East combines with West in Erin Curtis’ paintings and sculptures


Have you heard the word “gingham” suddenly popping up in regular conversation?

When plaid came back in style recently, the Internet was along for the ride and made it easy to answer burning questions like, “Which pattern is this?”

So, these days, instead of “checks” we have “gingham.”

If this interest in textiles is new to most of us, for Austin artist Erin Curtis it’s long been part of her painting. Time in India on a Fulbright fellowship had an effect on her.

“Some people are wearing clothes that are definitely similar to what their family was wearing hundreds of years ago,” she says of the experience.

Curtis is standing inside her new solo exhibit, “Further West,” at the Contemporary Austin’s gatehouse gallery at Laguna Gloria.

A few paintings in all colors hang from the wall in frames, but others drape from the ceiling, like curtains or flags. The room is full of a flourish of patterns. Curtis has even painted one work of bright lines and symbols on the floor. You couldn’t buy these patterns off the rack, but there are fleeting moments where you can imagine the inspiration behind a certain shape or line, before it’s engulfed by a different layer of paint.

Outside, as you walk under the gatehouse’s pergola, you pass geometric sculptures wrapped in multicolored tile. One’s a distorted pyramid; another resembles a mini-skyscraper. “They’re like little greeters,” Curtis says.

These sculptures are part of a city of Austin arts commission, and the tiles come from the storied Central Texas brick makers, Elgin Butler. Like Curtis’ paintings, these works in tile have myriad colors, but surprisingly all of them are stock, straight from the catalogue.

Curtis simply has a gift for pairing the colors. She’s cut them to make triangle shapes similar to the shapes that adorn her paintings. “I hope they’re kind of fun,” she says.

Some of the sculptures from the series have also begun to appear on Third Street downtown. Eventually there will be 25 across eight blocks.

Curtis’ work plays with the differences between design and art. It’s about “blurring those lines,” she says.

Aside from the stylish diamond shapes that layer the floor, there is a series of charpoys — Indian-style benches — strung with parachute cord. There are also canvases that Curtis transformed from dropcloths into completely new paintings.

Once you get past the incredible range of colors, you notice that the paintings aren’t stretched tight to fit evenly into frames. Curtis was looking for different ways that painting can operate, she says, “pulling things off of the stretcher and off the wall.”

The centerpiece is a room-sized canvas, hung from the ceiling, that divides the room in two. It’s really two works — one on each side — and the swaths of color are interrupted by a grid of chevrons punched through the canvas. As you move, the light shines through the other side, moving along with you.

“I’m interested with seeing two things at once,” Curtis says.

Another work, “Draped House,” is both a strange vision of a large house draped in cloth and a layer of patterned banners that partially obscure the whole view.

Curtis wants us to see double — “and not just in a literal way,” she says. “But in the broader way you move through life and understand things.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Austin360

Princes William, Harry on their sorrow over last ‘rushed’ call with Diana 
Princes William, Harry on their sorrow over last ‘rushed’ call with Diana 

Princes William and Harry are talking about the last, rushed phone call they had with their mother, Princess Diana, before her untimely death in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Their painful reflections are part of a new ITV documentary called “Diana, Our Mother: Her Life and Legacy,” airing on Monday, July 24. The program comes as the 20th...
5 wines - including reds! - to chill with this summer
5 wines - including reds! - to chill with this summer

If your red wine seems to wilt in the summer heat, give it a chill in the refrigerator or an ice bucket. Or even better, shake things up with a chilled sparkling red Lambrusco from northern Italy. This week's wines include a great example, plus a French rosé, a spicy Austrian red, a tropical Aussie chardonnay and a bargain wine from Spain. Great...
New 'Justice League' trailer, movie poster revealed at Comic-Con
New 'Justice League' trailer, movie poster revealed at Comic-Con

Superhero fans, rejoice: A new "Justice League" trailer and movie poster have been revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego. Time reported that the trailer released Saturday "hints at the appearance of a mysterious hero," possibly Superman or a Green Lantern.  The poster, which features Batman (Ben Affleck), Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot)...
WATCH: Gal Gadot cheers up teary-eyed girl dressed as Wonder Woman at Comic-Con
WATCH: Gal Gadot cheers up teary-eyed girl dressed as Wonder Woman at Comic-Con

A young Wonder Woman fan has something to smile about after sharing a heartwarming moment with actress Gal Gadot at Comic-Con in San Diego. According to "Entertainment Tonight," a girl dressed as the superhero seemed to have tears in her eyes when she met Gadot during a "Justice League" autograph signing Saturday. Gadot immediately...
Webb Report: An Austin bar made a list that will make you blush
Webb Report: An Austin bar made a list that will make you blush

To be honest, a milkshake at a soda fountain sounds so much less exhausting than swiping photos of strangers into the digital void until your thumb develops acute localized arthritis. The world ain’t a sock hop anymore, though. Most dates start online, through apps or dating sites, and you’ll still have to meet up with potential paramours...
More Stories