The Contemporary Austin is an art museum with sculptures and installations that inspire creativity! Check out my recent visit.
One of the most riveting art pieces I’ve ever seen involved a naked man playing his guitar while taking a bath.
That man, Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, also happens to be the creator of The Visitors, the riveting art piece. It’s an installation video art piece that features nine different videos playing simultaneously on different screens. Each video features an artist or musician, located inside a different part of the same house, playing their part in the performance of a song. The 64-minute performance repeats the words “Once again, I fall into my feminine ways.” You can watch a snippet of it to get an idea of the set-up (here’s one the San Francisco Museum of Art made), but it is nothing compared to walking around the dark room, catching glimpses of each person’s performance and being surrounded by the haunting song.
Ragnar Kjartansson’s art varies by medium and many feature repetitive performances, showcasing artists’ endurance and providing the audience a strange and cathartic experience. My experience with The Visitors captivated me and was the main reason why I knew I would be seeing The Contemporary Austin’s latest exhibit.
S.S. Hangover featured a hand-painted and restored Icelandic fishing boat, a captain, and a six-piece brass band playing a dreamy, elegant looping tune over a few hours. At The Contemporary Austin’s Laguna Gloria location by the lake, the boat was towed to the middle of the lagoon and anchored for the performance, each set about an hour.
The exhibit didn’t move me as much as The Visitors did, but it enticed the audience to stop, listen, and focus. Hearing the slow repetition, you wonder if there will be more than this melody. Pulling in a metaphor about life, maybe there isn’t more than this simple tune, but it asked you to slow down and enjoy the moment for what it is. The performance could be a basis for meditation, and if you let go enough, you’d find something you weren’t expecting.
Coming to see S.S. Hangover was the perfect opportunity to wander the museum, especially since it was a perfect spring day in Austin. The Contemporary Austin has a handful of permanent and visiting exhibitions at its sculpture park at Laguna Gloria. (Pictured below are Elmgreen & Dragset’s Watching on the far left and Ai WeiWei’s Iron Tree Trunk on the far right.)
Laguna Gloria is a beautiful historic landmark with lake views, the Driscoll Villa, and a short trail with sculptures to discover along the way. Walking along the trails is an ideal way to see art, and map in hand, it felt like a treasure hunt.
My favorite sculpture there is a permanent exhibit called Water Woman by Wangechi Mutu. It also looks beautiful from behind because she looks out into the lagoon.
The whimsical sculpture of Crying Miffy by Tom Sachs is fun. Miffy came from a children’s book and later became a cartoon character on TV and in a movie.
Liam Gillick’s Raised Laguna Discussion Platform is a colorful exhibit near the water.
Art challenges what you know and think. Some art pieces don’t speak to me or I don’t understand them, but I can appreciate the imagination of the artist and his courage to put ideas into the world. You never know what you’ll be drawn to, and it’s similar to specific chords or lyrics of a song or a mesmerizing dance performance.
When I do like art pieces, it sparks my imagination. It makes me want to create. It reminds me that everyone is creative if she allows herself the time and space. (Photos of sculptures left to right: Paul McCarthy’s White Snow #3, Tom Friedman’s Looking Up, Monika Sosnowska’s The stairs.)
If you feel like you’re lacking creativity, go visit a new museum and see what you discover. In Austin, we’re lucky to have a handful of museums and art exhibits around town, and they are fairly accessible in location and cost. Austin appreciates and fosters art, and I hope that’s something residents and visitors take advantage of here!
What’s your favorite art piece you’ve discovered in your hometown or in your travels?
The Contemporary Austin
Two locations: Laguna Gloria (3809 West 35th Street, Austin, TX 78703) and Jones Center (700 Congress Avenue, Austin, TX 78701)
Admission fee of $5 per adult covers entrance fee to both locations.