May 6 – July 29, 2023
May 6 – July 29, 2023
McClain Gallery is thrilled to open our first presentation of Nick Vaughan and Jake Margolin’s work Saturday, May 6 from 2–4 PM. The installation provides an introduction to the Houston-based artists’ expansive, collaborative, and mutli-disciplinary practice that pulls them through a vivid range of material exploration, sculpture, drawings, lectures, and performances to excavate and shine light onto the political and social histories of LGBTQ+ people.
Vaughan and Margolin consider their 50 States Project their life’s work. An ongoing series of fifty installations, the artwork compiles found materials and reimagines the unfound bits of lost LGBTQ+ stories through time and in these fifty states of America. So far the artists have retold stories from Wyoming, Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. The exhibition begins with three “wind drawings” based on documentary photographs taken during the CO, TX, and AR projects, in which imagery is stenciled onto paper in loose charcoal powder and subsequently blown away. Vaughan and Margolin showed this series in a recent solo exhibition at the Blaffer Art Museum and described how “the remaining records of the images are as ephemeral, delicate, and fragile as the hidden queer histories they are derived from.”
Norma Trist: a Livre d'Artiste; or Pure Carbon: A Story of the Inversion of the Sexes, an artist book made with Flatbed Press in Austin, comprises 6 intaglio prints and a 149 page accordion bound serigraphed text with illustrations, made in a similar manner to the wind drawings. The typographic design by Vaughan and Margolin is based on the original lead typeface from the first and only printing of Norma Trist in 1895 by Eugene von Boeckmann in Austin, TX: the novel is likely the first featuring a lesbian protagonist. Each chapter is illustrated with an image taken by the artists of what currently stands on the sites of historic lesbian and gay bars across the state of Texas.
The layout of the text is based on the artists’ 2016 physical installation 50 States: Texas, in which the complete text was stenciled over 100 linear feet of paper in loose graphite powder which was degraded over the course of its exhibition by airflow, insects, and errant viewers’ fingers. For this edition, the folio print plates were likewise created with loose stenciled graphite left open to the elements and organic interventions, which were subsequently photographed by the artists.
The exhibition culminates with a series titled Spiritus, wherein the artists respond to current political events that relate to and impact their lives as LGBTQ+ people and as a married couple. The performances consist of the artists reading seminal queer texts into plastic bags, filling up the space they inhabit until they become a critical mass. On view will be the performance remnants from their recent work Spiritus: Obergefell v Hodges from 2023, where the artists read the entirety of the Obergefell Supreme Court decision which led to the legalization of gay marriage throughout the United States; and video documentation of Spiritus: 20 Hours of Fox News Read into Bags as a Volume of Breath from 2011.
While far from comprehensive, this capsule exhibition illustrates the artists’ commitment to diving deep into the stories of queer people left out of main-stream history. Vaughan and Margolin’s process relies on groundbreaking academic work, their own research into archives, and a considered, sensitive practice of collaborating with local LGBTQ+ communities. We look forward to bringing an increased understanding of the fullness of their work to our audiences through continued partnership.
WORKS IN EXHIBITION
NICK VAUGHAN & JAKE MARGOLIN are Houston-based interdisciplinary artists. They have had solo exhibitions at The Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, Texas; DiverseWorks, Houston, Texas; the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art, Stillwater, Oklahoma; the Invisible Dog Art Center, New York City, New York; Art League Houston, Houston, Texas; Aurora Picture Show, Houston, Texas; Devin Borden Gallery, Houston, Texas; and non-traditional community-facing venues including Pride Festivals in Tahlequah, Oklahoma and Houston, Houston Community College Campuses, Houston Public Library, University of Houston MD Anderson Library, and numerous queer bars. Their work has been included in many group shows including the Contemporary Art Museum Houston’s Stonewall 50, and the Blaffer Art Museum’s Carriers. Their work is included in public and private permanent collections including the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, The Getty Research Institute, the City of Houston Public Art Collection, The Brooklyn Historical Society, The University of Houston MD Anderson Library Special Collections, The Texas A&M Cushing Library Special Collections, and BlackRock International. Coverage of their work includes a “critic’s pick” review in Artforum (April 2020 for 50 States: Louisiana). Margolin and Vaughan are recipients of a NYFA Fellowship, a Tulsa Artist Fellowship, and grants from the IdeaFund, MAPFund, the Houston Arts Alliance, and Mid America Arts Alliance. Additionally, both artists are members of the theater company The TEAM, and frequently collaborate as visual designers with choreographers Faye Driscoll and Yoshiko Chuma.