc on the surroundings. They're in the vents, on top of desks, pulling a volume of Frankenstein from the bookcase and, worst of all, two have destroyed an antique typewriter and hover over their new kill like, well, vultures. I pause for a moment to eulogize the contraption that I revere.


The chaos of Shawn Smith's exhibit is behind me as I exit through the door with my sights set on descending downstairs for the final leg of my artistic tour de force. I take the elevator back down to the first floor and start walking around a room with equal-sized pictures of steel-framed lighting structures. Not knowing what I'm viewing, I grab a pamphlet and start reading. This is Andy Mattern's inclusion in the opening; a set of photographs of an obsolete Austin lighting system bought in 1895 from the city of Detroit.


My rounds taking in Mattern's work lead me back to the gallery into which I entered. Finally, I take in Monica Vidal's work in all it's fluorescent-lit glory. The aforementioned tent is the obvious centerpiece of the exhibit. It stands proud, rectangular panels sewn together and draped over a circular frame. It seems to grow out from the center, a feather-shape in the middle that extends out in in larger concentric variations in different colors. I have to ask Afrodet what the inspiration for the piece is. Apparently, Vidal was inspired by a tumor that she had to have removed. The intentions of this are clear as I make the association between the base of the tent and the tendrils extending from a tumor into its prey. I think back to my own surgery of a few years back. I'm still not sure if I've found any inspiration from that experience other than resolving never to enter a hospital again.

There are other, smaller pieces along the walls, but none really have the glory, or luster, of the tent. They look more like preliminary studies of what the masterpiece would end up as than anything else, though the recurring theme is a person dressed in a outfit covered in colorful scales. It's now blatantly obvious who the artist is, as Vidal has taken this theme and brought it to life. She's standing near me as I walk back to the bar for a final draught of St. Arnold's, dressed in the same scaled outfit. I still might not have a total grasp of the intentions of art, but I now realize that art and life are one in the same. Maybe it took the costume to realize that, but I think I knew it all along.



- The current exhibits will be available for viewing through January 9th, 2010
- Hypnopomp Opened on December 2nd
- Lawndale's Parking Lot is BEHIND the building, not where I mistakenly parked.
- Bring your camera. I could have taken pictures if I hadn't thought there were "museum-type" rules.
- Lawndale Art Center is on Flickr and you can get a good idea of the exhibits and other performances they have there by checking it out regularly.
- Don't smoke cigarettes with the homeless man that comes inside for a free cup of wine. He might ask you to "get crunk" with him in your car for a price. I'm reserving the rest of this story for a more adequate forum-- Maybe a "Inside the Loop, Outside Reality" series.
- Next exhibit opening will be January 22nd, 2010 (everyone deserves a little advance notice).

Where  4912 Main Street, Houston, TX 77002 (View Map)
What  Art, Everywhere, Even on the Stair
Wear  Follow the Artist's Lead and Think Outside the Box
How Much  Free (plus free drinks on opening night)
When  Mon-Fri: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm, Sat: 12:00 am - 5:00 pm
Web  Website;Facebook; Twitter;Flickr; Blogger




Lawndale's last exhibition of the year opens Friday

By Caroline Gallay
November 19, 2009 at 3:50 AM

My first trip to Lawndale Art Center gave me fond flashbacks of helping my best friend install her gargantuan, organic, usually beige creations during her days at the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. I was a prep school kid, and I loved holding up pieces of her hanging conch shells while she maniacally drilled in ceiling supports.

Lawndale has recently launched a lunchtime program for media and friends to come and chat with the artists a few days before an opening, when the gallery is especially alive and hectic.

Houstonian Monica Vidal was in the midst of constructing an enormous, multicolored tent reminiscent of Dr. Seuss illustrations. It will be totally closed off by opening night, but I got to duck inside of her colorful creation. She's making a matching suit out of small felt circles, and had enlisted a patient volunteer to help finish sewing the pants. Once completed, I imagine she'll look something like an exuberant Foghorn Leghorn - without the cockscomb.

Upstairs Kia Neill had a ways to go on her Grotto. She's creating a hallway encroached upon by artificial stalagmites made of chicken wire and paper mache and lit from within by Christmas lights, which reflect off small geometric growths she assembled from broken CDs. With much of the ceiling and walls still uncovered, I'm nervous for her. If she get's it finished, two-way traffic through the piece will be tricky. But she's determined; the deafening peal of a drill later interrupted our quiet lunch. "Kia's here," Exhibitions and Programming Director Dennis Nance explained matter-of-factly.

My favorite installation was indisputably Vicious Venue by Austin-based artist Shawn Smith. Smith is a successful commercial artist, which speaks to Lawndale's value as an explorative space. "It's not just for whacked out young artists," noted Nance.

With the help of his wife, Smith transformed an upstairs project space into a 1950s-era detective's office, complete with a glass of scotch, bulletin boards papered with suspects and a coffee mug emblazoned with red lipstick. Life-sized vultures made of tiny, individually dyed squares of wood rip apart the office. Smith made the vultures appear pixilated, questioning our distant understanding of nature, and has positioned them feeding on archaic technologies like typewriters, rotary phones and reels of film.

The attention to detail is what's truly remarkable; even a stack of sugar cubes is constructed to echo the pixilation of the birds.

The exhibit opens Friday and will be on view until January 9, 2010.


"Vicious Venue"

Shawn Smith comments on technology bit by bit


It's nature vs. outdated technology in "Vicious Venue," in which artist Shawn Smith sics pixilated vulture sculptures on a 1940s-era office. "[They're] eating the obsolete technology, like the typewriter and the rotary phone," says Smith. By putting these creatures in an outdated setting, the artist is commenting on outgoing and incoming gadgetry. "That's how I arrived back at the obsolete technology being eaten by the current technology," says Smith. Oh, and if you're interested in the exhibit's title - a "venue" is not only a place but a group of vultures. See the 21st century get its just deserts at an opening reception from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. November 20. Regular viewing hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, and noon to 5 p.m. Saturdays. Through January 9. Lawndale Art Center, 4912 Main. For information, call 713-528-5858 or visit Free.



Vicious Venue | Shawn Smith
November 20, 2009 - January 9, 2010

Opening Reception Friday, November 20, 2009 - 6:30-8:30pm

Lawndale Art Center - Project Space

"Vulture" (2007)

Plywood, ink, and acrylic paint 

44 x 33 x 27 inches

Shawn Smith's work explores the depiction of nature through digital technology and comments on the effects of technology on our perception of the world. Smith's recent work explores his interest in birds of prey as a source of conceptual inspiration and analogy. Smith is fascinated by vultures and the visceral way most people react to them. For his exhibition in the Project Space, Smith asks the question, "What would a digital vulture eat if it was somehow trapped inside this reality?" Vicious Venue is a sculptural installation consisting of a group of life-size pixelated vultures devouring an analog office full of obsolete technologies (like a typewriter, rolodex, and a rotary phone). The viewer becomes an intruder into the space, as if they are stumbling into the middle of the ongoing carnage as the vultures pick the office's carcass clean. Smith's current work highlights the collision of the digital world and the real world by creating pixilated sculptures interacting with found objects. For his installation in the Project Space, Smith pushes the scale and scope of his current work by creating an installation that creates a narrative and brings these objects to life. The title of the exhibition, Vicious Venue, refers to the double meaning of "venue" as both a place, and a group of vultures.

4912 Main Street
Houston, TX 77002
Hours: Mon thru Fri 10 - 5 Sat 12 -5


A Two-Year-Old�s Gallery Odyssey

On a wet night, Joshua Goode takes his two-year-old daughter on gallery tour. The tough-to-please critic finds a few diamonds in the rough.

By Joshua Goode
Shawn Smith "RGB Ibex, 2009" 40" x 26" x 20" balsa wood, ink
Photo: Courtesy Craighead-Green Gallery
Two weekends ago, my wife and I wrapped our two-year-old daughter Savannah in a Winnie the Pooh raincoat and hit the pavement for the Annual Fall Gallery Walk. Our challenge: to see how long we can entertain Savannah while not allowing her to deface any art work or become a performance piece herself. Because of these constraints, her taste ends up dictating ours; the more she likes something, the longer we are allowed to remain and look. She is our guiding critic. We were pleasantly surprised by what Savannah ended up liking. Maybe all of the museum visits are rubbing off on her.

We started our expedition at Craighead-Green Gallery with Shawn Smith's Lego-rific pixilated plywood sculptures. The playfulness of idea and material translate even to a two-year-old. She remained here happily for over 45 minutes (amazing) while we waited on friends and visited with the artist. While I found Shawn's discussion of our evolution from an analog world to a digital one and the social implications fascinating, the concept was unnecessary for Savannah. She was won over by the prominent use of the color red -- her favorite -- in several of the fire pieces.

Her experience at the Howard Sherman show at Pan American, however, was not as pleasant. She lasted about ten minutes -- if that long -- before demanding to leave, preferring to stand in the rain. While there are many things that I enjoyed about Sherman's work as far as color and surface, I was not permitted a deeper inspection and will have to return sans Savannah.

At this point, for Savannah's sake as well as our own, it is time to edit our trip. If we can only attempt two more galleries without Savannah completely melting down, which do we choose? Well, we wanted to see the results of Marty Walker's great slim down, and I remember liking Sarah William's paintings from the summer show. She is a recent University of North Texas grad and is displaying remarkable talent and painting maturity right out of grad school. The soft glowing greens and reds paired with luscious Baroque darks did not impress Savannah, though. Again, my time inside was brief. The large crowd in such a tight space was too much for her, and I only had a quick walk through before allowing her to splash in puddles outside and repeatedly climb the entrance stairway. I'm disappointed by the new, even smaller space that Marty Walker now has to work with, but it is better that she have a small space rather than no space at all.

From there we headed to Conduit. I had previewed this show Friday night and had hopes that Savannah would find Jill Foley's installation as fascinating and fun as I did. At this point in the evening Savannah is pretty much done, her pants are soaked from splashing in water, she's hungry and it's getting close to bedtime. Yet upon walking into "The Mountain," Savannah found a second wind. There were so many things for her to explore and at last she didn't have to remain at a respectable distance from the art. Savannah described it as "neat". She also kept returning to the "pet" in the cardboard box by the desk, the one in dire need of a dental attention. She was intrigued by the attached teeth and kept asking "what's that?" Lacking a true explanation, all I could tell her was that it was a little monster, which only aroused her curiosity more. She also wanted to climb on the smaller mountain structure of cardboard that lies in front of the primary installation -- the one that looks remarkably like a playground climbing apparatus. She became frustrated when prohibited from conquering it. At which point we realized it was time to get her home, dry her off, warm her up, and put her to bed.

I was proud of my daughter for being patient with us while we looked at art and schmoozed with friends. She was a real trooper and seemed to enjoy many parts of the evening. I was also proud of our galleries. They worked to dispel a few myths about themselves. One myth: that they do not support young, unproven local artists. Marty Walker and Conduit both exhibited fresh MFA grads from our local programs. Sarah Williams from UNT and Jill Foley recently completed her degree at Southern Methodist University. This was a great opportunity for them to shine and showcase the talent that lies in the Metroplex. Now if we can only find a way to keep them from going to New York. I was also very impressed by the Conduit Gallery for showing such an ambitious site-specific installation. It was challenging work for a commercial gallery to exhibit and something rarely seen down here outside of the non-profit spaces, especially by an artist currently without national recognition. This was great to see and renews some faith for me in our local galleries. Let's just hope they can keep it up.


The Art Chronicle

Gallery Night



 Shawn Smith, Re-kindling, 2009, plywood, ink, acrylic paint, 72" x 46" x 46",  Craighead Green Gallery

Okay, I admit I did not get too far on Gallery Night.  I did manage to visit about half a dozen Design District galleries.  Of that, two artists stood out:  Shawn Smith at Craighead Green Gallery and Jill Foley at Conduit Gallery.

Smith makes whimsical constructions from balsa wood and ink.  Depending on one's generation, they are either reminiscent of elementary math rods or animated pixels.  They are masterfully constructed into moving objects, such as flames, birds and even body parts.  Equally exciting are the intricate collages, with impossibly tiny bits of paper seemingly dissolving across the paper.  While staying within the canon of traditional sculpture and collage, the work is unique and very much of its time.

Jill Foley's installation, The Mountain, is divine.  Taking up a large part of the back gallery at Conduit, Foley has created a multi-room cave fashioned from cardboard.  It is fully furnished, with a faux bear skin rug warming up the floor in one room.  It is illuminated by lamps and chandeliers and its womb-like warmth is completely alluring.  It is the sort of place I would enjoy moving into for awhile.  There is a schedule of events at its entrance.  And, in fact, Conduit has been running a series of poetry slams and other programs throughout the run of the exhibition.  What a perfect venue. 

There is about one week left in the run of both exhibitions.  They are not to be missed.




Craighead Green Gallery is pleased to present a three person exhibition featuring:

Shawn Smith     Ursula O'Farrell     Arturo Mallmann

September 12 - October 10, 2009
Opening Reception in Conjunction with Dada's Fall Gallery Walk, Saturday, September 12th, 5:00 - 8:00 PM

Shawn Smith     "RGB Ibex"   41" x 28" x 17"    balsa wood, ink 

Shawn Smith is a Dallas native and Texas resident. With this new body of work, Smith is once again bringing his sense of humor to the gallery. Smith's works are a mass of pieces of wood cut into smaller pieces and assembled into recognizable objects of all configurations. Smith states that "these pixilated works are an investigation of the slippery intersection between the digital world and reality. My conceptual and material practice explores identity, color, labor, technology, and science." Shawn received his Master of Fine Arts, Sculpture from California College of the Arts and his BFA from Washington University.

Ursula O'Farrell     "Young Painter "    48" x 48"    oil on canvas

Ursula O'Farrell is a newcomer to Craighead Green Gallery and the Dallas art scene. A West coast resident, O'Farrell has a rich background in abstract figurative painting. Her formal studies began with a bachelor's degree in painting from LoyolaMarymount University in Los Angeles. During her junior year she studied in Italy through Gonzaga University in Florence. Upon Graduation Ursula received the prestigious Eugene Escalier Foreign Study Scholarship for independent study focused on German and Austrian Expressionism. Later she received a master's degree in painting from San Jose State University. O'Farrell is presenting rich and colorful abstract figurative paintings. The heavy painterly style is a product of her independent and formal studies.


Arturo Mallmann     "The Archaic Revival (archaicman)"    36" x 72"   acrylic on canvas

Arturo Mallmann is presenting his third body of work at Craighead Green Gallery. The technique of applying acrylic paint between layers of resin is unmistakably recognized as a product of Mallmann. Born in Uruguay and living most of his life in Buenos Aires, his subject matter is a collection of memories from his childhood. The ocean, huge sky and stark landscape on the shores captivate the viewer of his paintings. Although very serious and contemplative, upon closer examination Mallmann's sense of humor is seen. A small dog, bicycle riders and kite flyers are discreetly hidden in the paintings. Mallmann's goal is to move the viewer as far away as possible from their common everyday environment, falling into his world of childhood memories.

View a Slide Show of the Exhibition

Please contact the gallery for more images and information, if needed.  Join us for the opening Saturday, September 12th at 5:00pm.  The work will be ready for preview Wednesday, September 9th and will be on display through October 10, 2009. 

 Craighead Green Gallery
  1011 Dragon Street, Dallas TX 75207
Hours: Mon 12:00 - 5:00 ♦ Tue - Fri 10:00 - 5:30   Sat 11:00 - 5:00


The (new) art of drawing

Today's artists re-consider the art of making their mark

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shawn Smith's "Particle Board Universe" (2009)
18.25 x 18.25 inches
Colored pencil, conte, marker, and pencil on paper

It's about the hand. And the line (curvy or straight). And about an artist making a mark that is distinctive and unique.

Each generation of artists wrestles with its own particular creative concerns. Among the trends of the last half-decade or so has been a re-emergence of the art of drawing and a re-embrace of the sensibilities that drawing demands and projects: directness, intimacy, individuality and an immediate sense of the artist's hand at work.

In art-speak it's called 'mark making' - the essential act of an artist producing the most elemental of artistic identifiers.

Right now, you can make an afternoon of art-going around Austin galleries and museums by following the art of drawing.

At D Berman Gallery, 'Drawn (Not Quartered)' features six Texas artists who pursue the art of drawing in different ways and mediums. Katie Maratta makes black-and-white one-inch-tall Texas panoramic landscapes in miniature detail. Jareid Theis builds delicate, ethereal layers by floating ink drawings that are on transparent vellum on top of sheet music. And the right-handed W. Tucker taps into his inner child by using his left hand to create very rudimentary cartoons on scraps board or discarded book covers. Drawing with his nondominant hand, Tucker says, 'rescues me from over-thinking the work.' Tucker's approach underscores a familiar refrain heard from artists who are delving into the new art of drawing: In our overloaded information age, it's easy to lose track of what's hand-made or what's made viscerally.

Fascinated by the fuzzy intersection between the digital world and reality, Shawn Smith typically makes rather whimsical sculptures from tiny cubes of wood that are tactical, three-dimensional versions of pixelated images - 're-things' is what Smith calls his sculpture.

'I see (the resurgence of an interest in drawing) not as a full rejection, but as the opposite starting point from digital media,' Smith says. 'Drawing has "thingness" to it that's very important. There's a directness and immediacy to its physicality. I can put my hands on it.'

Gallery owner Lora Reynolds has organized a group exhibit at her eponymous downtown art space to open in July that focuses on the ways artists assert their artistic identities through drawing and mark making. And Reynolds offers it as a respite from multimedia art.

'Drawing, as a medium, has always been one of my major interests in contemporary art and it feels like a welcomed contrast to the multimedia direction of much of the art made now,' Reynolds says. 'The immediacy and intimacy of drawing is interesting to me as is the way drawing slows down your looking.'

Slowness, yes, and there's a certain honesty to drawing. too. It is, after all, something created by the fundamental act of an artist's hand and thus the antithesis of the digital smoke-and-mirrors of multimedia art. Then again, a part of today's resurgence in the art of drawing can be attributed to today's younger artists who were brought up consuming animated video of all sorts, particularly video games.

So perhaps the path to understanding today's resurgence of drawing isn't a straight line. More likely it's an expressive one.; 445-3699


EXHIBIT: drawn (not quartered)
ARTISTS: Glenn Downing, Katie Maratta, Shawn Smith, Jared Theis,
W. Tucker, & Randy Twaddle
DATES: 4 June - 18 July 2009
OPENING RECEPTION: Thursday, 4 June, 6 - 8 pm

d berman gallery is pleased to present six Texas artists examining and portraying different forms of drawing. This exhibit will contain quite a range of drawings, including raw, energetic works by Glenn Downing; one inch tall Texas horizonscapes by Katie Maratta; Shawn Smith's approach to drawings from a sculptor's perspective; Jared Theis' delicately rendered pen and ink on vellum pieces; W. Tucker's intuitive and subconsciously directed works; and Randy Twaddle's watercolor and gouache "reversal drawings".

Glenn Downing says of his work: "I am interested in creating a collage of life with memorable imagery evoking range of emotions. I strive to keep a raw quality and a sense of humor in the finished work. In recent years, I have been more and more influenced by jazz and its spontaneity. I am not a musician, so my works are my visual tunes combining materials and images like notes. High ideals are expressed in crude lines and found objects, likewise crudeness is expressed in fine inks and pastels."

Katie Maratta says: "What I like about these pieces: they should feel cramped and crowded, but they manage to convey a surprising sense of space. They should be corny because they include elements such as windmills and cows and pumpjacks, but in this small scale the cliche becomes fresh again. They allow me to play with the notion of beginning, middle, and end in new ways. They are, in fact, a Basic Geometry lesson with the verticality of the viewer complementing the line, squares, and basic shapes of the horizon and the pictorial elements strung along it. They are powerful without being intimidating. They are satisfying to do and satisfying to look at. They share a quality with Chinese porcelain of the complete world that one can hold in one's hand."

Shawn Smith's sculptural works of the last several years (such as his piece in Austin Museum of Art's New Art in Austin: 20 To Watch) have been composed of small blocks of wood to create "pixilated" three dimensional pieces. So, it was only natural that in approaching the idea of a two dimensional drawing, Smith starting cutting up full images into tiny pixel pieces of paper to use for collaging his drawings.

Jared Theis, who is an accomplished musician in addition to being a visual artist, ties the two arts together in his Sheet Music Drawings. He says of the series: "The Sheet Music Drawings evolved from my recent study of chamber music and a substantial interest in microscopy. The ethereal forms in these ink on vellum drawings float weightlessly across pages of sheet music and call to mind microorganisms, cellular activity, and continental drift. The musical scores I've chosen for these drawings are works I've studied, performed and loved deeply throughout my life."

W. Tucker says his surfaces are "unplanned. Line drawings, markings, painted strokes and scribbles are made with oil, lumber stick, resin stick, charcoal, graphite and ink. I create these drawings/markings predominantly with my non-dominant hand. The use of my left hand allows me to draw in an unpracticed manner, and often rescues me from over-thinking the work. I am not conscious of representing a specific story or idea as I work. The exact meaning of a piece in many instances eludes me. In the end, I am more often struck by an emotional response to what I paint and draw."

Randy Twaddle is continuing his series of "reversal drawings". In the new work, in which the format is more vertically pronounced, the banner on which the phrases are contained is more contorted and less "elegant" than in previous work, rendering the reversed phrases as less legible than before.

view slideshow

d berman gallery
1701 Guadalupe Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Regular gallery hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11 - 6 & by appointment
Summer gallery hours (July & August): Tuesday - Saturday, 12 - 5 & by appointment


 Shawn Smith
"Dark Matter V" (2009)
Collage on Paper
5 x 5 inches