Guest Blog: Q&A with the Founders of POP Austin

Author Maureen Stevens is an interior designer and named by Culture Map as one of Austin’s top interior designers to watch. Her aesthetic leans towards modern classic or neotraditional. She’s a mom, a courtyard lover and a cafe au lait drinking gal … in that order.  She spoke with the founders of Pop Austin.

On a hot Fall Austin day last week, I met the Steve & Lana Carlson, Self-proclaimed “chic global citizens with good haircuts” and founders of POP Austin in their hip East Austin headquarters filled with both contemporary & classic art. From oil paintings curated & collected by Steve’s grandfather, Dr. Scott Schubach to contemporary art (Lana’s choice) by Beb Deum  & collaborations by Bleikh & Serebryakova, as well as the mind-provoking work of Micky Hoogendijk peppered with “Hollywood glitz but tempered with deep personal tragedy.”

Not only was I so lucky to have an art tour but I got to know more about them & what’s in store for the POP Austin International Art Show this year.

How did POP Austin International Art show come about?
The story is as inspiring as you may expect. A chance meeting in Paris between Lana, an art enthusiast who was just involved in the production of Pop Asia, and Steve Carlson, who was then doing a music documentary led to both a personal collaboration (they are now married!) and an art movement. According to Steve, the venture came from a desire to create something different than the humdrum ways of state museum exhibitions & traditional galleries. They aimed for an “event and an exhibition” that focused “more on the experience” rather than one that feels too “commercial and compartmentalized.”

I couldn’t help but ask of course, why set roots in Austin? It sounded like an easy choice for both of them. Lana cited the city’s vibrant growth and Steve added that Austin is has definitely become a destination city with a fascinating spirit. They also hope to help to level the playing field between Austin artists and others who have attained commercial success, from LA to New York, Paris to Beijing.

Austin Contemporary Artists {clockwise from top}: an art installation by Beili Liu, Lollypop Girls by Denise Prince, a gilded tumbleweed by Bale Creek Allen.

How do you curate or vet the artists or work to include in the show?
My first thought was that coming up with a theme has to be mind-boggling with all the interesting art they are exposed to — from visiting art exhibits all over the world to whispers from other art curators, dealers & enthusiasts. This year is all about “Street Art meets Pop Art,” or “Modern Pop Art.” It’s contemporary, it’s current, it’s alive and continually evolving. If last year’s Illumination — architectural installations meets art & technology in a hypnotic party of ethereal kinetic light (that’s a mouthful!) — astounded you, this year is about that and more. From the graffiti currently shaping cultural discourses to commissioned works that evoke the pulse of the times,street art is inevitably integral to contemporary art.

What new trends are you seeing in the pop art world?
They see digital screens, light and other forms of technology applied in art, but perhaps the most interesting is Chinese contemporary art. China of course is an economic superpower but their influence is now transcending towards what is mainstream and an expression of the times.

The art of Yang Na reminds me of Keane’s Big Eyes (right) & could Feng Zhengjie’s Chinese Portrait (left) series be the new Warhol Marilyn Monroe pop art?

Here are the details of this can’t-miss show:

Where: Fair Market 1100 East 5th Street Austin, TX 78702

When: October 13-16, 2016

13th – An exclusive Collector Preview to support The Texas Cultural Trust’s Arts & Digital Literacy Initiative in partnership with The University of Texas at Austin

14th – A screening and after-party for “Wall Writers”, a feature-length documentary about graffiti in its innocence

15th – In conjunction with the THINKERY, Nonotak Studio will be featured showcasing art that merges architecture and sculpture to create light and sound installations, POP Talks

16th – POP Talks, an educational & engagement series

This year, POP Austin’s Virtual Showroom will also be unveiled. Buy your tickets HERE.

-Maureen Stevens


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