Button, button -- who's better
with buttons than
Austin artist Lauren Levy?
The latest of Levy's beguiling, and often enigmatic, sculptures are
on view at D. Berman Gallery. Most of the pieces follow Levy's usual
pattern: child-size garments fashioned out of hundreds of like-colored
buttons and beads strung on wire, both dense and hollow. Most are
named after regional birds: "Blue Jay Jacket," "Grackle Jacket," "Crow
Levy's work is compelling (interestingly, most of the 14 pieces on
exhibit have been sold already). Buttons are familiar things -- we
handle them all the time, and with Levy's sculpture, the urge to touch
is stronger than ever. Also, the chubby child forms are imminently
huggable. But Levy's sculptures are empty -- the sense of loss that
surrounds them is palpable. And in the newest gathering, some include
bare wire, such as "Crow Dress (Allemagne)," or other unfriendly materials.
Presence/absence, memory/forgetfulness, life/loss: The dichotomies
of life are more apparent than ever in Levy's new work, making it
her best to date.
Sharing the gallery with Levy is "Fancy Plans," a new series of gouaches
and oils on canvas by University of Texas art professor Susan Whyne.
Almost all of Whyne's colorful scenes depict a cafe table and chairs
of some sort against a vivid background of gestural, swirling lines
that suggest a surging body of water. (The artist used a recent trip
to Venice as inspiration.) Devoid of people, Whyne's images offer
a brief moment of anticipation, a suggestion of the conflict between
the civilized world and the raging forces of nature.
But that anticipation winnows away after long or repeated viewing.
whole series repeating the same scene in such a similar fashion, there's
feel that this is more a study for something bigger, rather than a
finished body of work. And Whyne's experiments with effecting a sketchlike
quality using paint don't always convince. There's a hint at something
more with "Fancy Plans," but the hint remains just that.
("Lauren Levy and Susan Whyne" continues through May 12 at D. Berman
Gallery, 1701 Guadalupe St. The artists will give a gallery talk today
at 1 p.m.
Call 477-8877 or go to www.dbermangallery.com.)
-- Jeanne Claire van Ryzin
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