Global Modernisms: Africa

The last twenty years in visual culture studies have seen a divergence from the hegemonic view that had dominated the academy for centuries, the assumption that what we define as “civilization” evolved only  along the trajectory of:  Egypt->Greece->Rome->Medieval Europe->Anglo-Britain->America. We know now that there have been multiple civilizations across the globe. We are now coming to realize there have also been in the 20th century multiple modernisms.

Art History departments, textbooks and museum exhibits are now reflecting histories, examples and works from these global, modern movements.  No longer is non-Western art a kind of monolith or Other, relegated only to the pre-Colonial and the Ancient.  Modernism has occurred vigorously and authentically in varying junctures in South, East and Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.


Vision of the Tomb (1965), by Ibrahim el-Salahi PR

From the continent of Africa, the cradle of humanity and large enough to contain the countries of China, US, Europe and India, we are now seeing recognition paid to burgeoning scientists, engineers, artists and other cultural leaders.  While European modernism was ‘revolutionary’ for involving visual concepts from the non-Western world, the convention had long been to embrace, celebrate and condone these acts of intellectual appropriation….while similar efforts by the non-Western artists were derided and dismissed as imitation. The academy is gradually shifting, partly in response to global currents in the art market that have taken the art centers away from Paris, London and New York, but the road toward changing discourse and practice is ongoing.

During the 1950’s Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi pioneered, like other non-Western artists for their countries, a new visual vocabulary by fusing and re-interpreting Islamic, African, Arab and Western aesthetics.  Having returned to Sudan from London in 1957, and rising to become undersecretary for culture, he traveled to Nigeria to meet writers Chinua Achebe and Wole Soyinka (who have a contentious view on the topic of African modernism) as well as the modern artists from Senegal, Uche Okeke and Demas Nwoko.  The 1960’s in Africa saw a kind of a renaissance in Africa, although the 1970’s found El-Salahi imprisoned without charge during the Nimeiri regime.  Later released in 1977 he moved to Qatar to serve as a cultural minister, emigrating later to England.  He currently finds himself working to promote the growth and acceptance of modernism within African nations while he enjoys recognition and success in the West.

A Beninese artist who followed in El-Salahi’s footsteps is the artist Meschac Gaba who pragmatically realized how the common people were not going to museums or understood contemporary art, so he took his work as performances to the markets and the streets.  Within the gallery space his installation works are comments on economics, culture and the ways in which life and art blur

The road to recognition of modernism in non-Western countries has been tumultous. Understanding the push-back against modernisms around the globe has always been political as well as cultural. Whether this is internal among civic governments, cultural ministers or between larger, cultural regions and established academies,  to study emerging visual culture is to have a finger on a people’s unconscious pulse, something that cannot be easily controlled.  It is what it means to be avant-garde, and why art can be revolutionary.  It is also why it is so critically important to humanity. As Theodore Roethke once wrote “Art is our defense against hysteria and death.”

Punk Rock Holiday Markets, Yule Bazaars and Cocktails

As the holidays pick up, more fun events are added to the local calendar. It’s hard to keep up! Subscribe to stay tuned in for new happenings and reviews!


punk rock xmas

Saturday, Dec. 12 at the Lost Well, 2421 Webberville Road, 2pm til 8pm.  Hand-rolled Tamales and over a dozen local Punk Rock Artists. Get unique gifts! Jewelry, organic soaps, art – full list of artists and info can be found here.

Or maybe you might be interested in Holistic/Wellness shopping for body products, jewelry, and crystals while sipping specialty cocktails like the Vampyress or Butterfly Nectar and enjoying out of this world Italian food? Sunday Dec. 13, 5pm-11pm at the Vortex on 2307 Manor Road. 

holistic market


Maybe you’re not interested in an evening affair – the same Butterfly Bar cocktails will be available next to the Vortex at the following weekend’s Winter Yule Bazaar. This one promises DJs and belly dancers and a morning Yule ritual! Gifts provided by the East Austin Handmade Market. From Noon to 5pm, all weekend, all ages and free.   Dec. 19 and 20th. 

yule bazaar


Done with your shopping and still want to get your holiday spirit on? Come out and join the Solstice Lantern Parade!
Monday, December 21st, 2015, 5 pm  ***KID FRIENDLY!***  The site is TBA, and there are instructions on the page to make and bring your own lantern. Music will be provided by the Minor Mishap Marching Band, “Bourbon Street meets Budapest” they describe themselves. Sure to be a magical way to celebrate the shortest day of the year.


Eastside Pop-up Holiday Shopping – Local and Weird

Everyday I hear about more and more holiday shopping parties, brunches and bazaars. Want to stay informed? Subscribe to my blog, you’ll find the button to your right.


Eastside Pop-up is promoting the event and a number of other great bazaars and shows this month.

Eastside Popup

stay gold



  • And if that weren’t enough and you’ve still put off getting gifts for all those far-flung relatives who wonder what Austin is all about, you have one more chance to sip mimosas while you shop. There will be another Bazaar Brunch at the Bouldin Creek Cafe, 1900 S. 1st, Dec. 20, 10am-3pm.



Austin Holiday Market Roundup

Not everyone likes to do their holiday shopping at big box chain stores.  The crowds, the neon, horrible music, bad food and drinks, and everything’s made overseas.

What if your shopping experience could be one with live music, local food and good drinks? Where you could find unique Austin gifts for your family, things that no one else will have. You’ll also feel great knowing your money went to supporting the funky vibe that you love about this city. Visit any of the shopping events below and I guarantee you’ll feel a whole lot better about getting out to brave the season.

  • Jo’s Sinner Sunday Holiday Extravaganza
    • November 29th from 12-5pm
    • 1300 S. Congress
    • Shopping from local South Congress vendors
    • Live music and food.
    • Santa will be on hand to pose for pictures in front of the “I love you so much” wall and in support of Operation Blue Santa, bring an unwrapped toy to receive a free coffee
  • Slackerville Holiday Shindig
    • Friday, December 4th
    • 2209 S 1st St, Austin, Texas 78704
    • Magical evening of music, nibbles and libations, firepits, and art
  • 40th anniversary Armadillo Bazaar
    • December 15 – December 24, 10am to 10pm daily 
    • Music festival and local art bazaar with beer and food.  $8 for the day.
    • Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas 78704. Parking is available in the Palmer Events Center/Long Center garage for $8.
  • Blue Genie Art Bazaar
    • Nov 27 at 10:00am to Dec 24 at 6:00pm
    • 6226 Middle Fiskville Rd, Austin, Texas 78752
    • Free admission and parking.

Best Place to Shop Austin Style for the Holidays

2015 Marks the 15th Anniversary of the Blue Genie Art BazaarNov. 27th – Dec. 24th at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre (that’s across from Highland Mall) featuring handmade artwork & gifts from over 200 local & regional artists.  A portion of proceeds go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation and admission is free!

xmas 054

Who will be there? Here is their directory.

What can you find there? Paintings, photography, prints, sculptures, jewelry, clothing, accessories, glassworks, ceramics, and more!


You can follow them on Facebook or Twitter for more info.


Artist Wade Beesley’s Bottle N Soul

East Austin Studio Tour Survival Guide

The first weekend of EAST is over but you have one more weekend to check it out! Perhaps you didn’t get a chance to go or perhaps you went and weren’t able to see all the galleries.  I recommend heading out early to beat the crowds.

Stack out a spot at Sa-Ten, the amazing Japanese fusion cafe inside the Canopy art complex where you can enjoy your cappuccino with a breakfast of smoked salmon with sriracha mayo, nori, mozzarella on toast. That’s just one of many offerings, in addition to everything from oatmeal to allegedly the famed Red Rabbit vegan donuts.  But wait, you say…Red Rabbit vegan collective closed, how is it I can get my vegan donut fix on?  Wheatsville Co-op came through and saved the day. Point is, when EAST is happening you don’t want to spin your wheels elsewhere in town doing brunch, you need to get out into it early.  As the day progresses at Canopy you can enjoy the best teriyaki gluten-free fried chicken with a side of kimchi, and some of the galleries offer free beer (sorry not gluten-free).

This is the 14th annual EAST that Big Medium and the Austin art community have put together.  Featuring 287 artists, 152 exhibitions and 7 happenings there’s more than enough for everyone. They’ve even put out a handful of different guides to curate and help plan your attack.

Taking kids? Check out the events in their family-friendly guide, like Austin’s Tinkering School, Austin’s own Maker Space, for hands-on art-making activities.  Or Creative Action‘s Community Art Sunday on Nov. 22 where you can enjoy dance, music, food, art and inventing.  Or perhaps you and your kids would like to check out kinetic steel sculptures inspired by Jean Tinguely. Your purchases will go to Save Our Springs Alliance at Barry George’s collection at 204 Attayac St.

I went to EAST last weekend and was impressed with what I saw from the following artists.

  • Diana Presley Greenberg‘s delicate abstracts are like viewing a gentle bouquet of flowers through a soft curtain of linen.  Other examples feature bold splashes in complex relationships upon white canvas, bringing to mind Swedish interiors.
  • Gert Johan Manschot produces dramatic works resembling Japanese Zen calligraphy.
  • Alex Diamond‘s work was a personal favorite of mine, for his fantastic sense of texture, line and intensity, with a cartoon/graffiti edge.  He produces woodcuts, photo paintings and installations.
  • Chun Hui Pak creates gorgeous geometric abstract works inspired by the structures of origami.  Her pieces serve as 2-D interpretations of the ancient art of paper-folding.
  • Ann Fleming produces vibrant abstractions with bold punches of color that relate to each other in surprisingly ways.
  • I was blown away by the assemblage work of Janie Milstein.  Inspired by cityscapes her textured work features architectural abstractions, layers of material and an industrial palate that will leave you speechless.
  • Rothko Hauschildt is a budding encaustic artist whose pieces communicate intensity and release.
  • Flip Solomon is an incredible illustrator, her drawings are eclectic and full of wonder.

So get out there and see these and other artists. And if the crowds become too much, escape to the quiet retreat of Zhi Tea on Bolm. If the weather is fair they have a beautiful garden patio under the trees.

Austin’s Conspirare Symphonic Choir & Symphony perform French program

Come this weekend to listen to the heavenly voices of Austin’s Conspirare Symphonic Choir and Austin’s Symphony put on a French program.

THE FRENCH CONNECTION. Presenting Francis Poulenc’s Gloria and Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloé. With soprano Mela Dailey

  • FRI, 11.20.15 (8pm) Dell Hall, Long Center, Austin, TX
  • SAT, 11.21.15 (8pm) Dell Hall, Long Center, Austin, TX

Tickets are available through the Austin Symphony.

Tower Documentary – All Things Must Pass

Opening around the country is a documentary on Tower Records. For those of you that remember the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, you will recall how Tower Records had hundreds of stores across the nation, in many other countries and was the place to go for videos, new LPs, singles, posters, music magazines and t-shirts.

For teenagers it was one of the few places that would hire you if you were a long-haired hippy, dressed punk, goth, or hip-hop. Tower saw you as a genre expert and if you worked hard, were detail-oriented and knew your stuff you could work up to becoming a music buyer and/or manager.  If you moved around, you could transfer easily to a Tower in your new town or get hired based on your experience.

It was a great gig. Didn’t pay a lot, but you would get promo CDs, tickets to concerts, get to listen to music on your shift and as long as you got your work done you could act as goofy as you wanted.

It was one of my favorite places to work as a late teen and early 20’s – I worked at the stores in Berkeley, Las Vegas and Austin, TX.  I kept trying to get a transfer to the Japan store but managers in Berkeley and Vegas kept sitting on my application.  My life would have been very different. Le sigh.

They are also raising money for Sacramento to have a museum, archive and perhaps even a traveling exhibit.

It’s playing in Austin at the Regal Arbor (November 6th)
Release dates elsewhere can be found here:



Isabel Allende to read at Bookpeople in Austin

Acclaimed author Isabel Allende (House of the Spirits) will appear at Bookpeople to read from her most recent book The Japanese Lover, a love story between two people whose lives were differently torn by WWII:  one from Polish-Jewish heritage, the other Japanese-American.


Set in present-day San Francisco, it is a multi-generational story, featuring the love story of another pair from different backgrounds.  The novel promises to share Bay Area history, the inner lives of those in their eighties all captured through a passionate, immigrant lens.

Named one of the most anticipated novels of the year by New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Publishers Weekly, The Huffington Post, and more. 

SF Gate has a review of the book here.

Tickets are available at Bookpeople.
Monday, November 16, 2015 – 7:00pm

Broken Spoke documentary – 2 more days on Kickstarter!

The Broken Spoke is one of the few places left where you can sit and enjoy a country fried steak, beer or whiskey, hear live country music and dance the two-step.  Last year they celebrated their 50th anniversary.  Back then they were surrounded by countryside, there are tales of neighbors riding horses down Lamar.   Nowadays they are flanked by towering condos.  Help Blue Yonder Films complete their documentary so that the world can learn the rich history of the Broken Spoke.

When you enter the Broken Spoke it’s like walking into a time-capsule from Texas in the early 60’s.   In one of the rooms they have their own museum of Austin Country music history with photos and artifacts but the entire restaurant itself has changed very little in that long time.  Owners James and Annetta White are still a staple in this legendary place where Willie Nelson, Dale Watson, Ray Benson and Billy Willis all played.

Follow their progress on:

Other media attention on the Broken Spoke: