Driving South In A Mostly Straight Line: The Icosa Experience!
Wed, March 27th, 2019
The month of March has been an exciting one for Rosalux, most notably because it marks the first installment of an exchange with the Icosa Collective located in Austin Texas. Much like Rosalux, ICOSA is home to a collective group of artists, well known nationally and internationally, who have received numerous prestigious awards and grants and whose work is featured in various major collections. We were very excited to share our work with the artists of Icosa and reach out to their audience so we sent Rosalux Director Terrence on the road for the opening night events for the show and to share his impressions and experiences and here is his report:
I had been to Austin several years back for an exhibition with Rosalux alumnus Jennifer Davis for an exhibition we shared at the Gray Duck Gallery. It was an awesome trip and an amazingly fun show. The artists and audience I met at that time were very welcoming, enthusiastic about the work and proud of their town. I got the chance to hang out with a lot of local artists at that time and it seemed like there was an energy forming with a scene in the East Austin area and a young audience that was excited to partake in the new galleries and spaces emerging in the city. A couple of years after that I got really excited to learn that another Rosalux alumnus, Jonas Criscoe, had decided to form a collective in Austin after his recent move there and we immediately started a conversation about working together in some way in the future. The result of these talks came to be Driving South In A Mostly Straight Line, hosted by Icosa and curated by Andrea Mellard ongoing through the month of March, and then Cardinal Kindreds, hosted by Rosalux and Curated by Teréz Iacovino which will be exhibiting this coming May.
Icosa is located in a group of former industrial buildings joined together by an open air courtyard called Canopy. Their neighbors include other galleries, design businesses, a smart and hip cafe along with working artist studios. We were really impressed by the open and inviting storefronts and the communal feel the courtyard lent to the whole enterprise, there were people milling about, hanging out and checking in on each other which made the community feel alive and vital in the best ways. Icosa itself is right in the middle of the action across the courtyard from the cafe. It is a 1200 square foot open space with high ceilings with a glass front and oversized wooden door welcoming visitors into the gallery. The members of Icosa (Leon Alesi, Amy Bench, Darcie Book, Carlos Carrillo/Yevgenia Davidoff, Jonas Criscoe, Kate Csillagi, Erin Cunnigham, Bug Davidson, Rachelle Diaz, Terra Goolsby, Sarah Hirneisen, Mark Johnson, Dameon Lester, Amanda Linn McInerney, Matt Rebholz, Tammie Rubin, Lana Waldrep-Appl, Alyssa Taylor Wendt and Jenn Wilson) have done an amazing job creating a gallery full of warmth offering a clean slate to it’s artists to use to present their work to what would prove to be an eager audience.
Needless to say, I was really excited to see how things had changed since my last visit to Austin and see all that they had done with Icosa. My wife Carolyn and I arrived the day before the opening reception and headed straight over to the gallery to meet up with Jonas at the space and then have a little bit of lunch and chat about his experiences leading this group of artists and the burgeoning lore of Icosa. On the drive to the gallery through the East Austin neighborhood we were struck by how much the neoghborhood had changed. There was new construction all over with condos, restaurants, beer gardens, and other small businesses everywhere you looked. We arrived shortly at Icosa, right on the edge of all the new developement.
Jonas met us at the gallery and gave us a quick tour of the space. The main exhibition was bright and open and the installation of the show looked clean and professional. There was a reception area in the back that doubled as the bar for their opening events as well as a small retail area where members sold smaller items to cover the costs of being a part of the gallery. After the tour we headed across the courtyard to Sa-Ten for a bite and to catch up.
Jonas told us the history of the group, they started up in 2015 and had initially begun their work at a space in the Pump Project building where they spent several years before being forced to relocate because of the sale of that building. They reorganized their lineup a bit due to the change and brought in some new members to the collective when they settled into their current home at Canopy. I was reminded of some of the ups and downs that we had in the early years at Rosalux but was happy to hear that they had not been deterred by any early setback. There were a lot of parallels in our stories to be sure, but the one thing that stood out to me to be the most promising was when Jonas began to describe the community of artists that had begun to grow out of the group in the short time they have been together. Much like Rosalux, the most important thing at Icosa turned out to be the people involved in their community and that has proven to be their biggest strength.
The crowds begin to gather for the Canopy event
The next evening we met up with Rosalux regulars Ben Brown and his wife Melissa who had also made the trip to check out the opening reception. Jonas had told us that it would be pretty busy as it was going to be an Open Canopy night, which is a community wide event featuring openings at the other galleries and open studios so we were anticipating a little bit of a crowd. What we found when we arrived went beyond our expectations, every space was crowded with people who were definitely making this a night out! The audiences were spilling in and out of every space and socializing and mingling in the courtyards outside, I hadn’t really understood what Jonas had described to us earlier, but it became apparent that there was definitely a scene here now and Icosa is a big part of it.
We made our way to the gallery to see the Rosalux show at Icosa and were warmly greeted by Jonas and the other artists at the collective. It was great fun to talk with them all about Icosa and they were understandably proud of all that they have accomplished with the gallery. Everyone we met apologized for the cool weather and we responded with the fact that it was still 50 degrees warmer than what we came from and this became our small talk joke for the night leading into conversations about the show, Rosalux, and the greater art community spurred on by the relaxed and neighborly atmosphere of the Canopy event.
We then ventured out and took in the shows at the other spaces seeing some pretty cool stuff along the way. We saw contemporary Latino art at Big Medium next door, an airstream trailer full of 90’s themed feminism, many artist studios, a person dressed like a glam space donut playing synthesized monotone drones, some pretty cool jewelry and lots and lots of people. After the show we headed out a bar to hang out with the artists of Icosa and got to know them a little better. We had a lot of fun exchanging stories and experiences we have had in our respective careers and with our own collectives and found that we shared many of the same trials and aspirations in addition to the beer and bourbon we were already sharing. The overall impression I left with for the night was the enthusiasm and warmth that has grown up around this strong art community. We are so thankful for the opportunity to be a part of it for even a short while and eagerly await the arrival of our new friends coming to us this May at Rosalux for Cardinal Kindreds!