The ancient Greeks saw an oracle. Nostradamus made predictions. People have used everything from tea leaves, tarot cards and crystal balls, to see what the future holds and gain some sense of security. While “Fortune Teller” at Ivester Contemporary, is a good group show of its stable of artists, no answers as to what awaits us forthcomes.
No grand exhibition concept is revealed either. Ivester’s website states only that the title “was presented to a selection of Texas-based artists for their own interpretation… in reaction to the previous two years’ unpredictability and the future’s uncertainty, but ultimately the goal of this exhibition is to communicate the fact that many of the outcomes we as individuals and as a whole may face are within our control.”
For some of these artists, finding control may just be a case of keeping their heads down and carrying on with the work. But Katy McCarthy’s work conveys a more urgent sense of destruction, need and desperation. In archival pigment prints “Big Sur” and “Yosemite” from 2021, the artist burns, extinguishes and rephotographs vintage photos of Northern California where she once lived and where wildfires ravage the landscape. Before re-photographing the scorched photographic remnants, she hangs them on a taut horizontal wire using two small silver binder clips, water droplets still apparent on the surface of the photos. This adds to their fragile nature as if they too endured a trauma.
Another artist dealing with the environment is Calder Kamin. The Austin-based artist makes colorful wall sculptures of animals such as foxes and dogs. Intricately crafted, brightly colored and playful, it’s not until one considers Kamin’s choice of materials that these cuddly critters take on new meaning. “Foxglove” (2021) is made of foam, plastic bags, koozies, caps, cutlery, plastic rubbish, plastic containers and game pieces. Refashioned from refuse Kamin’s works point to the damage humans continuously and carelessly make, but also to the ability of animals to re-use waste and in some instances thrive.
Dave McClinton’s digital collages address historically embedded although still-too-relevant issues, using the human figure. His works combines bodies and portraits of Black people with textural elements and symbols related to trade and status to address America’s legacy of slavery, white supremacism and the Black experience.
“Nevertiti” (2018) features an androgynous figure seen from the shoulders up, in three overlapping images, and three shades – gray, brown and blue. The collaged parts create varying gazes where prominent eyes look frankly at us, as well as up and outside of the frame at something unknown. In the tradition of Romare Bearden, McClinton’s medium, collage, lends itself to exploring the many facets of the Black identity today.
Houston-based Bradley Kerl’s works don’t take on mega- social issues but reflect a more intimate perspective and disciplined approach to painting one’s everyday surroundings with both beauty and humor. His “Fiori” (2021) is a gorgeous watercolor and colored pencil on paper depicting delicate flowers tangled in greenery. One quickly realizes the floral image is framed by two status bars and is indeed on an iPhone screen, set to send a text.
Austin-based artistic partners and University of Texas grads, Tsz Kam and Nat Power go by Big Chicken & Baby Bird. Their super slick acrylic “Stallion” (2021) depicts a stallion/dragon combo using digitally inspired pigments and a pretty flat style. The black stallion and green dragon wrap around one another as if struggling as they’re intertwined in orange and gold rope. Clearly outlined in bright red, they float against a pale pink background. Blurring virtual and real worlds the artists write they are interested in “ the conflict between art and nature, and the debate of queer identity as congenital or acquired.”
A larger (and awesomely titled) acrylic by Rachel Livedalen, “Rulers Make Bad Lovers” (2021) cleverly examines gender, beauty and the body. What first looked likes 1980s-ish abstract mosaic patterning against a black background, reveals text reading “Calyx Krater, “Volute” and “Pelike.” The words label corresponding shapes of Greco-Roman vessels once mandatory subjects in Art History and Western Civ curricula. Drawing from canonical works of European art history and pop culture she reimagines symbols of the past while conjuring today’s understanding of femininity.
Other artists in the show, varyingly linked to the theme include Kalee Appleton, Claire Bresette, Jonas Criscoe, Ryan Thayer Davis, Juan de Dios Mora, Eli Durst, Alie Jackson, Ysabel LeMay, Cruz Ortiz, Natalia Rocafuerte, Tom Jean Webb, and Sydney Yeager.
This exhibition’s loose message about the potential for personal and communal agency in times of uncertainty can be appreciated. But remember to check (my generation’s) Magic 8-ball, which just might tell you, “Reply hazy, try again.”
“Fortune Teller: A Summer Group Show” continues through Sept. 11 at Ivester Contemporary, ivestercontemporary.com.