Department of Art and Art History Studio Art

Expansion provides students with opportunities in letterpress and bookbinding

Wed. August 27, 2014

Metal type in drawer

Over this summer, Design Lab Coordinator Kevin Auer and Visiting Assistant Professor Colin Frazer opened the doors of DESL2 and embarked upon a rejuvenation of the workshop. DESL2 (Design Lab 2) houses the Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type collection and is equipped with printing, photography, and fabrication resources.

Assistant Chair of Design Carma Gorman is thrilled at the changes. She recalled that Auer and Frazer “had a vision for how to reconfigure and augment the space’s existing resources to better support both its teaching and research missions.”

Auer preps the Columbian press for delivery to department. Photo by Alicia Dietrich

New presses, additional type, and a rearrangement of the workshop are a few of the changes that will benefit students and faculty in the program. One of the most exciting acquisitions is a mid-nineteenth century Columbian handpress that will be on long-term loan from the Harry Ransom Center.

“The Ransom Center is delighted to have the Columbian iron handpress join the collection of Rob Roy Kelly’s wooden display type at the Design Division’s printing laboratory,” said Richard Oram, associate director and Hobby Foundation Librarian at the Ransom Center. “This magnificent example of nineteenth-century printing technology will once again be in daily use. We look forward to collaborating with the Department on a variety of projects relating to printing and the book arts.”

Following a tip, Auer and Frazer found themselves in the university’s Document Solutions with Director Richard Beto, who saved numerous historic presses and type during his ten-year career at the university. Beto said, “How fortunate that the university has someone that values this lost art. I was fortunate that we could donate what we consider valuable tools in order for others to benefit.”

In addition to the Columbian press and the equipment from Document Solutions, David S. Rose of New York donated a Ludlow machine to the program, which will enable new type to be cast as use wears the collection. Rose heard about the need for the Ludlow through the tightknit letterpress community and offered the machine to the department.

Students from all areas of the department “can use the shop as part of a number of classes this fall that have letterpress and book binding components included in their syllabus,” said Auer. Gorman notes that the program’s letterpress and bookbinding resources “give UT students an edge over those who receive strictly digital training.”

"Letterpress printing slows down the process of graphic design and gives students time to consider typography and the three-dimensional aspect of typography," described Frazer, "For instance, our students can create their own wood type in the department's digital fabrication lab which pulls them away from the idea that graphic design is purely two-dimensional."

“Students who know something about letterpress are likely going to understand the concepts behind digital typography better than people who've never worked with metal type,” said Gorman, observing that “people who can ‘think’ in both analog and digital media, and who do have decent hand skills, have a distinct advantage over people who can work only in digital media.”

Miguel Aragon receives Kala Fellowship

Thu. August 21, 2014

Kala art institute logo

Miguel Aragon (M.F.A. Studio Art, 2012) was awarded a 2014-2015 Kala Art Institute Fellowship. Nine fellows were chosen out of an applicant pool of 330. The award includes access to Kala's facilities, courses, funding, and an exhibition.

Adam Crosson prepares for inaugural exchange program with Royal College of Art

Wed. August 27, 2014

Artist stands in front of work in exhibition space
Photo by Daniel Cavazos

This fall Adam Crosson, M.F.A. candidate in Studio Art, will take part in the inaugural year of an exchange program between The University of Texas at Austin and the Royal College of Art in London. Crosson was also recently selected for the 2014 Umlauf Prize, which recognizes outstanding achievement in sculpture. As part of the prize, Crosson will present an exhibition that opens September 5 at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden and Museum.

We asked Crosson to talk about his work and future projects over email before he travels abroad.

Please describe your work.

The majority of my work is catalyzed by an interest in mobile spaces of transit and systems of transportation. I am interested in the psychological and social dynamics within these spaces and systems.

How has your work changed since you started the program?

My graduate committee as well as other faculty members, visiting artists and curators, and my peers have all been instrumental in the evolution of my work. A pivotal moment occurred when my committee chair, Kristin Lucas, suggested looking into the work of Dan Graham, which ultimately led to the discovery of Marc Augé's theory of the non-place.

This discovery created an opportunity for me to investigate my work through an established theoretical lens. I keep searching for the unknown to continue changing and evolving my work. Recently, I discovered the Keatsian literary idea of negative capability. This involves being comfortable with the unknown and leaving certain things unresolved.

My undergraduate architectural training is a blessing and a curse. Design processes in architecture can be seen as a series of logical codifications away from the self. Over the past year I have slowly begun to loosen the reigns of logic that were ingrained from architecture school.

In a studio visit with Rob Storr and Heather Pesanti this past spring, they suggested I spend time with Sol Lewitt’s sentences on conceptual art. The first sentence states, “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach.” This was a profound discovery for me. It gave me a pass to radically undo my approach to making and become increasingly experimental with concepts, forms, materials, and processes.

Industrial sculptures hanging on wall and placed in gallery space.
Courtesy of the artist

You talk about putting yourself in unfamiliar environments to break your routine in order to increase your sense of your surroundings. Can you tell us how you began to work with this idea?

I think routine is ad infinitum. It is inevitable—ultimately it fuels a sort of conflict for me. When I was eighteen, I lived on the island of Kauai for six months where I spent time hitchhiking and camping. Eventually, I ended up caretaking for an older gentleman with a couple of friends. These experiences were out of the norm for me, and I learned a great deal from them. I learned the importance of vulnerability.

Being in an unfamiliar environment provides an opportunity to question one’s routine and one’s cultural and social norms and then to view these from the outside. It is a disruption and that disruption or destabilization is a part of the kind of vulnerability I seek. When I am vulnerable, it becomes a kind of overwhelming state that disturbs my routinized consciousness and creates a precipice.

Mass transportation systems are interesting to me because they allow passengers to either practice or escape routines. The same train an individual takes to work might be the train one would take to the airport to embark on a time of leisure. Michel de Certeau refers to this mix of imprisonment and freedom as an ‘incarceration-vacation’. I am interested in the cyclical nature of these spaces, of them being so normal but so dynamic with an ever changing cast of characters all the while traveling through space.

Participating in these systems is to fuel a combative balance of expectation and disruption—of things going as planned and things going awry. In these spaces, one has to negotiate control and vulnerability on a quotidian scale.

How does this play into your work?

I use materials and forms associated with buses, trains, airplanes, and airports as well as other modes of transportation. My processes range from casting techniques to metal fabrication, digital fabrication, and video work. These processes become methods for investigating objects and situations within spaces of transit and transport.

For example, I have used techniques of casting in order to construct objects relating to the subterranean and infrastructural. I have employed digital fabrication techniques to construct objects that investigate ephemeral or abstract qualities and I have combined steel fabrication with deconstructed off-the-shelf lights and fans to reference the incessant circulatory nature of these systems. Up to this point I have used video as a way to investigate my personal experiences within these spaces, but I am eager to push this further.

In your travels, how do you combat a sense of familiarity after being in space for a while?

There is always something so familiar but never quite the same, and I am interested in those subtle shifts of a ubiquitous setting. The bus or train is a publicly accessible space in which cycles of commuting are briefly recorded in the trash, detritus, and belongings left behind. It is a mobile space constantly being recomposed. Riding the bus or train, I am in a passive state of observation where I give up my identity as Adam and play the role of passenger. It is interesting to attempt to carry this state of mind further into other parts of my life. It is important for me to find the fiction in familiarity.


Industrial sculpture with flourescent light in exhibition space
Courtesy of the artist

What do you hope to experience while you are in London?

My hopes are to challenge the current state of my practice through an immersive experience and to have an opportunity to show my work abroad. Having conversations with other M.F.A. students at a residency this summer opened my eyes to alternative ways an M.F.A. student can hold a practice within an academic setting.

I plan to reevaluate my own practice in an urban academic setting. Being at the RCA will allow me to get plugged into some interesting communities around London. I am excited to have a multitude of museums, contemporary art galleries, and project spaces.

Ultimately, I think it should be a search for more questions.

What is important to you to accomplish while you are at the RCA?

It is important for me to question the current state of my practice and I plan to utilize the students and faculty members at the RCA to do so. I will continue in my conceptual interests and test those interests in a European urban center. It is hard to say exactly what will come out of the experience, but I am going to take full advantage of being around so many sculptures students in a compressed space.

From what I understand, at the RCA there is a large studio space that gets subdivided into individual studio allotments. The degree of privacy is up to the individual student and I am really interested in what it will be like to work in that sort of open setting. I have just started a book, Reading the Everyday by Joe Moran, and his introduction focuses on London’s bus culture which is of interest to me. I plan on a visit with Joe Kerr, a professor at the RCA who is interested in transportation systems and mobility. He is also a bus driver, and I plan on taking a ride with him. It could be the most theoretical bus tour one could imagine.

I want to get to London and react to my surroundings, identifying familiar and foreign trends within everyday commuter culture, and see where that leads me.

Shelley Wood included in two person exhibition

Wed. August 20, 2014

Black and white photograph of a sheep in a field
Image courtesy of the artist

Shelley Wood (B.F.A. Studio Art, 1986) was included in a two person show at Photo Méthode Gallery. Texas Soil is on display through August 22.

Xochi Solis included in new publication

Wed. August 20, 2014

Image of book cover for Collage

Xochi Solis (B.F.A. Studio Art, 2005) has been included in Collage, a new publication featuring contemporary artists who work with collage. The book will be available after September 16 from Chronicle Books.

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