Art Opening

Austin, Texas: circa 1980
We were at an art opening, somewhere downtown near the warehouses where small machine parts were stored, before the buildings were turned into fashionable bars for the newly minted college graduates looking for places to spend their first independent incomes in one of the spasms of gentrification Austin has endured for the last 40 years. But that was yet to come. It was an old building, bare walls, no heating, or air-conditioning. The owner probably rented out the space cheap for the length of the show. Bits of cheese on crackers, tortilla chips and salsa were available to carry about on small paper plates. Generic jugs of red and white wine were scattered about the table, as well as a galvanized tub filled with the ubiquitous Shiner Bock. Blondie, The Police, or some other cross over “punk” played on a home stereo someone had set up in the corner. The artists were local college art professors trying to seem relevant to the to the gaggle of students who were there for the free beer and wine, before heading out to their own parties with live local bands. I wandered the room pretending to look at the art on the walls. The prices were too high for my part-time job and rent. Most were abstract, with a few figurative pieces trying to have an exotic southwestern feel to them. But even at 20 they felt forced and derivative.  I thought about the painting by Fantin-Latour, Un Coin De Table, where Verlaine and Rimbaud were sitting at a table with contemporary Parisian artists. The story went that one artist refused to be in the same painting as that nasty boy (Rimbaud). So where he sat the artist put a vase of flowers.  I wondered what Rimbaud would think about the conversations the students and professors were having, the fawning praise, the studiously ironic responses. I felt callow, and slightly embarrassed. I left quickly, saying I was going out for a smoke, and went home for the night to write.

(August 11, 2017)