Daniel Johnston Tribute Coming to The Contemporary Austin This Fall

Crit Group Reunion, with works by a diverse range of 60 artists, will also open in September

By Meher Qazilbash
Artwork courtesy of The Contemporary Austin
The Contemporary Austin
The Contemporary Austin's Jones Center photographed by Leonid Furmansky.

This fall, art of the past and present will be represented at The Contemporary Austin with two exhibitions, Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams and Crit Group Reunion, opening September 11, 2021.

Named after one of his songs, Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams will pay tribute to the works of the Austin icon on the two-year anniversary of his death. Although Johnston is primarily known as an indie musician whose moving and revealing songs favor feeling over perfection, the exhibition will highlight his contributions in other disciplines as well.

Though many Austinites are familiar with Johnston’s visual art – including his famous “Hi, How Are You” mural near the University of Texas – the upcoming exhibit will offer a more comprehensive look at his work. Johnston’s comic-inspired drawings “present a surreal visual world, both dark and whimsical, that explores emotion, spirituality, and human connection,” reads a press release from the museum. Films and videos, collected ephemera and personal memorabilia will also be on display alongside his music, providing “the first major museum survey of visual art and music by Daniel Johnston.”

Daniel Johnston, Speeding Motorcycle, 1977. Pen and colored marker on paper. 11 x 8 1/2 inches. Artwork © Daniel Johnston. Image courtesy The Daniel Johnston Trust.

The Contemporary Austin hopes an in-depth exploration of the wonders of Johnston’s mind will allow viewers and listeners to experience his profound talent for expressing agony in a manner that appears soft and innocent.

Opening on the same day in September is the exhibition Crit Group Reunion, with former participants of The Contemporary Austin’s Crit Group program showcasing their work. The program was established in 2014 by Andrea Mellard, the museum’s Director of Public Programs & Community Engagement, as an effort to build a network for artists that encourages their growth.

The Crit Group picks artists each year to become part of a community that offers “crits,” defined in the press release as “art-school slang for critiques.” The artists receive feedback and support for their creations from a community of other artists, allowing participants to be vulnerable, to collaborate and create consistently.

Daniel Johnston, Untitled, 1977. Pen and colored marker on paper. 11 x 8 1/2 inches. Artwork © Daniel Johnston. Image courtesy The Daniel Johnston Trust.

The Crit Group Reunion includes the works of about sixty artists who participated in the program, each with their own styles, voices and mediums. The two-part exhibition will showcase paintings, sculptures, textiles, ceramics, performances, videos and sound installations, offering audiences the opportunity to appreciate the wide-ranging talents and abilities of Austin’s flourishing artist community.

Those looking to immerse themselves in the works of artists who influence and are influenced by Austin’s culture can learn more on The Contemporary Austin’s site and visit the museum’s locations at Laguna Gloria and The Jones Center in September to see current exhibits.

Daniel Johnston: I Live My Broken Dreams will run until March 22, 2022. Crit Group Reunion will run in two parts, with Part I beginning September 11 until November 14 and Part II running from November 19 to January 16, 2022.


Read More From the Spring Style Issue | April 2021


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