Crit Group 2017

  • opening reception Friday, August 4, 7-10pm
  • exhibition dates August 4 - September 3
  • artist talk Saturday, August 26, 2pm
Sandy Carson
Jonas Criscoe - Start Up
Calder Kamin
Dameon Lester
Deborah Mersky
Steve Parker - Lo Fi Cycle
Amy Scofield - Tornade
Sara Vanderbeek - Its a beautiful day outside today
Crit Group 2017
Sandy Carson, Dameon Lester & Jonas Criscoe
Dameon Lester
Amy Scofield
Steve Parker
Calder Kamin
Sara Vanderbeek
Deborah Mersky
Crit Group 2017

The Contemporary Austin and grayDUCK Gallery are pleased to present the exhibition Crit Group 2017, featuring recent works by the eight artists selected to participate in the museum's Crit Group this year. This seven-month-long program gives Austin artists the chance to strengthen their practices with input from each other and established professionals in the field. The 2017 program was co-directed by guest critics Sterling Allen and Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, along with Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement at The Contemporary Austin.

The exhibition's opening reception will take place Friday, August 4, from 7-10P at grayDUCK Gallery, and is free and open to the public. Participating artists will give a public gallery talk about their work and the program on Saturday, August 26, at 2P at grayDUCK gallery. The exhibition is on view through September 3, 2017, during regular gallery hours.

The culmination of the seven-month Crit Group program, the exhibition spans the disparate work of eight compelling Austin-based artists. The exhibition includes sculpture, printmaking, painting, collage, installation, and sound art by participants of The Contemporary Austin's 2017 Crit Group: Sandy Carson, Jonas Criscoe, Calder Kamin, Dameon Lester, Deborah Mersky, Steve Parker, Amy Scofield, and Sara Vanderbeek. Repurposed materials, including plastic bags knotted into nets and scrap lumber wrapped with rubber tire tread, demonstrate Calder Kamin's and Amy Scofield's shared interests in making process-oriented objects that encourage consideration of consumption and the environment. Deborah Mersky imagines allegories sprung from nature with her surreal botanical prints and toy-like objects made from clay and other organic materials. Working on fabric in the batik tradition, painter Sara Vanderbeek expands her interests in tropical patterns to boldly critique colonial forces and cultural appropriation. Jonas Criscoe layers prints, pigments, and paint to an equally colorful effect, creating graphic geometric and organic patterns that take inspirations ranging from quilt making to urban graffiti. In stark visual contrast, Dameon Lester carefully refines the essential atmospheric properties of arctic glaciers into minimal geometric pastel drawings and painted wall sculpture that reward careful looking. Peripatetic photographer Sandy Carson's observant eye captures the uncanny surprises found out on the road, in the street, on stage, and in daily life. A desire to immerse people in environments that more deeply engage their senses animates Steve Parker's work. His participatory sound sculptures deconstruct traditional musical instruments and performance. All of the artists in Crit Group 2017 challenged themselves to work in new ways. While the results are formally and thematically diverse, each artist in Crit Group 2017 is connected by an intense desire to hone their artistic practices and by their rigorous investigations of the subtleties of contemporary life and the natural world.


Launched in January 2014, Crit Group at The Contemporary Austin brings together emerging and established Austin artists to offer feedback on their art and to facilitate the growth of their complete artistic practice. Participating artists attend monthly sessions and informal gatherings, receive group feedback on works in progress, and discuss professional development topics including writing effective artist statements, bios, and proposals; applying for grants and residencies; and what to expect from curators and art dealers. Studio visits, group critique, and a culminating, off-site summer exhibition round out the program. Crit Group is organized by Andrea Mellard, Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement at The Contemporary Austin. From 2014-2016 the program was co-facilitated and co-curated by Dr. Andy Campbell and Sarah Bancroft. Crit Group 2017 welcomed the input of new co-leaders Sterling Allen and Annette DiMeo Carlozzi. Applications for Crit Group 2018 will open late fall 2017 with a deadline of December 1, 2017.

Offered free to selected applicants, Crit Group extends the reach of The Contemporary Austin's vibrant educational initiatives, providing valuable continuing education experiences for professional artists and strengthening the contemporary art community as a whole.


The Contemporary Austin reflects the spectrum of contemporary art through exhibitions, commissions, education, and the collection. The museum has two distinct yet complementary locations, the Jones Center in downtown Austin at 700 Congress Avenue and Laguna Gloria, a fourteen-acre site on Lake Austin at 3809 W. 35th Street, which is home to the Driscoll Villa, the Art School, and the Betty and Edward Marcus Sculpture Park at Laguna Gloria. Since its inception in 2013, the museum has also been building its Museum Without Walls program-an initiative that brings art to visitors in new ways and in diverse venues.


Sterling Allen holds an MFA in Sculpture from the Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts at Bard College. He is a co-founder and co-director of Okay Mountain, an artist collective and former gallery based in Austin. As a solo artist and in collaboration with Okay Mountain, he has exhibited, organized, and completed projects at venues throughout the United States and received several residencies, including the Artpace International Artist-in-Residence Program in San Antonio. He is currently an Assistant Professor in Studio Art at Texas State University, where he teaches professional practice, 3D Foundations, and Sculpture.

A champion of local artist communities who stays abreast of international developments, Annette DiMeo Carlozzi has a keen eye for emerging talent and a steadfast commitment to looking beyond labels. Building an expansive practice as a curator of modern and contemporary art, she has created seminal exhibitions, produced important commissions, and acquired major works by a wide range of artists for curatorial and directorial posts in Minneapolis, Aspen, New Orleans, Atlanta, and Austin. Recently retired as Curator at Large from the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin, Carlozzi is now an independent curator and arts writer currently working on a volume on the contemporary Texas art scene for UT Press. Named to the Austin Arts Hall of Fame in 2013, she has been a consultant, adviser, board member, and/or panelist for over fifty organizations including Creative Capital, Artpace, and UT's Division of Diversity and Community Engagement.

Andrea Mellard is Director of Public Programs and Community Engagement for The Contemporary Austin and founder of Crit Group. She curates programming that takes advantage of the museum's two distinct sites-one urban and the other natural-and provides platforms for audiences to come together, investigate art, and create new experiences. In addition to film series and artist talks, Mellard has curated recent projects with Janine Antoni, Sanford Biggers, Nick Cave, Lucky Dragons, Mark Lewis, and Mark Mothersbaugh. She has worked with a multitude of emerging Texas artists for the New Art in Austin, Texas Prize and New Works exhibition programs (both at the formerly named Austin Museum of Art and AMOA-Arthouse). As a curator, programmer, and educator, she aims to present cultural opportunities for people of all ages that reflect the eclectic and collaborative spirit of Austin. She has over fifteen years of museum experience, and an MA in American Studies from The University of Texas at Austin inflects her interdisciplinary approach to contemporary culture.