“100 Views” Kevin McNamee-Tweed, Lower Left / Studium Gallery, Austin, Texas 5.27.16
Art show review by Carl Smith
All good art takes intention, focused study, hard work and a ton of time spent consistently honing
and slowly chipping away at a personal way to make unique images. You also have to be honest about how you feel and what you like. Then, you have to be brave enough to share it with the world. Once you get to the bottom of that, you begin to work towards good image making. I think Kevin has done this necessary work. I like these images not because they are masterpieces, but mostly because they aren’t.
Limitations are a big problem for all artists. Kevin claims “I was never a great drawer and when it comes to canvas my handicap is exponentially greater” but I would disagree with his statement. To make works like these, you have to able to draw and paint well. You have to be able to connect your thoughts and emotions to your weird arm and hand that the brain tells to make art. This is not as easy as it sounds. People who get to this place should be celebrated more often than they are.
Kevin is also a curator which explains his very organized and not overhung feel for his show. The gallery space was wide open with plenty of room to get back from the images. These pieces looked good under any light. There was no glazing or varnishing of the works and the soft washiness of the works helped lend to their homey-ness. The canvas was rough; a thicker density than what we often see for paintings. This gave weight to the themes: land, moons, trees and hillsides. I counted eleven of these works. Kevin says that he has made seventy-one of these landscapes, and this type of repetition can seem like an exercise in “lunacy” to the non-artist, but I think this is how a lot of good art gets made. Sometimes it’s the only way to get to the bottom of the image you really want.
In the notes to Kevin’s show (which were beautifully constructed by the way) Kevin said it was
okay to ignore the not painted aspects of his show. I did this because I wanted to see the paintings,
but it was hard to completely ignore the sculpture garden. It was difficult to ignore Landon O’Brien’s “Not Titled (rusty chain rack)” made with a chain, some rebar, a grill and a motor slowly and annoyingly (in a good way) spinning and grinding against the pavement. This was a really cool piece that was understated like the paintings. But the vibrating bamboo piece freaked me out a little bit. A giant shaking bamboo limb somehow hints at a man-made machine that terrorizes innocent plants.
In the end I can’t fully explain how these other sculptures related to Kevin’s paintings, but they did.
Everything fit together and worked. Nothing tried too hard, nothing in the show committed too much. That the whole show clung together says a lot for the creative mind of Kevin and his friends. I love art that can feel and seem soft and subtle, not hitting you over the head with how it was made but just giving you a nice, clean experience. You have to switch your thinking to enjoy this type of work, in the same way that you have to readjust any time you transition from the city to say a nature setting. Art offers this type of slowness and acceptance of the truth that life is not most of the things we make ourselves do on a daily basis.
What else can I say? Kevin is a good artist. He set up a good show with like-minded talent and Austin needs more of these shows, in my opinion. Austin also needs to support these movers and shakers and doers when they stick their necks out like this so they don’t move away. They are essential to making Austin what it is; a haven for creative or lost people.