Facing the Condemned: Lucky Pierre Brings its Final Meals to Texas
A meal’s emotional and sentimental resonance is probably the closest thing our partisan population has to a universal pleasure — eating is closely interwoven with memory, with family, with moments of escape. The foods we love seem to convey something particular about us, something humanizing. In a final meal request we glimpse a moment of vulnerability, of humanity in figures we are meant to see as monstrous.
Brought to Austin’s Testsite gallery by independent curator Risa Puleo, “Final Meals” is simple in structure and complex in emotional affect. The project began about 15 years ago when one of the group’s members discovered the Texas list of final meals and showed it to the others. The list was sometimes banal (double meat cheeseburger all the way with fries), and sometimes odd (one jar of dill pickles). Many prisoners refused the meal, while some made symbolic requests, such as “Justice, Equality, and World Peace.”
Bucky Miller and The Toad
Walking up to the Austin apartment complex where artist Bucky Miller lives, the stirrings of his aesthetic are in the surroundings that have served as his home in Austin for the last four years.
The small, shady apartment complex is the kind that looks like a semi-decrepit motel you might see in a David Lynch movie. Its one-story ring of units has rusting numbers on the doors and a small creek running through its parking lot that flows toward the dark corner where Miller lives. Not new enough to feel fresh but not old enough to feel vintage, the complex has hosted a changing cast of Austin residents over the last four years with two constants: Miller and the toad.
History as Artistic Medium: Rodney McMillian at the Contemporary Austin
I don’t measure America by its achievement but by its potential.”— Shirley Chisholm
In its own description, the Contemporary Austin labels its new Rodney McMillian exhibition “timely.” This is apt, not only for its relevance to now, but for its ability to call up history as its very medium.
Against a Civic Death is visually minimal but powerfully evocative, drawing associations between the birth of our nation in the eighteenth century, the resilience of Black activism in the 1970s, and the state of power and politics in the present day. Through reference and association, the works in the show move fluidly between an analysis of the past and a melancholy meditation on the present—the continually stunning reality of Trump’s America. One cannot leave the exhibition without confronting a disturbing question: how much progress have we made?