Oso Bay Biennial
There is some serious printmaking mojo happening in Texas these days, and this is exemplified no better than the events at the Oso Bay Biennial XVII held the last weekend of April at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, Texas (TAMUCC). Planned as a print and cross-discipline conference for Texas universities, it brought the ethos of Burning Man to academia. Events ranged from a workshop on making masks and helmets, to a diverse series of print media exhibitions that did as good a job as any printmaking conference on showing the diversity of work being made today.
Organized by Assistant Professor Ryan O’Malley for TAMUCC, and in collaboration with the Brooklyn artist Dennis McNett, the Oso Bay Biennial XVII culminated in a parade that carried a very large ship covered in McNett’s prints to McGee Beach, on the Sea Wall of Corpus Christi. This just happened to coincide with fireworks set off by a carnival that was set just behind McGee beach. The boat, along with an effigy of the Great Bear of Oso Bay, were burned as an offering. The entire ceremony was dubbed Wolfbats Beseech the Great Bear of Oso Bay, as conceived by McNett. The event was in-line with similar events organized by McNett at SGCI New Orleans. In the case of Corpus Christi, however, the conference was the McNett event.
The spark that lit the effigy and boat was actually a still-glowing cast iron heart, poured in a mobile iron foundry while a live metal band played from a gazebo overlooking the beach. I don’t know if anyone will recall the Crash Worship shows from the 90’s, but I was reminded of them that night. This was a mix of mixes: printmaking and sculpture and performance, spiritual seeking and academia, rock show and art collaboration. It is a vision of art making that is not entirely new, but that is rarely done so exuberantly and at this scale.
Ryan O’Malley seemed to be everywhere for the duration of the events: directing the parade and pulling the boat; installing huge collaborative murals of woodcut prints in downtown Corpus Christi; selling prints at the Inkslinger’s Ball at the end of the week; talking to students during the open portfolio session; talking to people at the various exhibition receptions during the week. He was effortlessly ever present.
O’Malley undoubtedly had to secure some major permission slips from the city, the museums, and the University for doing things like hauling a giant wooden boat through downtown, with police escort stopping traffic, and then lighting it on fire at the beach. This is a tremendous sign of O’Malley’s efforts as an artist, organizer, teacher, and collaborator.
I have to say that the work chosen for the exhibitions was very good. One show came from O’Malley’s private collection from swapping prints while traveling with Drive By Press. Another show was juried by Tom Huck and Bill Fick, two more spiritual gurus of the week’s events. Yet another show was curated by O’Malley. There was a definite personality in the curation, but this highlighted what is a significant zeitgeist not only in the print world(s) today, but also in the art world(s) as well, one that has not always received official recognition.
Two youtube clips and a bunch more pics of the conference and the burning after the jump.