Feb 15, 2009

Austin Street Art

View from Littlefield Fountain to State Capitol by Finijo

The trip to Austin resulted in our being able to see a variety of artwork on campus and the Drag. I believe this statue in the Littlefield Fountain is called Winged Liberty, but I am no longer certain. I found a great description of the statue here:

The theme of the fountain's statuary is that the First World War brought the northern and southern states into a joint effort against a common enemy, uniting the country for the first time since the Civil War. The central figure in the statue grouping is a winged goddess, who is flanked by a soldier and a sailor, both clad in loin cloths. She stands on a ship, which is pulled by sea horses with webbed hooves and water coming out of their nostrils. The horses are ridden by naked giants with horns on their heads. Campus legend has it that if a virgin ever graduates from UT the horses will fly out of the fountain.
While photographing Littlefield Fountain, I had a realization that it is quite a homoerotic statue. In fact, I would say it is just an Indian Chief and Cowboy short of being an homage to the Village People.

Movie Mural by Finijo

This mural was on the side of what was The Varsity Theater, an old movie theater that turned into a classic movie theater by the time I was a student at UT. There was another movie theater on the Drag, not to far away from The Varsity, but it showed only X-rated films. I remember two of the movie titles that played there back in the day. The first was "The French Student," and I took a photo of the title on the marquis and sent a copy to a friend in Paris who was a French exchange student at my high school. The other was a movie called "Bodacious Tatas," which I remember because those words made me laugh every time I passed the theater. They still makes me laugh. In case you are wondering, I did not ever see a movie at that theater, it was just too skeevey. When I visited Austin in the early 90's, the Varsity Theater had been bought out and transformed into a Tower Music store. Now it is some other store, I didn't even note the name. Much of the Drag has lost it's character and become homogenized over the years. I know it was dirty and probably more dangerous, but I miss that element. Walking on The Drag was always exciting for me. Even on this trip, we still had to wade through bands of homeless people to do our shopping. So, I guess some things have not changed that much.

Joel Perlman's Square Tilt (1983) photo by Finijo

This statue is in front of the Perry Castaneda Library (The PCL) across the street from Jester. I passed it everyday on my way to and from classes, but never gave it much thought. I think I liked it more on this visit than I ever did when I was living in Austin. I'm not sure why, but I seem to have a better appreciation for modern art as I become older. I do wish they would do something to make the rest of the terrace leading to the PCL more inviting. Perhaps more seating, some plants or a fountain would help.

Pop Art Iconography by Finijo

This art work can be found on the front of the music/video store that replaced the Varsity Theater, then the Tower Records store. While the new store did not draw me in, the artwork along Guadalupe was quite eye catching. I am partial to the portrait of Johnny Cash. I also think the bright colors and the graffiti-esque style of the installation make it a joyful addition to street that is becoming congested with chain stores.

Hi, How Are You by Finijo

This mural was painted on the side of The Sound Exchange. I have seen the image before, but never really knew the story behind it. This mural made the Rolling Stone in January of this year, when the planned demolition of the wall on which it rests was called off. I think it is wonderful to be able to walk down one street and find so many murals and so much street art. It exists in Houston, too, but the art is so spread out that it's hard to find it. In Austin, it's just about any place you look and I think the presence of the art there spawns more creativity. It is a very positive cycle.

Challenger by Faile photo by Finijo

This is the close-up I did of Challenger, by Faile, an artists collective based in New York of New York. The more I look at this one, the more I like it. This visit to Austin has prompted me to be more aware of street art and artists. The Internet is great for identifying street art and the artists behind the pieces. A partial list of Austin's murals can be found here.

Challenger in the Distance by Finijo

This is the same mural as above, but from a distance as we approached it on Guadalupe. The green building behind it is The Goodall Wooten Dormitory. A look up of "The Woo" shows just how much times have changed. Listed on the first page of its website is that it is a "substance free" dormitory. This is a stark contrast to the partying that used to go on at the Wooton way back when. My memories are of trying to avoid walking under the balconies on Friday or Saturday night, because of the drunken students who urinated off the balcony while taking aim at unsuspecting passersby. I also remember that beer bottles were thrown at friends of mine who made up the first Gay Pride float in a UT parade that started on Guadalupe before one of the big football games. The incident ended up being well covered in the press and got several write ups in The Daily Texan. This mural covers what was once the mural that adorned the side of Captain Quackenbush's Intergalactic Coffee Bar and Desert Cafe. We took a trip down 43rd to visit Quack's new location, and while it was nice, it just wasn't the same. It is now located in a residential area and it is just popular enough to be too cramped for it's present location, which really does detract from the experience.

Renaissance Market Mural photo by Finijo
This is a newer installment (one of several) that now graces the walls that border The Renaissance Market. I don't know the name of the piece or the artist, so please leave me a comment if you find out any information about the piece.

Renaissance Market Mural 2 - photo by Finijo
This is another piece I could not find information about on the Internet. I'm sure someone wrote about it at some point, but I did not locate the info. Please feel free to fill me in on this one, if you know anything about it.

Renaissance Market Mural 2 (2) - photo by Finijo
This is part of the same piece as the photo above. It is vibrant and full of Texas landmarks and geography.

Renaissance Market Mural by Photo by Finijo

This site has a nice little article about the Renaissance Market and this mural:
"The market mural, the brainchild of Kerry Awn, Rick Turner and Tom Baumand was begun around Christmas of 1974. The mural was painted by local artists, including contributions by Michael Priest and Jim Franklin. The mural offers a humorous pictoral view of the strange and wonderful people and places that are the cultural history of Austin. Refurbished in 2002, the mural has been updated to include caricatures of more recent celebrities, including a certain computer mogul selling computers on the sidewalk and a famous actor running naked through the streets with his bongo drums."

Detail of "Le Bonheur de Vivre" by Doug Jacques photo by Finijo

I found the following information here:

'"Le Bonheur de Vivre," at 24th & Guadalupe, was executed by Doug Jacques and his students at ACC in 1998. Jacques' piece is a very colorful, slightly surreal viewing experience for all who pass by. With depictions of floating coffee cups and pigs playing the violin among its fanciful imagery, it's as if Lewis Carroll has infiltrated the subconscious sleep of the student body and projected it onto the side of the Gap for all to experience. "

"Le Bonheur de Vivre" by Doug Jacques photo by Finijo
This is another detail of the mural shown in the previous picture. It reminds me of the dust cover for Carlos Castaneda's Journey To Ixtlan and I think it has a 70's feel to it. I love the cup of coffee, too. Long before Starbuck's came to Texas, Austin was chock-full-o coffee houses. The joke (or maybe it was an actual statistic) back then was that Austin had the most baristas with masters degrees serving coffee of any city in the US.
Street Ganesh photo by Finijo
I cannot remember exactly where we found this rendering of Ganesh, but I know it was on Guadalupe. We found a little bit of everything on our walking tour of this part of the campus. I think when we return we will have to hike through the rest of the campus to show Connor more of what the campus looks and feels like.
Etched Window on Harry Ransom Center by Finijo
I used to love to go to the Harry Ransom Center. There was such a variety of items that I always found it interesting. I remember that the most famous exhibit while I was a student was the Guttenberg Bible. I don't remember the etched window being there when I was a student, but I think it is fantastic. The red glow in the eye of the gentleman in the middle is actually the reflection of my jacket in the window.
I have one more blog post connected with our trip to Austin. We packed so much into the few hours we were there, that it warrants three separate posts. Thank you Dave, for being such a great host!

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