Everything Is Evolving, Everything Is Falling Apart
By H.C. Arnold for Glasstire, May 10, 2016
I’m confident you won’t misinterpret Jamie Panzer’s solo show If Love Is The Answer, What Is The Question: A Science Fair, currently at Big Medium in Austin. This isn’t because the show is full of standard or run-of-the-mill samplings you’ve seen too many times. It’s because there’s nothing in it that needs to be clearly or aggressively interpreted. Panzer gives you a collection of mix-media works that are as meaningful and complex as you want (or need) them to be, though in symphony they hint, darkly, at some things about the notion of change. But, laced with humor and ambiguity, the show mostly feels like a nearly arbitrary collection of unfinished projects that welcome your own filling in of the blanks.
But the Austin-based Panzer has long been interested in the unresolvable. A scan of his portfolio turns up a variety of works that hover in the middle ground between the familiar and the… unusual. Objects and images as mundane as sawhorses and magazine ads are transformed into oddities that keep enough of their originality to be recognizable as themselves, but are also manipulated enough to introduce unsettling artificiality and malleability. Panzer’s work constantly reminds you that the things of the world are unsteady and open to theft. Nothing is safe from subversion.
So, when you walk into his show at Big Medium, you should keep this in mind, and you’d do well to consider that Panzer also likes to undermine the assumed permanence of art exhibitions in general. We don’t expect the art to change once it’s installed in the gallery, and we rarely expect to meet an exhibition that changes shape over its run. But that’s what Panzer is doing here. On my second visit to Big Medium, some alterations to the show (from its opening-night form) were evident. For example: the three large paper sculptures that hung near the gallery door are gone. They were big paper chains with distorted images of sound waves resembling candlesticks attached to them. The images linked together along the curves of the paper, and their different abstractions played off of each other with each slow rotation of the work. Now, in their place, three lonely pieces of fishing line dangle from the ceiling. They’re so slight they’re almost completely unnoticeable.
Another change: Five pieces of black luggage covered with feathers rest on top of each other with a large hole cut out of the top one. At the opening, that hole was used for a projector. I never saw the film. On opening night, when I arrived, the projector had malfunctioned and was displaying a blue screen with the error message: Restart Projector. The restart never happened. I watched Panzer and several members of Big Medium try to reanimate the film without success. Or they acted like they were trying. At the time, this felt like an unfortunate turn; a simple technological malfunction had gotten in the way of the art, but now I’m not entirely sure this wasn’t supposed to happen. When I revisited the gallery, I noted the sculpture had been unplugged and the projector removed. It seemed pre-destined. Like the paper chain sculptures, things were disappearing. Is this a slow de-install? Is it autobiographical?
Change is foreshadowed in Panzer’s written statement about the show. In the long esoteric list of hashtags he’s included, several—such as #dotswillbeconnected and #malapropsglitchesrejectsflaws—describe actions presumably done as part of the show. If the projector is the glitch rejecting a flaw, then those connected dots seem to be at their highest concentration on Panzer’s collage work here. Not immediately visible, the collage covers the backside of what appears to be a towering wall of ice made out of papier-mâché. This sculpture dominates the space and divides it into two areas. The larger area is empty with the exception of a molecular arrangement of bowling balls and candlesticks; the smaller area behind the wall is a narrow corridor. Because of this monolith’s proximity to the nearest real wall, you can’t stand far enough back to take in the entirety of the collage. This seems by design. You’re confronted with a non-hierarchical and non-compositional melee of imagery ranging from personal photographs to commercial publication. Some repeat; others don’t, and I’m suspicious they’ve been changing through the run of the show also, but it isn’t obvious without photographic evidence. Spanning this built wall of overwhelming visual data, the collage elements also change the surface subtly, like slow-moving cracks through ice.
These changes—and others—seem to happen at glacier speed and are only noticeable with multiple viewings. By all accounts the closing on May 20th will be quite a spectacle, and I wonder what surprises Panzer has in store. Some might charge that constantly changing the exhibition is a gimmick, but I disagree. These changes demonstrate the perpetual labor of artists, and the fact that good art is evolutionary. It moves and changes with its creator. Panzer seems to be communicating something about current or pending changes in himself. He might be asking us to move and change as well. Don’t worry if you can’t nail him or his meaning down. You’re not supposed to.
This Found-Object Art Melds Hirst's High Concepts and Louis C.K.'s Comedy
By Wayne Alan Brenner, for the Austin Chronicle, June 17, 2011
Humor in art is too often the arena of cartoonists and not of people crafting aesthetically sublime objects. Well, maybe not too often. Maybe it's just as well that those who put a lot of work into what they make – relatively more, anyway, than the concerted application of pen to paper – maybe it's a good thing that those artistes don't attempt much humor at all. All but the best cartoonists' attempts at being funny will frequently fall flat, and it's so much the worse, I insist, if that failure is the case with the output of some degreed crafter whose best idea of humor stops at the merely goofy.
Well, here's the work of Jamie Panzer in the main gallery of Big Medium's sprawling Eastside compound, in a show called "You See ... Thing Is ...," and it's little but a triumph of searing wit and eye-intriguing creation. Panzer works with found objects, mostly, and connects and arranges them in unexpected ways or embellishes them with sculptural castings. Yeah, found objects, and we all know what a world of stupid that can be. You and I, reader, we can gather a bunch of cultural jetsam from neighboring curbs on Large Trash Pickup Day and try to make something compelling or at least not-unpleasant-looking out of it; likely, we'd do better trying to fashion a simulacrum of dog shit from leftover chocolate pudding. And the same is true, in my experience, of many exhibitions that truck in found-object manipulation: They may (barely) function on some deeply academic art-history level, but they don't achieve diddly-squat for the casual viewer or even the aficionado who wants to encounter more than obscure informational masturbation.
But here's Jamie Panzer. And of course it's a boon that his craftsmanship can render objects in wax or metal with accuracy and expertise; it's crucial that he can etch and bind and drill and so on at a professional level. But what's most important here is his intelligence, and that: 1) his creations initially latch onto the brain via vision, with a whoa-shit-that-looks-totally-awesome hook, and 2) those creations follow through, on closer scrutiny, with epiphanies of whoa-shit-that's-also-a-commentary-on-perception-and-culture-and-it's-even-hella-funny magnitude. An actual human skull, its bottom half obscured by a life mask formed from beeswax. A giant-sized model of some intricate molecule, built from colorful bowling balls joined by ornate brass lamp shafts. The thoroughly rusted coils of a stretched-out industrial spring, from the curves of which grow human teeth of what appears to be the same rusted material. The dead and discarded cathode ray tube of some ancient TV, upon whose dust-covered screen is scrawled the apropos variation of what you'd find on a dirty car's window: "WATCH ME." The spectrum-lovely, vertically arranged beakers and flasks of Rainbow Juice.
There's more, of course, enough sufficient, gorgeous invention here that Panzer's two-dimensional collage and photographic work – on display in Big Medium's adjoining, separate room – is merely lagniappe. Let's bring the critical shorthand. The sharp, stand-up comedy observations of Louis C.K.? The arch, high-concept machinations of Damien Hirst? Meld those two aesthetics and wield them with equal amounts of playfulness and wisdom: Panzer's "You See ... Thing Is ..." is like a small museum of the best results you'd get from that process.
Jamie Panzer is an Austin Artist That You Haven't Heard Of...Yet
By Davis Williams for the Austin Post, November 9, 2012
Austin has an arts scene that continues to grow and get better and more adventurous and inspired. Every year brings forth new artists that transcend what used to be, which at best was a kind of regional arts-and-crafts scene mixed with the best of what the local schools had to offer and a few national names who decided to live here. Yet as more and better work is on offer there is occasionally a name whose work really stands out and can hold its own with anything you’re going to see anywhere else.
Jamie Panzer is one of those names. He had a one-man show at Big Medium a year ago (called “You See…Thing Is…”) that was all over the place in the best possible way. A one-off at CoLab in April was so simple, so funny, so brilliant in execution that you could only stand in the dark with the thing glowering at you, challenging you not to laugh and think at the same time (full disclosure: I spent two hours digging wet mud in the rain to help build the damned thing). A parody of a Platonic solid (a tetrahedron to be exact), a parody of technology, of the very idea of humanity’s temporary domain over the natural were all rolled up into three chicken wire encased, mud-filled ziggurats connected by toaster filament wire glowing red hot. He called it the “Bullshit Detector,” with no small amount of detection aimed in all directions including himself as he reduced the ideas found in all his work to dirt, lumber, wire and electricity. And it worked. You could smell the bullshit from outside the building, though it was added into some of the mud (further disclosure: I didn’t stick around for that part).
And that’s the deal with Panzer: he’s funny and smart at the same time plus engaging in how he mixes and juggles images and concepts. In his aesthetic, Bosch becomes collages (right on the verge of NSFW).
Or in a way the images from two jigsaw puzzles inserted into each other, and critiques of branding or the very act of exhibiting and placing value on art that began to emerge in the 1990s. He finds his materials everywhere: from trash, dryer lint, recycled television tubes, it really doesn’t matter because the guy is going to see the possibilities and impose on them his sense of both history and this moment and then add a necessary critique via gallows humor. In the just-ended Wardencllyffe Gallery group show you find a perfect example. It’s two paint-splattered sawhorses placed in a pose of equine lust. Yes, “Horseplay.”
Panzer brings new meaning, depth and breadth to the notion of "mixed media" and makes "eclecticism" seem like an understatement. Flat, not-flat, built, glued, welded, painted, unpainted, at play in the detritus of the Endtimes, by any measure the Big Medium show should’ve been a blockbuster. And I suppose by local standards it was - a big show full of Big Ideas executed well. Because as he says, “The original idea of the artist’s stroke, for me, quality of construction is quality of line,” and he’ll scrap an idea if he can’t pull it off properly. Also, as he says, “visual economy is a huge tool - packing ideas into the least means.” He wants rules as limits to “rub up against,” and to that end is grateful for his education which consisted of a Carnegie-Mellon BFA in Design “because my parents wanted me to learn a trade, but all my electives were in art.” He went on to get his MFA at UT Austin.
Which artists influence Panzer? “Leonardo da Vinci – for the inventions themselves, his vision, the prognostication; there’s no denying his artistic ability, obviously, but his ability to predict the future. Duchamp, for the obvious reasons: conceptual art, ideas over aesthetics. Max Ernst, and the sense of irreverence from artists like Hannah Hoch and Raul Hausmann.” But Panzer isn’t directly polemical - he doesn’t use texts, for example. His sense of play and love of the malapropism started before exposure to visual art for Panzer, as “my seven year-older brother had an eclectic record collection and left it at home when he moved out, which gave me time to develop my own taste without peer pressure. At a very young age, I was listening to Johnny Cash, Leadbelly, Captain Beefheart and all kinds of jazz.”
In his junior year of high school, an English teacher exposed the class to Existentialism, which was an epiphany. “I now had a word for that expansive feeling that ‘there has to be more than this,’ along with ideas that separated intelligence from behavior - the genius from the evil."
As for local artists, “I’m more into collectives that make things happen or let things happen, like CoLab, Ink Tank, and Big Medium,” all of which have let his work happen in their spaces. Another thrust to his work is an “interest in how mechanism and organism compare and contrast, then literally visualizing it so that you can’t tell - are these structures in decay or growth? What’s natural, what’s not? Even if everything is from nature. Do you read it as structures about to be consumed by the foliage? Unlike most of my work, the aesthetic is foregrounded more than the ideas,” he explains.
Panzer is an artist of ideas, humor, juxtaposition, collage, painting, assemblage, the structures attendant to the very idea of a show, the gallery, the larger art world or as he puts it, “the larger conversation.” And sometimes he takes photos, such as the near-abstract black-and-whites at a recent Continental Gallery show in August. A browse through his website reveals a dizzying array of work that reveals an aesthetic that at its fullest is simply art for art's sake and seeing the possibilities for and of art everywhere he turns. The only limitations are his imagination and ingenuity, which from the range and variety of what he produces appear to be near boundless. It's a body of work that offers something for everyone, but not in any way pandering to mass tastes. Instead it ranges from evoking the question "Is that art?" to images and creations that tickle your fancy and linger in your imagination. With a vision so big it's all but assured that Panzer is an artist whose time will in time come. And by then he'll be on to something else.
Tracking My Movements. 'You See ... Thing Is ...' ---Big Medium
EGGTOOTH & Gang June, 2011
At the end of a long dark driveway, past docks and roll-up garage doors. Entrances to curtained off studio spaces. Another wood fence, half open, comes into a back concrete patio area. Big warm light coming out of a big ol' garage entrance. White walls. Sculptures and wriggling colorful things. Photography. Tiny things on the walls. Various corners to examine. Is a burst of color. Purity and primary in an almost carnivalesque way. Fun things to go and experience.
At my feet are giant replications of what appear to be Jacks, made from bowling balls mounted to vase turned column posts w heavy chrome gold veneer. Sturdy funny things. There are a few of these about. Strange and fun and impossible to play with.
To the left in a corner are more things. Find myself wanting to attach associations with others with regards to meaning and intent and end up floating on a child-like surface. Sitting on a squat bench plinth-ized thing is another thing. "Mother Hen". A blatantly fake uniform grey tree branch, in the shape of a shambling alien bug. A headless stripped bare rib cage of a creature, almost creepy but too funny to be so. It's various angled branch tips end with grey human fingertips. Perfectly ending. And beginning where it starts to feel. Organic blends with organic, the human kind suggesting supposed controlled logic and expectation, tho. This set of branches appears to coddle and protect little plastic rings beneath it, stacks of colorful toy parts that remind me of avoiding the noid from domino's pizza in the 80's. Silliness that can't be because of some unspecified heavy undertone, but ultimately disarms with it.
Mounted on the wall near Mother Hen is a little device operating a slow turning roll of camera film . Loaded to a mechanism that almost imperceptibly scrolls the negatives of clouds past a little light bulb. The entire gadget, titled "Invention", is awkward stained wooden parts, mounted and held together with nails and thumbtacks. Examination of nature and the clunkiness (uncontrolled/randomness) built into our bodies. Our intentions. With a sense of self being the most important thing in experience and discovery.
Photography, a series behind glass and pixilated grey scale wheat paste. Beautiful images of clouds becoming cubes inna man vs. nature/ logic vs. emotion timeless tumble.Water and fire get the same treatment. In another area, paper prints of atomic mushroom clouds stacked on themselves to heaven, glued to the wall. I am become death and I am become death becomes it's turtles all the way down. or up . to death. without a God. But funny about it.
Panzer enjoys interacting with his audience. A box with paper and pencil asks for donations and suggestions. A fresh tomato sits on the box's corner, maybe an allusion to throwing tomatoes at bad theater performances. Two slots for either type submission lead to the same place - of course. Panzer stalks the opening with a bullhorn, at random blurting thoughts to those hanging around.
I was invited to "use the horn". The piece, titled "Horn" - for what reason I'm not sure, was a horn from some unfortunate animal with a handle added. it sits on a tiny shelf. The artist photographs you interpreting yr consideration of and way of "using it" with a friendly almost hidden smirk.
Meaninglessness is a loaded thing. Reminding one of simple pleasures seemed to be what came from this experience. Odd colored objects twisted from human anatomy mounted high and low. Little tiny ledges jut from the walls in places. On examination, these tiny ledges suggest craggy mountainous plains, aerial jetties like weeds in a gallery. They have little people meandering about on them. Tiny people that require leaning in real close to almost make out. They're just people. I wanted them to be toy soldiers from a distance. But no. They were just people. Looking around.
Erlenmeyer flasks full of what can't be Kool-Aid but sure looks like Kool-Aid. Or maybe the yum juices from freezer pops. Or water with food coloring. But it isn't. It's important studies. Processes are taking place in these flasks, to be certain. Classic fun with contradictions, served up light. We've walked into a scientist's lab. And if he came around the corner he would probably resemble a living cartoon.
There's more things hiding about in Jamie Panzer's show, "you see...thing is..." Even though I spent time, wandering in and out and around and back in, doing the re-approach, I bet I still missed some things.
Panzer's Tetrahedons Are No Bull
By Wayne Alan Brenner for the Austin Chronicle, Feb. 24, 2012
'Jamie Panzer: Bullshit Detector', Co-Lab, Austin, TX
Fact: Co-Lab was one of my Top 10 arts picks for last year. Not due to any specific show, but because of the sheer amount of exhibitions – about one every two weeks – mounted in that small Eastside venue. Because of the relentless experimentation with objects and presentations, the amount of work venue director Sean Gaulager and his friends put into the year's offerings.
Fact: Jamie Panzer's solo exhibition last year – not at Co-Lab but at Big Medium – was also among my Top 10s. Because his "You see ... Thing is ..." was, well, what I said then: "a triumph of wit and eye-searing creation." Now here's Panzer's newest endeavor, "Bullshit Detector," at Co-Lab for a week.
It's a show of one big piece, pretty much. Although there are resonant paper collages by Panzer on the walls of what you might call the lobby (or air lock) of Co-Lab, the main event in the main room is that single Bullshit Detector.
Look: There are three ziggurats that you can barely see in the darkened room, ziggurats like triple-tiered wedding cakes made from piles of newly dug earth constrained by chicken wire, each one at the point of some imaginary equilateral triangle. You can smell the freshness of the dirt in the close air. ("That's from three days of digging," says the artist, grimacing at the memory of it. "There's some manure in there.")
Supported in the center of each of the ziggurats is a wooden pylon that reaches to a height of maybe 7 feet; each pylon is tipped with an eyelet screw. In the center of the triangle defined by the ziggurats is an electric generator – or maybe it's just a terminal that draws power from the Co-Lab walls – in any case, there it is, at half the pylons' height, and from this power center come lengths of wire, the kind that heats bread in toasters, and these wires loop up and through the pylons' eyelets. The wires glow in the dark room, faintly buzzing, forming the orange outlines of a geometric solid in midair. It's like you're co-existing in some virtual space inhabited by one of the elements from the old Tempest arcade game.
Opinion: What a lovely, strange, and typically Panzerian structure to share a room with!
"It's a pyramid," breathes a visitor, staring at the bright wires.
"Well," says the artist from deep shadows, "it's a tetrahedron."
For any tetrahedron, as you may know, there exists a sphere such that the tetrahedron's vertices lie on the sphere's surface. For any artist, we might add, there exists a sphere of influence. And if there's ever any lying going on on that sphere's surface ... well, that's what a good bullshit detector is for, isn't it?
Bullshit Detector : Jamie Panzer
Co-Lab Press Release
The schematic for this ancient apparatus was unearthed one day when I was digging for loose coins in the dirt. I’ve reconstructed a prototype using modern materials as best I could.That such a device existed so long ago, and is only now available to us for use, is a testament to the fact that we have always been surrounded by bullshit. I might add that it arrives in no short order.It’s monolithic ziggurats serve as support for the mechanism, forming a tetrahedron, which defines the purest geometric shape in the known universe. Through restistance and impedance, bullshit is attracted, absorbed and disintegrated. Exactly how remains a mystery. Consider it to function in a way that detects bullshit of all manner, including swindles, hog wash, lies, hokum, balderdash, baloney, bilge, flap trap, hooey, poppycock, rubbish, twaddle, chicanery, fraud, malarky, crock, ruse, sham, hucksterism, snake oil, deceit, cons, distortions, dupery, mendacity, prevarication, bunk, hypocrisy, and bluster, et al.
Top 10 Arts Events of 2011 in No Particular Order
Austin Chronicle, January 6, 2012
7) 'YOU SEE ... THING IS ...' (Big Medium) Jamie Panzer's exhibition showcased what happens when one talented man brings sculptural art to its zenith of wit and intellectual playfulness to the gambits of professional craft. His mind, we imagine, must be like a carnival midway; we're glad his creations let us see a few of the wild and wily rides.