Close your eyes and place your finger on a random calendar date in Austin and there is a 99% chance a high-profile event will be going on. With so many happenings going on in this city, it’s often hard to know what’s worth actually putting on your pants and getting out of the house for. One of the best times of year is arguably the East Austin Studio Tour (E.A.S.T.), a delightful occasion when East Austin turns into one giant pop-up walking tour of art, music and social affairs.
Now in its ninth year, the neighborhood-wide celebration takes place over the course of November 10th-11th and November 17th-18th and now boasts nearly 200 unique exhibits. Locals and visitors alike have the opportunity to visit working spaces that would normally be closed to the public. The artists featured in the Super!Alright! space gave insight into their artistic inspiration and involvement in the local arts community.
Since 2007, visual artist Jacob Villanueva has been spearheading the Super!Alright! collective that has featured such renown local artists as Adreon Henry, Jen Bradley, Jason Archer and Luther Himes. Operating out of a 2,000 square foot loft space, the venue has become the perfect meeting place for great minds and great appreciators of the arts. “E.A.S.T. has not only helped to build a community within the creative world, but in Austin in general,” Villanueva says. “It’s a great way to see what other artists are doing.” Henry adds, “It’s also a great way for artists to obtain feedback on their art. Instead of being in a more serious gallery setting, E.A.S.T. is a more ‘accessible’ way for Austinites to see original, local art, talk to the artist and even buy the art at a reasonable price point.”
Henry is no stranger to E.A.S.T. Having been very active in the Austin arts community for years, E.A.S.T. is a great place to see what tricks the non-stop, work-around-the-clock artist has up his sleeve. His work never teeters towards dull; there is always something fresh and new to see (and when he’s not making art, he’s creating music with fellow artist Jen Bradley). He is a fan of industrial-grade vinyl, a medium you will often see in his work. The giant west-facing white wall of Super!Alright! showcases a wide range of Henry’s art from bold, glossy stretched-vinyl dotted with his famous alien-like objects (“Slicks”), stripped vinyl woven together to form a mosaic of effervescence (“Strips”) and silk screened vinyl sanded to display ghostly images of one of Henry’s favorite subjects, abandoned buildings (“Drips”).
Some of his work evokes thoughts of uplift; a “West Coast surf and skateboard” style born from his partial roots in California, while other work showcases his love for the the desolate Americana of his fascination with West Texas. If his signature work looks familiar to you, it may be because his art has been commissioned by several local and national organizations, businesses and film festivals and was recently featured on “American Hipster Presents.”
If you walk directly across the Super!Alright! space, there sits the work of Jen Bradley, a perfect companion to Henry’s abstractness. A studio art graduate, Bradley’s work never ceases to evoke emotion; her multimedia pieces always make you think. This year’s piece, titled, “Persuasion,” tells the story of a young woman “moving through negative space, trying to stay positive” in the form of video and found object art. As we watch the faceless young woman in red skipping happily onscreen through bleak, gray spaces, backdropped by haunting piano music (penned by Bradley), we see the physical manifestation of the woman’s bold red hat and gloves sitting to each side of the video screen. Behind us is an equally striking red banner, the words “It’s ok to love myself” written with child-like placement staring back at us, and a blue mannequin with her mouth and eye sealed shut with black Duct tape. The piece, created with the idea of “moving forward”, is left up to the viewer’s interpretation as they’re forced to look at their own reflection while watching the video.
Next to “Persuasion” is Villanueva’s photographic series “Port Aransas.” A minimalistic display of four white and pink photos, Villanueva achieved the effect completely by accident when he found an unused roll of film sitting in the trunk of his car. Having been buried in the trunk during some of the hottest months of the year, Villanueva has no idea what to expect once he printed the roll of photos he took with his Fat Mum Slim camera on a trip to the Texas Gulf. Once developed, the photos took on a breezy appeal, “perfect for a dream pop album cover”, Villanueva says.
Rounding out the exhibit are the pop culture-friendly pieces of illustrator Luther Himes and silkscreen artist Jason Archer. Their work this year features several drawn mugshots of Peter Sellers and a Giant-era James Dean resting in an old car in front of West Texas’ famed “Prada Marfa” respectively, which add a certain level of charm only existent at an event like E.A.S.T. If you are in town, explore the tour for yourself. E.A.S.T. continues next weekend November 17th-18th.