I was standing in the yard, halfway between the swimming the pool and the bar, talking with a friend about writing for The Austin Chronicle and Jello when I realized I had never written about Co-Lab. Admittedly the reason for this is that often my experience there has been overshadowed by Big Medium. I tend to visit both galleries on the same evening, and by the time I make it to Co-Lab, my ‘art-brain’ is pretty well burned out, and I’m just looking for a beer and good conversation. Which Co-Lab offers a plenty. Its yard is usually filled with fellow patrons, and one can meet and greet, pick up with an old friend, or just people watch for hours if he or she is so inclined. And it is the magnetism of this yard that outweighs the gallery space. Not being much bigger than a 2-door garage with a short ceiling, the exhibition area of Co-Lab would be difficult to present in.
Apparently some of the artists showing there as of late began to realize this as well as illustrated by the past two exhibitions: The World of Wrestling by Lucy Kerr and Erin Miller, and Drawnonward by Jonathan Gruchawka and Mark Leavens. Both collaborations incorporated the yard in one sense or another. Lucy danced her way out into it at the conclusion of her performance, and Mark and Jonathan housed several dilapidated rectangular statues out there while showing a short film that visualized just how the statues got so beat up in the first place on a nearby screen.
So there I was one hot summer night in Austin, thinking about how I had never written about Co-Lab, and talking with my friend who admitted that he had not either—but would tackle Gruchawka’s and Leavens’ works in his next piece for the Chronicle. Our conversation carried on for a bit before we parted, heading our separate ways: he off to another event, and me back to the bar where I witnessed a rather large, and cantankerous bar tender cuss someone out for shooting her with a gun that fired soap bubbles. Beer in hand, I surveyed the yard. It was full of that divergent crowd you’d expect at one of these things: everything from the pretentious fedora wearing hipsters that require tattoos to believe they are being radical to the young college kid just trying to get his foot in the door. I sought out the latter to talk with for a while before calling it a night.
In retrospect, what I’ve realized about Co-Lab is its strength exists in allowing for these types of moments, for bringing people together, and giving them a place to interact. In fact that word INTERACT summarizes the entirety of what I’m talking about. Between Lucy’s enigmatic and staccatoed dancing that incorporated a rhythmic fluidity juxtaposed with a mechanical stiffness and Erin’s wall drawings that reminded me of an organicized Tetris game, there existed an interaction. Both artists collaboratively exchanged their reflections on the intermingling and the balancing of the organic and the inorganic, the human and the machine. Or with Jonathan and Mark, who both worked with construction materials and sculpture, they interacted in an exchange that considered being built, and falling to ruin. While the fabricated structures casted skeletal shadows on the walls, its Jello components became unhinged, and collapsed to the floor.
These works in turn, reflect, and contribute to, the dynamic moments, not shared, but fabricated in the yard, either between myself and the girl serving me a beer, or between the two lovers huddled together sharing a cigarette, or between the two late night swimmers hanging out in the swimming pool beating the summer heat. We all become part of a collaborative exchange in an evening of social activity surrounding artworks that are the product of a pre-existing dialogue. Everything is grounded on that: an interaction between two people, places, things, or events. Thus, to reiterate, that is Co-Lab’s real contribution to the art scene here in Austin: NOT providing a great place for viewing art, as that activity often demands solitude. But instead, presenting us a place where we can present ourselves to each other by way of engaging with another. So if someone were to ask me to summarize Co-Lab, I would have to respond: It’s all in its name.
-from The World of Wrestling. Lucy Kerr and Erin Millerom
-from Drawnonward. Jonathan Gruchawka and Mark Leavens