If you abide by the cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words then the case could be made that Austin photographer Scott Newton wrote the book on the Live Music Capital of the World. Upon graduating from the University of Texas, in 1972, Newton picked up a camera and fell into the scene at the Armadillo World Headquarters, where he documented the amalgamation of the cowboys and hippies. In 1979 he joined Austin City Limits as the staff photographer and has been snapping performers there ever since. (An array of his shots is on the walls upstairs at the Moody Theater, where the television show is taped.) Newton has photographed pretty much every old-school Austin musician worth a note including one-name wonders like Guy, Roky, Selena, Stevie, Townes, and, of course, Willie. He even captured non-musicians, most notably former governor Ann Richards. On Saturday Newton will be at the opening reception for his exhibit “Scott Newton: First Edition,” at Modern Rocks Gallery. The show pulls from the Scott Newton Archive, which Modern Rocks recently acquired for its permanent collection. In advance of the show, Newton broke down three particularly awesome photographs for Texas Monthly.
“In July of 2000 I was out at Willie World, in Briarcliff, with Turk Pipkin, who was writing a magazine story about Willie and golf. We ended up in the largest building of his movie-set turned small town, Luck, Texas. I had gotten to know Willie from years before as the house photographer at the old Austin Opry House, which he owned in the late seventies. He asked if I wanted to play a game of chess. I said sure. I hadn’t played in years but was giving him a hard match until, during my turn—as I was deep in concentration—someone asked whose turn it was, and, after a second or so he said with a laugh, ‘Well, if nobody knows, it must be mine,’ and proceeded to take two moves in a row to win.”
“Ann and Dolly”
“In 1982 I was on a shoot for Ann, who was running for state treasurer—she was a Travis County commissioner—and needed images. She got word that Dolly Parton was in town and wanted to meet her, so we went straight [to Dolly’s hotel]. Dolly was downstairs in the lobby of the Driskill. These two wonderful women started laughing as soon as they laid eyes on each other and went on nonstop for quite awhile. Let’s just say that they joked like sisters about each other’s personality and physical details, sending each other into gales of laughter. I was actually blushing to be within earshot.”
“Emmylou and the Rooster”
“In the summer of 1977 the Austin Opry House opened under the new ownership of Willie Nelson and Tim O’Connor. Many of Willie’s friends showed up to play the opening night. Waylon, Willie, Emmylou, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, among others, performed. For some reason, Bee Spears, Willie’s bass player, had brought along a rooster to the greenroom, and Emmylou took a liking to it. A stagehand came and got me to record the scene by saying that Emmy was playing with Bee’s rooster and they wanted a picture made. It’s hard to tell that story without saying what they really said: ‘Come see Emmylou play with Bee’s cock.’”
Modern Rocks Gallery, June 4 to July 30, modernrocksgallery.com
A Whale of a Book Club
For most people, reading Moby Dick in its entirety is the literary achievement to end all literary achievements. It’s a tough book: huge, with a narrator’s point of view that can be confusing; an overly stylistic array of literary devices; and relentless meta-detail. New York minimalist artist Frank Stella has reportedly read Herman Melville’s 1851 whale-revenge epic twice. Upon reading it the second time, Stella was really just getting started with it. From there he embarked on making a painting for each of the book’s 135 chapters. Five of those pieces are on display in “Frank Stella: A Retrospective,” through September 18 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Visitors can see those works during any visit, sure, but if they want an informed account of how the pieces are connected to Melville’s story then they must commit to participating in “Modern Reading: Moby Dick,” the museum’s four-part monthly book club held between June and September—and read 45 chapters per month. “Stella’s work is in no way illustrative but rather inspired, or maybe challenged, by the one hundred and thirty-five chapters of Melville’s novel,” said Terri Thornton, the museum’s curator of education and the program’s host. “These paintings are, like Melville’s efforts, beyond language. So that will be our challenge in looking at them in the context of our reading.”
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, June 9, July 7, August 11, and September 8, 3 p.m., themodern.org
Birth and Death
Matthew Ronay, the New York sculptor whose pieces are of such grand scale that he qualifies as a sort of landscape artist, features in his work a lot of what art enthusiasts like about contemporary art. It’s full of bright colors and forms that are askew, and the artist seems to convey a personal fantasyland whose narrative plays out through his art. On Friday the Blaffer Museum of Art will host Ronay’s first solo exhibition at a major museum. Included are huge installations such as Organ Organelle, loosely depicting the human respiratory system, and In and Out and In and Out, Again, mirroring the cardiovascular system. “Contemplated together, Organ Organelle and In and Out and In and Out, Again read like a diptych, complementary monuments to birth and death centered on the organic nature and functions of the body whose vegetative inevitabilities are reinforced through a ritualistic presentation,” reads the Blaffer’s description. Ronay, whose Willy Wonk-ian use of color makes it hard to believe he is colorblind, has shown at the 2010 Whitney Biennial, a survey of the best contemporary American artists, and in 2010 was an artist in residence at Artpace, in San Antonio.
Blaffer Museum of Art, June 3 to October 1, blafferartmuseum.org
Dream a Little Dream
“But it is something more: it is like Niagara Falls, or the Grand Canyon, or Yellowstone Park; it is a national playground; and not to have seen it is not to have seen your own country.” That’s a quote from the catalog for the traveling exhibition “Coney Island: Visions of an American Dreamland, 1861–2008,” now at the McNay Art Museum. Explore the fabled melting pot located in southwest Brooklyn that has long been known for its beach, amusement park, and hot dogs by way of more than 140 objects including works on paper, films, photographs, and memorabilia like actual carousel animals from the park. The show, divided into five eras dating back to around the Civil War, is on view through September 11, but on Friday the McNay Spring Party 2016, featuring a silent auction to benefit the museum, will bring the exhibit to life with sideshow acts and awards such as “Boardwalk Best Attire.”
McNay Art Museum, June 3 to September 11, mcnayart.org
In its fifth year, the ATX Television Festival has grown into arguably the best TV celebration in the country, whose bounty this year includes screenings, a pitch session, and talks by such masterminds behind the screen as David Simon (The Wire and Treme), Aaron Sorkin (The West Wing and The Newsroom), and the Achievement in Television Excellence awardee Norman Lear (All in the Family, The Jeffersons, and Sanford and Son). But this is Texas and football is king, so the biggest draw will probably be the Friday Night Lights Tailgate and Pep Rally Blowout, where available seating won’t be an issue because the venue is a football field.
Various locations, June 9–12, atxfestival.com
A one-hour drum solo is ambitious even by John Bonham’s standards, but that’s the goal in Timber, a free performance in which six percussionists affiliated with Houston’s contemporary classical music collective Musiqa will arrange themselves in the shape of a hexagon and ping away at their own single block of wood, creating a hypnotic mood perhaps akin to venturing into the heart of darkness.
Henke & Pillot, June 3, 8 p.m., musiqahouston.org