Nov 9, 2011

EXHIBITION| Flatbed Gallery| Austin, TX

From Left: Mark L. Smith: Co-founder and Co-director and Marketing Director, Katherine Brimberry: Co-founder and Co-director and Senior Master Printer, and Gerald Manson: Master Printer Emeritus and Tour Guide
Flatbed Gallery appealed to me because I am a graphic design student and I’ve found I am not too fond of the contemporary art that pushes the limits to what I personally feel should be considered art. This gallery contains monotype, intaglio, relief, oversized, self published, lithographic and photographic prints. The gallery prides itself on displaying only unique works which aren’t duplicates.

I've been to a few art galleries before and all of them had a fee for viewing the art. However, I walked into 
Flatbed and it was all very informal; nobody came to greet you and there was no charge for looking around at the art. I like the thought behind the informal way of viewing, but it also made me feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there. If there was someone at the front to welcome guests I think it would have made it more friendly and inviting. The gallery was spread out and I don’t know if the term “gallery” would be a good way of describing Flatbed. To me, it was more of a studio, which added to the feeling of intrusion. I was there for the hour before close, so there weren’t many people roaming about, but there were a few who were busy preparing for a new exhibition. There were also rooms that at first appeared to be an entrance to a separate exhibit, but when walking deeper into the room, you could see the artist at work. While many people including myself could think this would be a neat experience and a great opportunity to talk to the artist and learn as they work on their pieces, I felt more and more like I didn’t belong. In contrast to those feelings, everyone in the building (including the two co-owners) was extremely informative and helpful. There were rooms which were in use but it was all open and free to viewers as long as you didn't get in their way. The owner explained that many artists could use Flatbed as their own studio and be assisted by master printers as long as they paid the fee.

On one side of the building were some photographic prints in a series called “Water in Time” which depicted water running through cobblestones with an extended exposure anywhere from ten minutes to two hours. The prints weren’t printed on photo paper, but instead were pigment on Rives BFK which I’m sure was done in studio at Flatbed. One of the quotes on the information about the artist struck a chord with me as a contemplating double major graphic design/photography student. The artist Bill Kennedy said:
Surrendering control, especially with strangers, inevitably leads to stories, revelations, and surprises.
I found this quote to be quite true because the only time I find real joy in photography is not when I see the print quality and scrutinize at whether it is clear enough etc, I get the most pleasure from the memories I shared with the subject while capturing the photo. Also on the walls were lithographic, wood, and etchings which lined the pathway to the back of Flatbed and into the workroom. Then making a loop back to the front was a wall full of digital photographic prints which I found to be a nice recap of the exhibit.

I can see myself revisiting Flatbed because I like the works exhibited and I really like the fact that it’s free. The atmosphere although uncomfortable at times provides an artistic way of viewing the art. The atmosphere helps the viewer to get into the pieces more and it puts into perspective the amount of work that goes into each piece. I believe the more times the viewer visits the gallery, the more it would feel like home. Maybe that’s what makes it slightly uncomfortable; you feel like you’re a guest in someone’s home and they told you to run free instead of showing you around personally. I’d like to visit enough to the point where Flatbed feels like home.

-Jennifer Wright


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