One of the delights of my walk from the parking garage to my office is that I get to pass by DBerman Gallery (http://www.dbermangallery.com/). I was sad to learn that they are closing next month and moving to the beautiful hill country town of Wimberley. A few days ago, even though I was in a rush, I thought, "I'd better pop in there while I can." From the street I could see Austin's legendary Pat of Ruby's Barbecue peering at some wall sculpture. The lady knows barbecue and art too--she was enjoying the spectacular exhibition of Beverly Penn's metalwork.
This is just the kind of thing I love: decorative, mysterious, witty. Penn, who teaches at Texas State University, is interested in systems of classification and their arbitrariness. She's a sister Linnaean, in other words. She's attracted to weeds, like the hydrilla she renders in bronze in the piece pictured above. Hydrilla is considered a menace in San Marcos, Texas, where Penn lives; it chokes the river and clogs the city's drainage systems. In Penn's rendering, it looks both threatening like barbed wire, and ornamental like Victorian grille-work. These sculptures mess with our ideas of what counts as a pretty plant.
Penn is known for site-specific work, and this piece was originally created for the pediments in the main gallery at Laguna Gloria Museum in West Austin:
Titled "Genius Loci: Villa," the piece refers to classical architectural and landscape design principles; "Genius Loci" is "the genius of the place," the special character which eighteenth-century designers said had to be discovered and respected by the landscape gardener when creating work.
Penn's use of color on some smaller pieces is spectacular. She works with metal patinas with a painterly delicacy.
Penn shows us the roadside weeds of Central Texas we never knew: architectural, resonant, and important.
Be sure to catch this spectacular show before it closes FEBRUARY 26!