Andy Coolquitt’s “Attainable Excellence” at Houston’s Blaffer Museum


“DWR Picture,” 2010. Found plexiglass, frame, tape, wood, metal, plastic.

Texas artist Andy Coolquitt makes locally inspired art in the most literal sense. His works are sculptural collections of materials he finds in the streets around his East Austin home, the kinds of items most people would call trash: lighters, metal tubes, discarded bags.

As Coolquitt told the Austin American-Statesman, he sees these items as “residue of human activity, of social interaction.” On paper Coolquitt’s work might seem to make somewhat predictable statements about homelessness or drug addiction (many of the materials Coolquitt has used come from locations where crack cocaine users gather), but his sculptures also suggest a deeper inquiry into the construction of social and domestic spaces.

Coolquitt, a native of Mesquite who has been making art in and out of Texas for 25 years, once spent some time in California designing furniture, and that experience seems to inform his work as well. You could almost mistake some of his pieces for minimalist fixtures in a hip home goods store, if it weren’t for a strange poignancy that takes them  beyond the detached, deconstructed urban chic found in overpriced lofts. The question Coolquitt seems to ask is: how do people arrange otherwise overlooked spaces and materials to humanize them, to make them places suitable for gathering and living?

You can see Coolquitt’s exploration of that question at the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum, where the artist has a site-specific installation of 60 of his works titled “Attainable Exellence.” The show runs until August 17.