Getty Museum medievalist Larisa Grollemond refers to a 1602 text by Caesar Baronius who used the term Saeculum Obscurum (the dark age/century) to refer to the 10th and 11th centuries as lacking in surviving historical sources. But using the word dark in relation to that period really just meant that he didn’t know a lot about the time. Nevertheless, the term has persisted and historians started using “dark” as a pejorative term to mean a period of superstition and stagnation in art, literature, and science.
In Darkages, Leon Alesi and John Mulvany aim to unearth, uncover and breathe new life into images and artifacts that until relatively recently may have seemed invisible, hidden and unknowable. The artists’ use of the neologism Darkages as the title of the exhibition might seem to suggest that we are currently living through a new dark age- a time of ignorance, fear and oppression with a stagnation of advancement in science and culture. Our uncertainty about accelerated technological advancements in AI and our collective anxiety about the climate and the future hums in the background as context.
Leon Alesi’s photographs, collages, assemblages and found objects embody a sophisticated folk-art sensibility suggestive of an imagined past that echoes into the present. As much an exercise of recording history as it is an experiment of alchemy. Alesi’s Ancestors series - remnants of cedar piers unearthed from the foundations of partially demolished houses in his neighborhood live again as sculptures that stand as witnesses to images depicting their own fall into obscurity and abandonment. For his assemblages, foraged detritus communes with the incorporeal and the previously unseen transforms into an Anthropocene Age avatar.
John Mulvany’s paintings originate in extensive photographic research from Victorian-era natural history museums and West Texas taxidermy shops. Mulvany creates digital collages that embed taxidermy animals into contemporary landscape dioramas which are then reimagined through AI image generation technology. The animals in the paintings are approximations of life, evoking a sense of simultaneous presence and absence, permanence and transience, the real and the unreal.
Throughout the exhibition Alesi and Mulvany find common threads with which to collaborate, utilizing key elements of both artists’ themes and processes. The installation of a natural history museum-style diorama in the window of the gallery opens and completes the narrative.
Leon Alesi is a self taught multi-disciplinary artist who hails from New Jersey and has lived in Austin, Texas for the past 30 years. His work is both an archeological dig and a document of transitional situations investigating our spiritual, communal, and physical loss. Using his neighborhood as a reference guide for global realities, he records his personal experience for future archivists to consider. From 2012 to 2018 he co-curated and ran Blackbox, an in-house gallery space that promoted local talent. For the past 5 years he has been an active member of the ICOSA collective, focused on creating opportunities for the growing community of artists in Austin and furthering his artistic practice.
John Mulvany is an artist and art educator originally from Ireland who has lived and worked in Austin, Texas for the past 24 years. His work has been shown in Ireland, the UK, Germany and the U.S. He was featured in the 2009 Texas Biennial and was nominated for best artist in the AVAA awards. He has had several solo and group exhibitions including, One, Someone, Anyone at Galleri Urbane, Marfa Texas, The Lie of the Land at Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, Texas, Memento Mori at grayDuck gallery in 2012, Secure the Perimeter at grayDUCK gallery in 2019 and Pinnacles at Cloud Tree gallery in 2022. He was also a founder and co-editor of Cantanker art magazine between 2006 and 2013. He is a long-time studio art teacher at Headwaters School in Austin and has been a member of ICOSA collective for 18 months.
Exhibition Dates: September 29th - October 28th
Opening Reception: Friday, September 29th, 7-10pm
Third Thursday East Austin Arts District hours: October 19th, 6-9pm
Gallery Hours: Fridays & Saturdays 12-6 pmView Map