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Blanton Museum of Art

The Blanton Museum of Art is one of Austin’s newest high profile art museums. It features multiple permanent, semi-permanent, and travelling exhibits. Located on the southern edge of The University of Texas at Austin campus, there is a juxtaposition of city environment, collegiate life, and a park atmosphere.

Interesting meshing isn’t limited to its location. Inside, there is a fascinating juxtaposition of the travelling exhibit “Go West” (on display until September 2012) and the permanent exhibit of Old European paintings. Not only is there a contrast in theme, but style and colors are also contrasted in a series of parallel galleries.

There are 12 named galleries, plus a great deal of unnamed display locations. The layout of the galleries is simple to navigate, and leaves the mind free to examine and enjoy the art. The calm atmosphere supports an introspective examination of the self in relation to the art on display. Personally, I find my interpretations and experience in general change each time I visit. Even when viewing the same exhibit.

For example, in the European paintings galleries (Suida-Manning Collection), I came across a painting of Lot and his two daughters in a cave. In the far distant background is a brimstone-streaked black sky that is reminiscent of an exploding volcano. I’ve seen this painting several times. Today, it brought to mind Vesuvius. Could there be a connection between Sodom and Pompeii?

Thus far my favorite exhibit is titled [Missao/Misseo] (How to Build Cathedrals). It contains 2000 cow bones hanging from a lighted framework and connected to a bed of 600,000 pennies by a column of communion wafers. Around the bed of pennies are flagstones upon which viewers may walk, and around the entire exhibit are sheer black drapes. The exhibit is in a blackened room so that the only light comes from the framework above and the reflections off the pennies below.

The intended message is an indictment of the Jesuit missions in the Americas, how the missions were as much or more about economics. Whether you agree with that point of view or not, the display is striking and dynamic.

The Blanton Museum of Art provides a much-needed boost to Austin’s “museum scene”. As with most places in Austin, dress is whatever you want it to be. Most people dress casual, though occasionally I see a visitor in a suit. Admission is low as far as museums go: Current UT students/faculty/staff get in free, other adults $9, Seniors (65+) $7, College students with valid ID $5, Youth (13-21) $5, and children 12 and under are free. Thursdays are free to everyone all day.

I would recommend going on a sunny day since the atrium contains a display created specifically for the Blanton, and it is highly responsive to the light coming in from the large skylights in the atrium.

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